Sevilla and Inter Milan are ready to battle it out for the coveted Europa League crown in the RheinEnergieStadion in Cologne, Germany on Friday.
The 2019/20 UEFA Europa League is finally going to have its swansong, as Sevilla and Inter Milan get ready to go toe-to-toe in the grand finale of the competition at the RheinEnergieStadion on Friday night.
Sevilla were handed a group of their dreams drawing up against APOEL, Qarabag, and F91 Dudelange. They were able to sail through the group without any difficulties, winning five games out of six, scoring 14 goals in the process. Their real test came against CFR Cluj in the Round of 32. The tie ended 1-1 on aggregate, and Sevilla were able to qualify thanks to the away goal scored by Youssef En-Nesyri.
Fair to say, the break came at an excellent time for them, as they were able to regain their best form, and have gone undefeated since. This 14 game streak helped them finish fourth in the league.
However, their most significant achievement came in the Europa League, as they won three consecutive knockout games against three favourites – AS Roma in the Round of 16, Wolverhampton Wanderers in the quarter-finals, and Manchester United in the semi-finals.
Inter, on the other hand, had their spot in the knockouts handed to them after they finished third in their Champions League group which consisted of Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund and Slavia Praha.
They immediately became favourites after joining the Europa League, and went on to defeat Ludogorets Razgrad in the Round of 32, Getafe in the Round of 16, Bayer Leverkusen in the quarter-finals and then demolished Shakhtar Donetsk to reach the finals of this competition. They will be up against Europa League veterans Sevilla on Friday night. And we at The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at this blockbuster encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Julien Lopetegui has the entire Sevilla squad at his disposal ahead of the final, with Nemanja Gudelj returning from injury. Star-man Lucas Ocampos has been tagged doubtful, though, after he was subbed off early against Manchester United. However, right now everything suggests that the Argentine will be seen on the pitch as part of the starting XI.
Bono was the best player on the pitch against Manchester United, making some stellar saves keeping out the likes of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Bruno Fernandes. He would have gone unbeaten had it not been for an early penalty given away by Diego Carlos. The same man will start in the heart of defence alongside Jules Kounde.
Jesus Navas and Sergio Reguilon have been integral to Lopetegui’s system and have developed as well-rounded fullbacks who can defend and attack. They will start the game on either side of the defence and will provide width from the back.
Joan Jordan and Ever Banega will occupy two of the three spots in midfield with Fernando playing between them as a screening midfielder. Banega will play his last game in Sevilla’s white and red, and will be hoping for the farewell of dreams as he lifts that Europa League trophy.
We expect to see an unchanged attacking trio, as well, with Youssef En-Nesyri leading the front-three. Suso scored the equaliser for Sevilla against United and will keep his spot on the right-wing, with Lucas Ocampos on the left. Depending on Ocampos’ recovery, though, we can see Munir El Haddadi come in on the left side.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Bono; Navas, Kounde, Carlos, Reguilon; Jordan, Fernando, Banega; Suso, En-Nesyri, Ocampos
There are no fresh injury concerns for Antonio Conte ahead of this game, and there is little doubt over his choice of starters. He will be without the services of Matias Vecino, who has played no part in the Europa League since resumption. Alexis Sanchez is likely to be fit and available for selection after having recovered from a hamstring issue.
Samir Handanovic will hold the fort for Inter Milan in the six-yard box after an untroubled display against Shakhtar Donetsk, but will not be given the same amount of luxury by Sevilla.
He will be screened by the trio of Diego Godin on the right, Alessandro Bastoni on the left, and Stefan de Vrij. Bastoni will be given the responsibility of releasing attackers through long passes from deep – a tactic that has worked well in the Europa League.
Ahead of this three-man backline, we can expect to see Danilo D’Ambrosio in the role of the right wing-back, and Ashley Young on the opposite side. D’Ambrosio registered his name on the scoresheet against Shakhtar, and will hope to give Sergio Reguilon a lot to do. The midfield trident 0f Roberto Gagliardini, Marcelo Brozovic, and Nicolo Barella will retain their spot in the centre of the park for Inter.
Finally, playing in a twin striker system, we will see Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku take the pitch for the final time this season. The duo ran riots against Shakhtar as they have so often this season, registering two goals each.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Handanovic; Godin, de Vrij, Bastoni; D’Ambrosio, Barella, Brozovic, Gagliardini, Young; Martinez, Lukaku
- This is the first-ever meeting between Sevilla and Inter Milan in a European competition setting. It is also the sixth time in the last ten seasons that the finalists are meeting for the first time in an official competition.
- Sevilla are the most successful side in the Europa League, reaching the final five times before this, and winning all five – the most of any team.
- Inter have reached their 10th major UEFA European final, but it is the first time they have reached this level in a decade, after reaching the Champions League final in 2010 where they beat Bayern Munich 2-0.
- Sevilla have lifted the trophy in each of their last five appearances in UEFA finals – only Liverpool (six times between 1973 and 1984), and Real Madrid (nine between 1985 to 2018 – an ongoing run) have won more consecutive finals.
- Inter have won all five of their Europa League matches this season and are looking to win their fourth UEFA Cup/Europa League.
Player to Watch
Lautaro Martinez is the other half of the fantastic Lukaku-Martinez duo, and probably the more underrated half. His ability to drop deep and act as an anchor has helped Lukaku run riot throughout the season and score 33 goals in all competitions. Despite playing in a more profound role, Lautaro himself has registered 23 goals across all competitions, including seven in Europe.
This could very well be Lautaro’s last match in the Blue and Black of Inter Milan, who has been in speculation to join Barcelona throughout the season. His performance in the semi-finals was one to remember, and fired Inter through to the finals of the Europa League, and Friday would be a great occasion to leave his mark at Inter before potentially leaving for Spain.
Sevilla 3-2 Inter Milan
Both the clubs have enjoyed a brilliant season under new coaches; coaches who returned to management looking for redemption, and have been able to find it. However, both these teams have a different identity: Inter Milan like to play vertical, counter-attacking football revolving around a focal point, while Sevilla like to keep possession and attack half spaces through wingers and full-backs.
Both teams are on a brilliant run of form. On Friday, we will see a lot of different individual battles like Lautaro Martinez against Kounde, Lukaku vs Diego Carlos, Lucas Ocampos vs Diego Godin and so on.
Still, only one of them will come out as victors, and The Hard Tackle believes that one is going to be Sevilla. The Europa League is their competition, it always has been, and on Friday Inter Milan will be the underdogs. Unfortunately, the underdog will likely face defeat.