Liverpool FC vs Sevilla FC – Preview and Prediction
The two most successful teams in the competition’s history will go head to head at St Jakob Park in Basel, with Sevilla bidding to win the trophy for an unprecedented third successive year.
With the Premier League season now over, Liverpool can reflect on a disappointing domestic campaign that saw them finish eighth in the table.
They went into the final day still in with an outside chance of finishing in the top six and qualifying for Europe via their league position, but a 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion put paid to those hopes.
Klopp made a full 11 changes for that match, though, which was a not-too-subtle hint that his priority lies in Basel on Wednesday night.
Despite having been in charge for just seven months, this will be Klopp’s second cup final in charge of the Reds, although his recent record on such occasions does not bode too well for the Merseysiders.
The German has lost his last four cup finals as a manager, including the 2013 Champions League final with Borussia Dortmund and a penalty shootout defeat at the hands of Manchester City in this season’s League Cup.
Should he break that streak on Wednesday, though, then he would join an elite group of Liverpool managers to have led the club to European glory, following in the footsteps of Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan, Gerard Houllier and Rafael Benitez.
The latter of those was responsible for delivering Liverpool’s most recent European triumph in 2005, and he was also the last Liverpool boss to pick up silverware in his first season at the club – a feat that Klopp is looking to emulate.
The last two rounds have offered suggestions that he will be able to do that too, with stirring second-leg victories over Dortmund and Villarreal at Anfield seeing the Reds reach their first European final since 2007.
They were not too convincing during the group stages or in their first knockout tie against Augsburg, but they have since eliminated Manchester United from the tournament too and go into the final having only lost one of their 14 European outings all season.
They have only won six of those, but another victory on Wednesday would see them equal Sevilla’s tally of four successes in Europe’s second-tier competition and claim a ninth major continental trophy.
Overall against Spanish clubs Liverpool have won 14, drawn 10 and lost 10 of their 34 meetings, although that does include two victories in European finals – against Real Madrid in the 1981 European Cup and Deportivo Alaves in the 2001 UEFA Cup.
If they are to stand any chance of repeating such results next season then they need a win on Wednesday, with the Europa League now their only remaining hope of qualifying for Europe next term.
Just like Liverpool, Sevilla have endured a disappointing domestic campaign and need to win on Wednesday to ensure that they are involved in European competition again next season.
Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at the hands of Athletic Bilbao means that Unai Emery’s side ended the season seventh in La Liga, eight points behind the final Europa League qualification spot.
It was also a third consecutive La Liga defeat for the club, who ended the league season by picking up just four points from the final 27 available to them.
It is a different story when it comes to this competition, though, and Sevilla would create a slice of history with victory on Wednesday as no club has ever won either the UEFA Cup or the Europa League three times in succession.
Indeed, no team has even reached the final three years in a row before this season, and the last team to win any European competition three times on the bounce was Bayern Munich in the European Cup from 1974 to 1976.
Their rise to become the most successful team in the competition’s history has been quite remarkable, with all four of their triumphs coming in the last 10 years.
When Liverpool were most recently lifting the UEFA Cup in 2001, Sevilla did not have a single European honour to their name and were playing in the second tier of Spanish football, and while the Reds are still in front when it comes to European pedigree, no team can come close to matching Sevilla’s recent record in this competition.
Only two teams have ever won the Europa League after dropping into the competition from the Champions League group stages, and should Sevilla join Atletico Madrid and Chelsea on that list then it would confirm Spain’s place as the leading producer of club sides in the competition’s history – they are currently tied with Italian clubs on nine successes.
The main concern for Sevilla heading to Switzerland will be their away record this season. The Spanish outfit failed to win a single league game away from the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan this term, picking up just nine points and scoring a meagre 13 goals on their travels throughout the entire campaign.
They lost all three Champions League away games too, while their only triumph on the road in the Europa League this season came against another Spanish side in the form of Athletic Bilbao.
Wednesday’s match technically comes on neutral territory, but Sevilla will need to overcome their fear of travelling if they are to lift the trophy for a record fifth time.
Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson made his return from a knee injury ahead of schedule as a sub on Sunday, although he may not be risked from the start in such a big game here.
Instead, Klopp is likely to start Adam Lallana, Emre Can and James Milner in the middle of the park, with wholesale changes expected from the team named against West Brom.
Divock Origi is rated as 50-50 to be involved but is likely to miss out on a starting berth to Daniel Sturridge even if he is deemed fit, while Danny Ings finally made his first appearance for Klopp at The Hawthorns but will not feature.
Mamadou Sakho remains suspended after his failed drugs test, while Danny Ward and Joe Gomez are both injury absentees for the final.
Alberto Moreno is expected to play against his former club, and Simon Mignolet should continue his record of having played every minute in the competition so far.
Sevilla, meanwhile, will be missing Michael Krohn-Dehli due to a knee injury, while former Arsenal striker Jose Antonio Reyes could become the first player to win the trophy four times but is not expected to feature.
Kevin Gameiro has been the leading marksman for the club with seven Europa League goals this term, and a hat-trick on Wednesday would take him level at the top of the tournament’s goalscoring charts.
We say: Liverpool 3-2 Sevilla