In this strange 2019/20 season, the European football calendar is finally coming to a close this week, with the Europa League final taking centre-stage on Friday evening when Inter Milan take on Sevilla at the RheinEnergieStadion in Cologne.
Both teams have successfully navigated their way through the tricky knockout stages to book their place in the final as Sevilla aim to clinch their sixth Europa League crown and fourth in the last seven years, while Inter Milan haven’t tasted European glory since their Champions League success over a decade ago.
An interesting nuance to this final is that both Inter and Sevilla saw their initial last 16 ties postponed back in March, meaning that their route to the final – last 16, quarter-final and semi-final ties – have all been played as one-leg shootouts.
We’ll start with Inter Milan who saw off Getafe in the last 16 to set up a quarter-final tie with Bayer Leverkusen where early goals from Nico Barella and Romelu Lukaku were enough to secure a 2-1 win and progression to the semi-final where Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk stood between them and the final but Antonio Conte’s side blew them away with a 5-0 win.
Inter have broken a barren European run for Serie A sides, as no Italian team has reached a UEFA Cup or Europa League final since Parma did so in 1998/99. Spearheaded by the strikeforce of Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez who have 54 goals between them across all competitions in 2019/20.
Lukaku is at the peak of an extraordinary run in the Europa League. Dating back to his Everton days, Lukaku has now scored in 10 successive Europa League games, including all five he’s appeared in this season and bagged a brace in the semi-final drubbing of Shakhtar. The 27-year-old is enjoying the best goalscoring season of his career and will be fancying his chances to net again.
The Belgian is one of three former Manchester United players who could feature in Friday’s final along with Alexis Sanchez and Ashley Young, with Young having tasted success before in this competition with United back in 2016/17.
It’s believed that tomorrow’s final could be strike-partner Lautaro Martinez’s final game for Inter, with the Argentine striker wanted by Barcelona as part of their rebuild following the sacking of Quique Setien. Martinez averages a goal or assist every 125 minutes this season and also scored twice in their semi-final triumph.
Antonio Conte is likely to go with his trusted 3-5-2 formation in tomorrow’s final, the same XI that came through the semi-final with flying colours.
Predicted Inter XI: Handanovic; Bastoni, De Vrij, Godin; Young, Gagliardini, Brozovic, Barella, D’Ambrosio; Lukaku, Martinez.
Sevilla, on the other hand, have had a much trickier route to Friday’s final. After overcoming Roma in the last 16, Sevilla edged past Wolves 1-0 before defeating Manchester United 2-1 in the semi-final to set-up a clash with Inter Milan.
Julen Lotepegui’s side have scored 20 goals in their 11 Europa League games this season, proving they have the firepower to match any side on any given day. The goals of Lucas Ocampos have been the driving force behind Sevilla’s run to the final. His winner in the 1-0 quarter-final win over Wolves was his 18th goal of the season playing from the wing, while also laying on four assists as well.
The Spanish side are also unbeaten in 20 games across all competitions, winning eight of their last nine and will draw confidence from their three successive Europa League triumphs in 2014, 2014 and 2016.
Midfielder Ever Banega is the only player still standing from the team that beat Liverpool in the 2016 final and remains a key player in the side.
Nullifying Ocampos will be the name of the game for Inter on Friday evening, as only Munir, who doesn’t start often, has also reached double digits in terms of goals this season for Sevilla, but the likes of Suso, Luuk de Jong and Youssef En-Nesyri are all capable of being match winners on their day.
Lotepegui will likely line-up with his trusted 4-3-3 formation on Friday as he bids to win Sevilla’s fourth Europa League in seven seasons and secure a spot in next season’s Champions League.
Sevilla Predicted XI: Bounou; Reguillon, Carlos, Kounde, Navas; Banega, Gudelj, Jordan; Ocampos, En-Nesyri, Suso.
Who do you think will win in the Europa League final this Friday? Let us know in the comments below!
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