Sevilla vs Internazionale: Europa League Final Preview and Prediction
The 2019-20 Europa League final sees a traditional football giant clash with the most successful team in the competition’s history. Five-time champions Sevilla take on three-time Europa League winners Internazionale at the RheinEnergieStadion in Dusseldorf for this game.
Both sides have already qualified for the Champions League, via their domestic league route, so this final will be all about ending the season with silverware.
Julen Lopetegui’s Sevilla had a strong season where they finished fourth in La Liga and were level on points with third-placed Atletico Madrid. Los Nervionenses did underperform in the Copa del Rey, getting knocked out by Segunda division side CD Mirandes.
Under Antonio Conte, Internazionale have improved by leaps and bounds and gave Juventus a serious challenge for the scudetto. The Nerazzurri finished second in the Serie A, only a point behind the champions. They also reached the semifinals of the Coppa Italia, losing to eventual winners Napoli.
Road to the final
Sevilla beat CFR Cluj, AS Roma, Wolves and Manchester United to book a place in the finals in Dusseldorf.
Only the tie against Cluj was a double-legged one as the remaining fixtures were shifted to a single-leg affair due to the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Spanish side eked out close wins in both the quarterfinals and semi-finals.
Lucas Ocampos’ 88th minute header helped them beat Nuno Espirito Santo’s Wolves in the quarters.
Against Manchester United, Suso and Luuk de Jong were on target to cancel out Bruno Fernandes’ goal from the penalty spot in the ninth minute. Sevilla got another late winner when de Jong struck in the 78th minute off a Jesus Navas cross.
Conte’s Internazionale dropped down to the Europa League Round of 32 after finishing third in their Champions League group, behind FC Barcelona and Tottenham.
Il Biscione beat Ludogorets in the Round of 32, Getafe in the Round of 16, Bayer Leverkusen in the quarter-finals and Shakhtar Donetsk in the semis.
The 2-1 scoreline against Leverkusen suggests that the game was close but Internazionale looked the dominant side in that one. The 5-0 win over Shakhtar clearly showcased the Nerazzurri’s strengths with both forwards – Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku – bagging a brace.
This is Internazionale’s first European final since that fateful night at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu in 2010 when they defeated Bayern Munich to win the 2009-10 Champions League and complete the treble.
Lopetegui can field a full-strength side in this game. There are no injury concerns or suspensions for Sevilla.
Internazionale will be without Matias Vecino who had injured his knee on July 11.
Alexis Sanchez is also doubtful as he had picked up a muscle injury. He was on the bench in the win over Shakhtar but was not risked.
Diego Carlos vs Romelu Lukaku
Lukaku’s re-emergence as one of Europe’s most lethal strikers has been a catalyst for Inter’s success this season.
The Belgian has turned things around after being cast away from Manchester United. He has topped the scoring charts for Conte’s side this season with 33 goals. Interestingly, Ronaldo Nazario de Lima also scored 34 goals in his debut season with Inter, with the final goal coming in the 1998 UEFA Cup final.
Lukaku has a chance of emulating his idol but Diego Carlos will give it his all to prevent that from happening.
The Brazilian defender will have to match up with Lukaku’s amazing strength and great hold-up play. The Belgian specializes in creating space for his striking partner, Martinez, by shielding the ball and facilitating moves with quick touches.
Carlos and Jules Kounde will have to be wary of this threat but they also cannot leave Lukaku open in spaces. The former Everton forward’s pace is not something to underestimate.
Sergio Reguilon vs Danilo D’Ambrosio
Lopetegui favors a 4-3-3 setup and Conte uses a 3-5-2. Both of them, however, like to get their full-backs involved at the offensive end.
Sergio Reguilon put up a masterclass in the win over Manchester United, tormenting Aaron Wan-Bissaka with his direct runs and crosses. The Spaniard also assisted Suso’s equalizer in the 26th minute.
Despite Ocampos having a rough night, Reguilon was able to assert his influence and this will make him a dangerous prospect for Inter.
Conte can field a player with similar characteristics to counter Reguilon. Danilo D’Ambrosio is a veteran for the Nerazzurri and can still be counted on to put in an energetic shift.
The Italian wing-back has been in fine form and has kept Victor Moses out of the side. D’Ambrosio has scored three goals in the last five games for Inter, including the second goal in the win over Leverkusen in the quarterfinals.
Like Reguilon, he also contributes on both ends of the pitch. It will be interesting to see which of these players is able to have a better performance and contribute to their team’s success.
Fernando Reges vs Nicolo Barella
Sevilla’s high pressing game has been a key factor in the team’s success this season. Lopetegui has personnel that excel in off-the-ball play which allows them be quick in transition and force teams into committing dangerous turnovers.
That strategy’s efficacy will have to be measured against a competent Internazionale midfield led by Nicolo Barella and Marcelo Brozovic.
Barella, in particular, has been immense since the COVID-19 break. The Italian midfielder has impressed with his decision making and movement in the middle of the park. He has also become a dangerous playmaker who is able to open defenses with his passing, like he did for Martinez’s opener against Shakhtar.
Fernando Reges will have to take the initiative of closing down spaces in order to contain Barella and Inter’s midfield. The Brazilian has the required skill-set to do so but it will be a hard night for him.
Internazionale are the favorites on paper as they’ve been in great form and also have a better squad.
One cannot, however, count out Sevilla in this tournament. Ever Banega might be the only survivor of their 2016 Europa League winning squad but Los Nervionenses have a team that can give Conte’s men troubles.
I see this game being a cagey affair which will probably be decided in extra time. The key will be conserving energy – both sides excel at doing that – so as to possess the stamina to strike at the opportune time.
Against collective wisdom, I see Sevilla pipping Inter to win a sixth Europa League title. They’ve had a harder path to the final and that experience will be the difference maker in getting the win.
Predicted scoreline: Sevilla 2-1 Internazionale (a.e.t)