Europa League final: Klopp’s Liverpool aim to dethrone Sevilla
The Europa League final has taken on extra importance as it offers the winners a place in next season’s Champions League – the competition’s more lucrative sibling – and all the associated revenues that go with it.
The Reds reached the final courtesy of a semi-final victory over Spanish team Villarreal, running out 3-1 winners on aggregate thanks to a comfortable 3-0 second-leg win at Anfield.
Sevilla overcame Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk, emerging as 5-3 winners over the two legs.
Sevilla have an excellent track record in the competition, gaining back-to-back triumphs in 2006 and 2007, and repeating the feat with final wins in 2014 and 2015.
They are aiming to extend this latest run to three consecutive European titles – something that no side has achieved since German giants Bayern Munich in the 1970s.
Under the guidance of Unai Emery, the Spaniards are Euro masters and know how to play the big occasion.
They pose a big threat through the goals of Frenchman Kevin Gameiro, who has netted seven times in this year’s Europa League.
Sevilla attach great importance to Europe and the chance for silverware that it brings – a possibility that is often elusive on the domestic front due to the dominance of Barcelona and the two Madrid teams.
Emery has described the match against Liverpool as “50-50.”
“They [Liverpool] have good form and have beaten some really important teams in Europe,” he said
“This Liverpool team plays Jurgen Klopp’s style… Very intensive, high pressure, and with very good players.”
The Sevilla boss said that as champions, his side would “fight to keep the title.”
Liverpool go into the game on the back of some stirring victories in this season’s competition – notably wins over bitter rivals Manchester United and a thrilling comeback at Anfield against Klopp’s former team Borussia Dortmund.
They are an improving force under Klopp, and are showing signs of playing the type of high-intensity football favoured by the charismatic German.
The clash with Sevilla will be the first-ever meeting between the two teams, and Klopp described his side as being “in a perfect moment to play a final.”
“There is no doubt about our quality at this moment, no doubt about the opportunity we have,” he said. “We are very, very deserved to be in this final. We will be a real competitor.”
Liverpool’s last European success came in the Champions League in 2005 when they defeated AC Milan in the famous ‘Miracle of Istanbul,’ when they came back from 3-0 down at half-time to win on penalties. Prior to that, the Merseysiders won the UEFA Cup (as the Europa League was then known) in 2001.
Basel’s St Jakob-Park Stadium will be full to capacity with 36,000 fans attending – the majority of whom are expected to be Liverpool supporters.