The Europa League Final is upon us and it features an English side for the first time since Chelsea won the competition in 2013. Liverpool have famous history in European competitions, having won five European cups and three UEFA Cups, which is now known as the Europa League. Meanwhile, their opponents on Wednesday are no strangers to a European final, having won this competition four times since 2005-6, including the last two years. That is a phenomenal achievement and Liverpool will face a tough test in Basel. Jurgen Klopp has enjoyed a good start to his Liverpool tenure, given that it isn’t his squad, as he has led the Reds to two cup finals. They were unlucky in the Capital One Cup final, but they will be confident ahead of Wednesday.
Liverpool have beaten three of the best sides in the competition on their run to the final. The highlight being a superb comeback to beat Klopp’s former side Borussia Dortmund. They scored two goals in the last 15 minutes to overcome the Germans, and have showed a never-say-die attitude throughout their European campaign. The competition started off as an inconvenience to the club, but as they progressed, it became their priority with Klopp fielding weakened sides in the league. If they win this competition, they will get a place in the Champions League, which is where Liverpool belong.
Sevilla are an interesting club, they operate as one of the four or five ‘other’ top teams in La Liga, with the top three being settled year in year out. The Europa League has emerged as their best chance of Champions League football, as they have to battle Villarreal, Athletic and Valencia for the final Champions League spot. This season, they finished 7th, an incredible 39 points off the top in what was an average campaign for them. However, like Liverpool, if they win the trophy for what would be the third year in a row, this season will have been a success.
In terms of recent form, Liverpool have only lost twice in their last ten in all competitions, which is significantly better than Sevilla, who have lost half of their last ten matches. Both have good records in the final of this competitions. Liverpool have featured in three, while Sevilla have featured in four, but neither has lost one. One of the sides will lose that impressive record this week.
Liverpool have lost only once in this competition all season, which came against Villarreal in the last round.
Sevilla will become the first team to win this competition three seasons in a row if they beat Liverpool on Wednesday.
The German has come on leaps and bounds under Jurgen Klopp. He has gone from a makeshift centre half under Brendan Rodgers to being the key man in Liverpool’s midfield. His best performances this season have come in this competition, scoring once and getting two assists along the way. He was excellent in both home legs against Dortmund and Villarreal. Emre Can is an all action midfielder, capable of breaking up play, picking defence splitting through balls and can be a goal threat himself. He is an intelligent player, who reads the game well and can grab the game by the scruff of the neck if needed. Jurgen Klopp will make a lot of changes this summer and bring in players that suit his system, but Emre Can will not be one of those losing their place. He is central to Klopp’s plans for Liverpool and Wednesday is a great opportunity to show the world why Liverpool fans rate him so highly.
Yevhen Konoplyanka has been passed fit to play on Wednesday and that is a huge boost for Sevilla, as he is their most dangerous attacking player. He has been linked with the Premier League a lot, but joined Europa League holders Sevilla in the summer, when his Dnipro contract expired. He helped Dnipro to the final last season, but was on the losing side as his now current club lifted the trophy. The winger will be keen to not be on the losing side again this year, and help Sevilla retain their trophy. He was one of the best players in the competition last season and although he has failed to do as well this year, he still possesses real quality and Liverpool will see him as a threat. He is direct and skilful, while his decision making in the final third is improving every season. This season hasn’t gone as well as he would have hoped, but he can make a match winning contribution on Wednesday.
Jordan Henderson is likely to play some part on Wednesday. Divock Origi is also hopeful of being fit to lead the line. Danny Ings returned on the final day of the Premier League and could be involved.
Michael Krohn-Dehli and Marco Andreolli will both be missing for the Spaniards. Yevhen Konoplyanka will be fit to start. Jose Antonio Reyes and Benoit Tremoulinas are both unlikely to feature. Kevin Gameiro has been crucial in their run to the final and Liverpool need to be wary of the Frenchman.
It will be an intriguing final on Wednesday. Both sides have great records in European finals and will be confident of keeping that up. Jurgen Klopp has had a poor record in finals recently, which he will want to put an end to with his first trophy win of his Liverpool career. Liverpool are a better side, and should be considered favourites. However, this Sevilla team is dangerous and Unai Emery is a great coach, who has already won this competition twice. It will be a close game, with few goals, and I expect it to go to extra time. I think Liverpool will have enough and will win 2-1 after extra time.
Liverpool 2-1 Sevilla (AET)