Liverpool face Sevilla in the Europa League final in Basel on Wednesday night, with a place in the Champions League next season the prize for the winners.
Since arriving at the club, Jurgen Klopp has placed great importance on the competition, due in part to a disappointing Premier League performance this year. The Reds finished eighth in the table, their lowest position since 2012 and thus they will miss out on European football altogether unless they win against Sevilla, the current holders.
A win for Liverpool at St Jakob Park would see them level the Spaniards as the joint-most successful team in the UEFA Cup/Europa League’s 45 year history. The Reds have won all three finals they have played in within the competition’s history and will be hoping to channel their past in order to get Jurgen Klopp’s first piece of silverware at the club to round off the season. This will be Liverpool’s 12th major European final, having previously reached seven Champions League finals, three Europa League/UEFA Cup finals and one in the Cup Winners’ Cup. They have won eight of them.
Throughout the competition, Liverpool have knocked out the likes of Borussia Dortmund, Manchester United and Villarreal, reflecting the strength within the competition of late. They have had 11 different scorers in this season’s tournament, more than any other side and thus Sevilla will have their hands full to keep Klopp’s side quiet on Wednesday night. However, the Reds have never scored more than one goal away from Anfield in the Europa League this season.
Sevilla are assured a place in the Europa League next season due to their seventh place finish in La Liga. The Spaniards have won the competition in the last two years and thus will head into the game confident of retaining the trophy and making history by becoming the first club to win it three times in a row. Sevilla have won 13 of their last 18 games in the Europa League and therefore head into the game in good confidence.
However, Jurgen Klopp insists that their recent triumphs in the Europa League will count for nothing on Wednesday night, with the Reds prepared to match them all the way to ensure they partake in the elusive Champions League competition next year. Sevilla’s involvement in the Copa del Rey final against Barcelona on Sunday could impact the eventual outcome of the final according to Jurgen Klopp, whose side, in contrast, are left with the Europa League as their only focus.
Kevin Gameiro has had a hand in nine of Sevilla’s 14 goals in the Europa League, with seven goals and two assists. The Frenchman has scored six goals and registered two assists in his last five games and Liverpool will need to keep him quiet if they are to be successful in Basel.
Liverpool have no new injury problems to worry about heading into the match, with Jurgen Klopp having a fully fit squad to pick from, following the return of Jordan Henderson, Danny Ings and Divock Origi. Mamadou Sakho will play no part in Switzerland due to his suspension as investigations continue over the Frenchman’s failed drugs test. As a result, Klopp faces a selection headache and must decide whether to start Liverpool’s captain following a five week layoff after appearing for 25 minutes against West Brom at the weekend, or continue with the midfield pair that played against Chelsea.
Daniel Sturridge will no doubt lead the line for Liverpool with Divock Origi and Danny Ings offering other options on the bench should the Reds need them during the game. Furthermore, Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino are be recalled to the side after being rested at the weekend, and the trio will have a huge impact on the eventual outcome of the tie. Danny Ward will also be on the bench after recovering from a knee problem.
Likewise, Sevilla arrive to Basel with no fresh injury concerns to contend with.
Only one of the last 10 finals in the Europa League/UEFA Cup has seen the team scoring first not lift the trophy (Dnipro, against Sevilla in 2015). Therefore, the first goal could be crucial on Wednesday night – let’s hope it’s for the Reds!
Spanish clubs have won seven of the last 12 editions of the Europa League: Sevilla 4, Atletico 2 and Valencia 1.
Simon Mignolet will return in goal for Liverpool, with the defensive partnership is set to be Dejan Lovren and Kolo Toure, who could be making his final performance in a Reds shirt on Wednesday night. Alberto Moreno and Nathaniel Clyne have impressed throughout the season with their energy to get forward in support of the attack, and Klopp will be hoping they can provide similar width to proceedings against Sevilla.
Emre Can, who has attempted 41 and completed 34 tackles in the Europa League, more than any other player, will sit in front of the defence and provide crucial cover from the Spaniards attacks. The German has been integral throughout the season and will no doubt play a key role for Liverpool once more. The real question is, who will partner him? Jordan Henderson could start having featured against West Brom but Joe Allen and Lucas Leiva represent other, more defensive, options for the German should he decide to sure things up in midfield.
James Milner has contributed with a number of assists since making his move from Manchester City and I would fully expect him to start the game in Basel, along with the attacking trio of Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino, who will be a real menace to the Sevilla defence and provide chances for Daniel Sturridge, who will need to be ruthless at St Jakob Park.
Prediction: Liverpool 2-1 Sevilla