Countdown to Basel – 2016 Europa League Final Preview

On May 18, Sevilla and Liverpool go head-to-head in Basel in the final of this season’s Europa League. Both clubs have a proud history in European competition and this season’s showpiece event looks set to be an absolute cracker.

SEVILLA GOING FOR THREE IN A ROW

To say that this competition has been kind to Sevilla would be an understatement; winners for the past two years, Unai Emery’s side are on the verge of claiming an historic third consecutive Europa League title, something that has never been done before. The Spaniards have actually won the trophy on four separate occasions and coach Emery knows what it means to the fans when he recently stated that; “All the Sevilla fans love this competition. I’ll always remember the 4,000 who came with us in 2013 to Estoril just for a group stage game. Obviously the ultimate goal is the Champions League, but the Europa League gives us a pathway to real happiness.”

 ROUTE TO THE FINAL

Having dropped into the Europa League after finishing third in their Champions League group, Sevilla have seen off the challenge of Molde, Basel, Athletic Bilbao and Shakhtar Donetsk to reach the final. Their biggest scare came in the quarter-final against their Spanish rivals Bilbao, who forced the game to go to a penalty shoot-out at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium after a spirited second-leg performance. That victory for Emery’s men, gave them the belief that they could get to the final once again and they swept aside the challenge of the Ukranian side Shakhtar Donetsk in the semi-final. It would be foolish, even on the best football bet predictions, to bet against them winning the trophy once again.

KEY PLAYER

After Carlos Bacca was sold to Milan last summer, Sevilla were left with a gaping hole in their forward line but instead of dipping into the transfer market, Emery promoted Frenchman Kevin Gameiro to be the focal point of the attack; a move which has paid dividends this term with the player having already scored seven times in the Europa League.

 

ALSO WATCH OUT FOR….

Polish midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak may not be the most naturally gifted footballer we’ve ever seen, but his contribution to Sevilla’s march to another Europa League Final cannot be underestimated. Whilst playing in France for Rennes he picked up the nickname ‘Le Plombier’ (the plumber) for his work rate and willingness to do the dirty work to help his team win matches. A scorer of one of the penalties in the quarter-final against Athletico Bilbao, he will be one to watch out for at Euro 2016 this summer.

LIVERPOOL BACK IN A EUROPEAN FINAL AFTER NINE YEARS

Liverpool are back in a European Final for the first time since losing to Milan in the 2007 Champions League. Their last participation in a Europa League Final came in 2001 and if we get a repeat of what happened in that match against Alaves, it will be another unforgettable encounter. A 5-4 (golden goal) victory for the Reds 15 years ago, remains one of the all-time classic European Finals and coach Jurgen Klopp will want a more straight-forward victory this time (if possible).

ROUTE TO THE FINAL

Liverpool’s record in this season’s competition reads P14, W6 D7 L1. To say that they’ve done it the hard way would be another huge understatement and after a victory against bitter rivals Manchester United, an amazing comeback against Borussia Dortmund and a semi-final success over Villarreal, no-one can say that Klopp’s men haven’t earned the right to feature in the Basel Final. The quarter-final win against the German tactician’s former club remains the highlight of this season’s competition; 3-1 down on the night and needing three goals to progress, the Anfield crowd roared their team on to victory which was sealed by a Dejan Lovren goal deep into added on time at the end of the game; Liverpool like doing things the hard way.

KEY PLAYER

Brazilian play-maker Phillipe Coutinho has been an inspiration to his team this season both domestically and in Europe. The 23-year-old recently declared that; “”In the position I play I have to create chances,” well he’s certainly been doing that to great effect over the past nine months earning plaudits from everywhere including his manager, who described him as a; “Genius of a player”.

 

ALSO WATCH OUT FOR….

Can you guess who Klopp is talking about here? “I am really, really happy that a few more people are recognising what a great player he is”. Well that ladies and gentleman, is the managers verdict on England international Adam Lallana, who’s become a firm favourite with the German tactician since his arrival at Anfield. A player with boundless energy, great awareness and goals, the 28-year-old midfielder took time to settle after a big money move from Southampton but he’s now their top scorer in the competition and will be one of the favourites on the betting exchanges to be on the mark in this year’s final.

HEAD TO HEAD

The two teams are meeting in European competition for the very first time. Liverpool’s record against Spanish clubs reads P34, W14 D10 L10, the Premier League side having won their previous two finals against clubs from Spain. Sevilla have faced English opposition on eight previous occasions, winning three. One of which was the final of the 2006 competition, when they easily overcame Middlesbrough 4-0.

*MATCH BETTING (90 mins only)

Liverpool 2.40 Draw 3.20 Sevilla 3.10

*odds courtesy of Bet365

Steve Mitchell @barafundler

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