BARCELONA, Spain (AP)With two days to get to know his players, Jorge Sampaoli will see how much work is needed to get Sevilla back to being a force in Spain when it plays a red-hot Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.

Sampaoli will start his second stint with Sevilla after the 62-year-old Argentine returned to the club that he led in 2016-17 before spurning it to take over his national team for the World Cup.

”The most important thing I have learned is that I need to adapt first to my players, rather than them to me, in the short term,” Sampaoli said on Friday, just one day before he met his players after signing a contract for the remainder of this season and the next.

After leading Sevilla to a fourth-place finish and a resulting Champions League berth in 2017, Sampaoli said he wanted to fulfil ”his dream” of coaching his national team when Argentina came knocking. Sevilla let him out of the second year of his deal after negotiating with Argentina.

Sampaoli had made his name internationally while coaching Chile to the round-of-16 at the 2014 World Cup and the 2015 Copa America title. Things did not so well for Sampaoli with Argentina, though, as he was fired after a poor performance at the 2018 World Cup. He then coached Brazilian sides Atletico Mineiro and Santos and, most recently, French club Marseille.

When he arrived for his first stint in Seville, he had time to properly prepare in the preseason. Now Sampaoli must coach on the fly against a Bilbao side that has only lost once in seven rounds and is in third place behind Barcelona and Real Madrid.

”We are only thinking about tomorrow’s game,” Sampaoli said. ”Setting goals today is to just lie to ourselves and I can’t waste my time with that. I have to quickly transmit my ideas to my players so that they feel confident and can compete.”

Sampaoli inherits a team that only managed one win in 10 games overall between the Spanish league and Champions League under Julen Lopetegui, who was fired Wednesday after a 4-1 home loss to Borussia Dortmund.

The team has been jeered by its fans in recent losses. That criticism was directed both at Lopetegui and the club’s leadership, which sold and failed to replace highly prized centerbacks Jules Kounde and Diego Carlos over the summer.

While Sevilla has struggled, Bilbao is soaring since the return of coach Ernesto Valverde for a third stint with the Basque club.

Sampaoli’s first task will be finding an answer to Bilbao’s Williams brothers, as Inaki and Nico Williams have excelled with three goals a piece.

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