Mark O’Haire’s Europa League Final Tips – Liverpool v Sevilla
The curtain comes down on a thrilling Europa League campaign on Wednesday night as Liverpool face Sevilla in Basel with both sides desperate to take top honours and secure Champions League qualification for 2016/17.
Liverpool v Sevilla, Wednesday 18 May 19.45, BT Sport Europe/YouTube
Liverpool have taken top honours in eight of their previous 11 European finals and are competing in their first continental final since 2007’s Champions League loss to Milan. But optimism is rife amongst Reds supporters here.
The Merseysiders have suffered just one defeat in 14 (W6-D7-L1) Europa League outings this season – their 1-0 semi-final first leg loss to Villarreal – and Jurgen Klopp’s charges struck 11 goals in their last six knockout encounters in the competition.
Liverpool saw 11 different players get on the scoresheet during their rollercoaster ride that included dumping bitter rivals Manchester United, tournament favourites Borussia Dortmund and La Liga top-four finishers Villarreal out along the way.
The comeback victory over Dortmund will live long in the memory but arguably more impressive was the Reds’ disposal of Villarreal over two legs. Klopp’s men produced two high-energy performances to limit the Yellow Submarines’ threat as the famed pressing system again proved decisive.
Big Game Pedigree
Indeed, since the charismatic German arrived at Anfield, Liverpool have tended to rise to the challenge in the ‘big game’ environment. On top of their excellent Europa League exploits, Manchester City were taken to penalties in the League Cup final whilst the Merseysiders suffered just one defeat in eight against the top-four.
The Premier League outfit have warmed up for this fixture with W2-D2-L0 across their most recent four fixtures and crucially Klopp has an array of attacking options to choose from following the return to full fitness of Belgium forward Divock Origi this week.
With Daniel Sturridge shining, playmaker Philippe Coutinho impressing, Roberto Firmino firing and Adam Lallana hitting headlines in recent weeks, the Reds possess the firepower required to trouble a shaky Sevilla side in Switzerland.
The Spaniards have claimed four Europa League titles in the past 10 years and are looking to become the first ever team to win the trophy three years in a row.
With La Liga sides taking top honours in seven of the past 12 seasons and in five of their six finals matches against English opposition this century, it’s perhaps a little surprising to see Los Rojiblancos chalked up as 9/4 outsiders (Liverpool are 7/5).
The Andalusians have W13-D3-L2 in their most recent 18 Europa League excursions but their performances outside of their fortress Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan home have left a lot to be desired. Unai Emery’s men managed W1-D11-L14 on their league, Champions League and Europa League travails.
Investing sole focus on reclaiming the Europa League title with a top-four La Liga finish unreachable, Sevilla concluded their campaign with seven league defeats in nine. However, they breezed past Basel and Molde in continental action before overcoming Athletic Bilbao on penalties and Shakhtar Donetsk in a testing semi-final.
Kevin Gameiro didn’t make the French squad for Euro 2016 but he has proven Los Rojiblancos most potent weapon with seven goals in Europa League action, including six in his most recent five European fixtures, and 27 goals across all competitions.
Both Gameiro and playmaker Ever Banega were rested at the weekend but the two are set to feature here – since the start of last season they’ve played 13 times for Sevilla in La Liga with a W9-D3-L1 return. In the 63 games without the pair, Unai Emery’s troops have W28-D14-L21, including W0-D2-L5 recently.
However, Sevilla’s lack of defensive stability could easily cost them silverware here.
The Spaniards shipped six goals during their semi and quarter-final encounters and that terrible travelling record has seen Los Rojiblancos keep a solitary clean sheet in 14 games as guests.
So with both sides looking a little top-heavy and vulnerable in defensive areas, plus the trend that’s seen 17/32 (53%) of major European finals this century feature Over 2.5 Goals, backing a repeat scenario here looks a decent starting point at 21/20.
And with four of the last nine finals in this competition level after 90 minutes, as well as 13/32 (41%) of the aforementioned major European finals this century, backing either side to win on penalties (10/1 each) looks a fair option at bulbous prices. This contest could easily go the distance.
Over 2.5 Goals (21/20)
Liverpool to win on penalties (10/1)
Sevilla to win on penalties (10/1)
*Prices correct at time of publication.