Europa League Final Preview: Liverpool v Sevilla

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Liverpool are looking to dethrone Europa League specialists Sevilla when they meet in the final at St Jakob-Park in Basel, Switzerland on Wednesday.

Europa League
18 May 2016
Final
Kick-off 19:45 GMT

Venue: St Jakob-Park

Referee: J. Eriksson
Assistants: M. Klasenius, D. Warnmark
Fourth official: M. Culum

Players to watch:

Should Daniel Sturridge start of the Reds, he is likely to be their main threat. The striker has been eased back by Klopp after recovering from his injury long lay-off and has scored four goals in his last six games, including in the semi-final second leg victory against Villarreal.

Sturridge has all the attributes to unlock Los Rojiblancos’ defence, who were abject again this past weekend as they lost 3-1 to Athletic Bilbao. With pace, power and good finishing skills, the England international is expected to be a real handful for the opposition defenders in midweek.

Kevin Gameiro can count himself unfortunate not to have been included in France’s squad for Euro 2016. The striker bagged 27 goals in all competitions for Sevilla this term, with seven of them coming in the Europa League to help them reach the final.

Gameiro doesn’t just bring goals, however, as he can find team-mates in better scoring positions as well, having provided seven assists this season.

Team form and manager quotes:

The Reds have had an impressive run to the final, with plenty of thrilling displays to reach the showpiece event, beating domestic rivals Manchester United in the round of 16 to set up a quarter-final clash against Jurgen Klopp’s former club, Borussia Dortmund.

Klopp’s side were two goals down against the much-fancied Bundesliga giants less than 10 minutes into the second leg at Anfield, but came back to record a last-minute victory. A similar attitude saw them fight back from a goal down against Villarreal to smash them 3-0 in the return leg and advance to the final.

Klopp is relishing the opportunity to lock horns with the tournament holders as he looks to clinch a place in the Champions League by winning the clash in Switzerland.

“I’m really looking forward to it but I know it will be real work,” the German said. “There will be pressure and a lot of things around the game. It’s very important that we handle this close to perfection. That’s what I think about.

“I’m not in a position to enjoy each second until the final – I have a few things to do, a few meetings. It is like it is for a manager in a moment like this. In an ideal world you find the right words.

“But I’m quite confident that it will work, with all the things we have to do until then. And then it’s up to the players.

“It will be a great match, it’s a great opportunity. It’s wonderful to have these ‘problems’ because there are only two teams in this tournament with these problems. It’s all about finding the right mood to enjoy this game.”

For Sevilla, the path to the final saw them get the better of La Liga rivals Athletic Bilbao in the quarter-finals before overcoming Ukrainian titans Shakhtar Donetsk in the semi-finals.

This is familiar territory for the Spanish club, who have won the tournament in the last two seasons. Their love affair with UEFA’s second-tier competition started with back-to-back victories between 2005 and 2007, a feat that has been repeated in the previous two seasons, and they now have a chance to make it three.

As far as domestic form goes, neither team enter the match in the best shape. The Reds have only won once in their last five Premier League matches, a 2-0 success over Watford, which was followed by draws against Chelsea and West Brom. The Merseysiders have produced erratic performances in England’s top flight, but seem to be saving their best for Europe.

Unai Emery’s men have been faring even worse in La Liga, with seven defeats in their last nine matches, including their final three games of the season. Their seventh-placed finish in Spain puts them one above Liverpool, who ended their Premier League campaign in eighth, although the English side picked up eight more points throughout the campaign.

Emery feels the Andalusians’ dominance of the competition in recent years has motivated the players to become better.

“Sevilla care about this competition. You have to come up with the goods and rise to the challenge to go a long way in this competition,” the Spaniard told UEFA in an interview.

“The fact that this is our third consecutive final demonstrates how focused and hungry we have been to do well in the Europa League, and win it.

“The players see these moments – playing in finals to win titles – as very special. The fact that they can make their names in Spain and in Europe further inspires them to keep developing and improving as professionals.”

Team news:

Reds boss Klopp will be hoping to have Divock Origi back from an ankle injury in time to feature, but the Belgian striker is considered a doubt, while Danny Ward (knee), Jordan Rossiter (hamstring) and Joe Gomez (anterior cruciate ligament) are ruled out.

For Sevilla, the good news is that Ukrainian winger Yevhen Konoplyanka has been passed fit after shaking off a thigh issue and featured in their final league game of the season.

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