Five-time winners Sevilla have enjoyed a dream run in the Europa League but their dominance in the competition will face a stern challenge from Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan side that is hoping to end a nine-year trophy drought.
While Sevilla’s pedigree in the competition in unparalleled, Inter Milan too aren’t far behind. With three triumphs in the competition, the Italians are the second-most successful team in the Europa League along with Liverpool and Juventus.
Most successful teams in Europa League
|Club||Winners||Runners-up||Years won||Years runner-up|
|Sevilla||5||0||2006, 2007, 2014, 2015, 2016||—|
|Inter Milan||3||1||1991, 1994, 1998||1997|
|Juventus||3||1||1977, 1990, 1993||1995|
|Liverpool||3||1||1973, 1976, 2001||2016|
|Atlético Madrid||3||0||2010, 2012, 2018||—|
Inter, who also won the Champions League thrice, have been a top force in European football and on paper should have the edge over their Spanish opponents. But Sevilla’s love affair with Europa League has been incredible and it’s a competition that has reinvigorated the club time and again.
“No one cares or plans to win the Europa League like us. Inter or Sevilla can win because that is football, but the desire, the excitement that the Europa League awakens in the club, no one else achieves because this competition is what has made Sevilla a big club,” Sevilla’s sporting director Monchi said before the game.
It’s no surprise that the competition has often been touted as the ‘Sevilla League’.
However, despite winning the Europa League five times, the Spanish club haven’t fared well in the Champions League. They have never gone past the quarter-finals and made only seven appearances in Europe’s premier competition.
Road to final
Inter Milan parachuted into the Europa League after finishing third in a tough Champions League group consisting of Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund and have won all matches since. They have conceded just two goals in the competition while scoring 13 goals in the process.
Sevilla cruised through the group stage winning five out of their six matches. However, they were given a scare by CFR Cluj in the Round of 32 and only progressed on away goals after drawing both legs.
They’ve had a tougher route to the final having beaten AS Roma, Wolves and Manchester United to get there. Julen Lopetegui’s men have scored 20 goals in the competition so far and conceded just five.
Road to final - Sevilla vs Inter Milan
|Stage of competition||Sevilla||Inter Milan|
|Group stage||Finished top of group. Won five out of six matches||Finished third in Champions League group. Won two out of the six matches|
|Round of 32||Beat CFR Club on away goal. Aggregate: 1-1||Beat Ludogorets 4-1 on aggregate|
|Round of 16||Beat AS Roma 2-0||Beat Getafe 2-0|
|Quarter-final||Beat Wolves 1-0||Beat Bayer Leverkusen 2-1|
|Semi-final||Beat Manchester United 2-1||Beat Shakhtar Donetsk 5-0|
|Overall result||Mat: 11 W: 8, D: 2, L: 1||Mat: 5 W: 5, D: 0, L: 0|
Sevilla form guide: D-W-W-W-W
Inter Milan form guide: W-W-W-W-W
Sevilla and Inter Milan have never met in a competitive match.
Alexis Sanchez is a doubt for Inter Milan due to a thigh problem while midfielder Matias Vecino is out. For Sevilla, forward Lucas Ocampos is a slight doubt having come off injured against Manchester United in the semi-finals.
Serial winner Conte vs resurgent Lopetegui
The battle between two coaches has dominated the build-up to the final. The Italian has won seven trophies in his career so far as a manager while Lopetegui is still searching for his first trophy in senior football.
The Spaniard though has made a remarkable revival after a disastrous few months that saw Lopetegui get sacked by both Spain and Real Madrid in space of few months.
Sevilla offered a shot at redemption for Lopetegui, but also came with a risk. Monchi’s return as sporting director kicked off a huge turnover of the playing staff as 17 new players arrived and 28 departed over the course of the season.
But Lopetegui has constructed a hard team to beat as is evidenced by a club record run of 20 games without defeat either side of a three-month shutdown due to coronavirus.
Only Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid had a better defensive record in La Liga this season.
However, for Conte, it has been all about winning trophies in the last decade. On Friday, he has nothing else on his mind.
“What I’ve realised is that people only remember when you win finals,” the former Juventus, Chelsea and Italy boss said at his pre-match press conference on Thursday. “I won the Champions League, but I lost a further four finals and the people that leave their mark on history are those that win matches and trophies.
“We should be proud we have reached a first final for 10 years, especially at a prestigious club like Inter. But history is written by the conquerors, the winners. That is added motivation for us to go out and win.”
Players to watch out for
Romelu Lukaku: The Belgian forward has scored 33 goals in all competitions this season and scored a brace in the 5-0 semi-final win over Shakhtar Donetsk. A target man plays an important role in Conte’s system and Lukaku will be a key figure in the final on Friday.
Lautaro Martinez: The Argentine has forged a potent partnership with Lukaku up top and like the Belgian, scored a brace in the semi-final. With 21 goals to his name, he has attracted interest from Barcelona this season and a goal in the final could go a long way in reigniting it.
Ever Banega: The Argentine midfielder has been the heartbeat of the Sevilla side. He has assisted three goals for the Spanish side in the Europa League and his industry at the heart of their midfield has been a crucial aspect of their run to the final. Up against his former club, Banega will be keen to prove a point.
Diego Carlos: Sevilla have built their side on good defensive organisation and Diego Carlos has been at the heart of it. Up against the Lukaku-Martinez combo, his hands will be full on Friday. But with links to Arsenal and Liverpool appearing, the centre-back will be keen to make a mark.