Sevilla aim for historic treble in Europa League Final

With the chance to claim two trophies, this is the beginning of a momentous week for Sevilla of Spain.

On Wednesay, Unai Emery’s men head to Basel to face Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool in search of an incredible third Europa League title in a row.

Just four days later, they will be in Madrid facing mighty Barcelona in the Spanish Cup final. Sevilla fans won’t lack for excitement this week, that’s for sure.

 

And for that they’ll have their mercurial manager to thank once again, for Emery has brought European silverware and Champions League football to Andalusia and is on the verge of doing so again.

Last season’s Europa League win over Ukrainian side Dnipro Dnipropertrovsk in Warsaw saw the Spanish side become the first team to claim a coveted Champions League place via the competition.

But as things transpired, victory was something of a double-edged sword.

For one thing, prolific striker Carlos Bacca’s impressive form both in Europe and domestically had seen AC Milan trigger his €30 million buyout clause, and the Colombian left for the San Siro.

Trying to replace Bacca was a headache but not the only issue facing Emery. Qualification for the Champions League meant that Sevilla needed to add to their squad to meet La Liga and European demands in 2015/16.

Emery’s situation was much like that of Brendan Rodgers the season before last, when the Reds lost the services of Luis Suarez and had to bolster their squad to try and compete in both the Premier and Champions leagues.

And much like Rodgers, Emery has struggled with the task. Eleven players were brought in by revered Director of Football Monchi on the back of Bacca’s fee, including familiar names like Steven N’Zonzi, Fernando Llorente, Yehven Konoplyanka, Federico Fazio and Ciro Immobile.

And like Liverpool, questions were asked as to whether the requisite quality had been brought in as the manager struggled to integrate the new arrivals.

Sevilla’s poor start to the season – just three wins in their first ten league games – can be seen in that context.

Their difficulties were also evident in the Champions League, losing four of their group fixtures and dropping down into the Europa League as a result.

Emery will no doubt see their Champions League disappointment as an important learning experience, recognising his side weren’t quite ready for such august company.

But given Sevilla’s record in Europe’s second tier competition, he’ll be confident that his team can overcome Liverpool and book a return to the top table.

Nevertheless, it’s been an odd season for Sevilla. Remarkably, they have failed to win an away game in La Liga, despite having recovered to a reasonable seventh place finish.

Sevilla fans will be hoping that their side won’t carry that travel sickness to St Jakob Park on Wednesday and Madrid on Sunday.

 

At the same time, Los Nervionenses have beaten the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus at fortress Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán this season, evidence that they can still pack a punch.

And speaking of packing a punch, there’s Kevin Gameiro. The French striker, once understudy to Zlatan and Cavani at PSG, has stepped out Bacca’s shadow this season – scoring 27 goals in all competitions.

He’ll provide the main goal threat on Wednesday, as Emery will look to exploit the space behind Nathaniel Clyne and particularly Sevilla old boy Alberto Moreno as they try to beat Klopp’s high press.

Key to that strategy in Emery’s customary 4-2-3-1 will be their hardworking creative force, Ever Banega. Liverpool would do well to keep the Argentinean schemer facing his own goal.

If he‘s allowed turn, his passing and ability to run with the ball will cause problems for the Reds’ still shaky defence.

Banega’s prowess from free kicks and corners should also be a cause for concern among Liverpool fans. Sevilla are a tall side and are very strong in the air – a strength Emery and Banega will surely look to capitalise on.

Defensively, however, Sevilla couldn’t be accused of being watertight themselves, and Liverpool may get some joy if Lallana, Firmino and Sturridge can press hard on the Andalusian back four who can struggle with the ball at their feet.

Ultimately, thought, the pivotal battle may well come in midfield. The physical presence and work rate of Grzegorz Krychowiak, N’Zonzi and Banega will provide a stiff challenge for Can, Coutinho and Milner.

Sevilla’s fortunate ability to rest their entire first team squad over the last two weekends could well give them an edge in this regard.

If Emery’s men can resist Liverpool’s intensity for the first 70 minutes, they could well pick off a tiring Reds outfit in the last quarter.

Author Details

Paul Little

Freelance football columnist. European Football with the Irish Daily Star. Hold the Back Page podcast regular. Family and Renaissance Man. Dublin born, Wicklow resident.

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