There was a point in time during this strange year that many of us never thought we’d see the conclusion of the Europa League – but much to everyone’s delight and hope, the final has come round, and it looks to be one of the most highly contested finals we may ever see.
Spanish club Sevilla made the final after beating Manchester United 2-1, and are in contention to win the competition a record sixth time, with three of those coming in consecutive seasons between 2013 and 2016. The club have the pedigree in this competition and will be sure they can overcome their opponents come Friday.
In that opponent is Italian powerhouse Inter Milan, who are just about favourites in the sports online betting markets, the club reached the final on Monday after a 5-0 thrashing of Ukrainian outfit Shakhtar Donetsk, and under manager Antonio Conte, will be eager to win some silverware after a fantastic season that saw the club miss out on the Scudetto by 1 point. The game looks set to be a cracker, with two big European clubs fighting for the Europa League title – so let’s have a look at the two teams in a bit more depth…
Inter Milan – The club will likely start with their usual 3-5-2, which they have done in all five of their Europa League games this season. Along with this unchanged formation, I predict they’ll use an unchanged XI from their semi-final thrashing of Shakhtar Donetsk as well, as this has been their best-performing starting lineup in the competition according to WhoScored.
Sevilla – The Spanish team will start with a preferred 4-3-3, a formation that has seen them unbeaten in 7 games in the competition. The starting XI will see one change from the semi-final against United, with holding midfielder Fernando dropping out for the usual Nemanja Gudelj, who came on in the last few minutes of the semi-final. This lineup is also the clubs best performing in the competition according to WhoScored.
Romelu Lukaku has been in fine form during his first season with Inter. The Belgian forward has scored 33 goals this season from just 49 appearances in all competitions and looks like the old player we all knew before his stint at Manchester United. After scoring a brace in the semi-final, as well as scoring in all of the clubs Europa League fixtures this season – it is likely we will see his name on the score sheet in the final as well. Lukaku has struck up a good partnership with Argentinian Lautaro Martinez, with the player also scoring a brace in the semi-final – so expect to see these two working in tandem to unlock Sevilla’s defence.
Lucas Ocampos has been playing the best football of his career in his first season with Sevilla, after moving from French club Marseille at the beginning of July last year. The Argentinian has scored 18 goals with 4 assists from right-wing in all competitions this campaign – including scoring the winner for Sevilla in their 1-0 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers in the quarter-finals just last week. He’ll likely be causing trouble for the Inter defence during the final, having completed on average 3 successful dribbles per game, as well as drawing 2 fouls per game in the Europa League this season – clearly showing he is a handful for his opposing players.
Antonio Conte has enjoyed a great first season with Inter Milan – the Italian was appointed at the end of May last year after Luciano Spalletti’s sacking. In his first season, he took the club to second place in the Serie A, and finished just one point behind Scudetto winners Juventus, which was a tall order given the Old Ladies dominance over recent years, and that Inter only just scraped Champions League football in the 2018/19 season. Conte made some great signings during the transfer window, most notably goalscoring machine Romelu Lukaku, as well as current first-team regulars Diego Godin, Nicolò Barella, and Ashley Young, all of which have become important components of Conte’s team – and will all be gunning to win the Europa League final, to sign off his first great season at the club with some silverware.
Julen Lopetegui has been doing exciting things with the club since signing for Sevilla at the beginning of June last year – taking to the club to a fourth-place finish and Champions League qualification. Nine of the players from our predicted starting XI were signed by Lopetegui at the start of this season, and have all been game-changers for the club with the manager quickly injecting his philosophy and style of play into the team, along with his new signings.
The most notable of these new signings are a completely new front three made up of Ocampos, Suso, and En-Nesyri – who were all signed to fill the void left by Wissam Ben-Yedder after his departure to AS Monaco. Overall, Lopetegui has made a great start to life at Sevilla, and will also be hoping to add some silverware at the end of an impressive first season.
Despite Sevilla’s history in the competition, and their incredible form they have been in at the end of this season, I just can’t see them breaking down such a strong Inter side. What Conte has done this season has been incredible for the club and given them a much-needed boost to contend with the big dogs of Italian and European football again. Sevilla will certainly put up a fight against them, but the goalscoring prowess of Lukaku and Martinez has been some of the best in Europe this season and will prove too much for Lopetegui and his team in the end.