We’re into the late stages of the Europa League now, and three teams have dominated the headlines up to this point.
Will Manchester United win it to bring Ole Gunnar Solskjaer his first trophy? Can Inter save their season with some silverware? Can Wolves snatch a place in the Champions League by lifting the trophy?
Have we all just forgotten about Sevilla, the side who know more about winning the Europa League than anyone right now?
By winning three consecutive trophies between 2013 and 2016, Sevilla proved that they are capable of going all the way in this competition. They know what it takes to get over the finish line and they will be looking to call upon that experience this summer.
Granted, they haven’t come close to replicating that success since 2016, but the 2019/20 campaign saw Sevilla reach the kind of heights which haven’t been seen at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán for the last few years.
Julen Lopetegui’s side climbed up to third in La Liga, finishing as Spain’s best side not called Real Madrid or Barcelona. They also boasted the third best defence in the division, and that’s the key to Sevilla’s chances of winning the Europa League.
The highlight of Sevilla’s side has been their centre-backs. Diego Carlos has enjoyed an astounding season which has seen him linked with the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City, and the continuing development of young Jules Koundé has been just as exciting to watch.
The pair’s perfect combination of power and technical ability makes them the perfect duo. Whether you want to attack on the air or on the ground, Carlos and Koundé know how to come out on top. The only way you get past them is if one of them makes a rare mistake.
Sevilla now have a pair of £60m centre-backs and 21-year-old Koundé’s value will only rise as the years go by. Carlos in the one to have attracted most interest, but there’s an argument to suggest that Koundé should be the man on top sides’ wish lists in his place.
Either side of those central defenders are the exciting full-backs Sergio Reguilón and Jesús Navas. Beginning with Reguilón, who has found himself in the headlines with links to Chelsea and Napoli, he was named La Liga’s best left-back after showcasing an incredible combination of attacking flair and defensive strength.
The Real Madrid loanee is capable of recovering possession and kick-starting a counter attack, and the same can be said of Navas, whose transition from an ageing winger with Manchester City to a dominant right-back has gone better than anyone expected.
Behind them, cup stopper Bono has kept six clean sheets from his eight appearances this year, but Lopetegui could call on regular starter Tomáš Vaclík if he wants even more strength at the back.
Not only do Sevilla boast the scariest defence left in the competition, but they’re not half bad going forwards either.
With Argentinian maestro Éver Banega pulling the strings in midfield, winger Lucas Ocampos has finally proven himself as a top talent, racking up 17 goals in all competitions and adding five assists for good measure.
Add in solid contributions from Luuk de Jong, Munir El Haddadi and Suso and you’ll find a dynamic attack capable of taking whatever chances come their way.
Sevilla’s strength definitely comes from the back, but there’s nothing wrong with that. They go into every game knowing that their opponents will struggle to score, while simultaneously being confident that they can snatch the one goal which may be enough to get the job done. Just look at their quarter-final win over Wolves as proof of that.
It’s not always the most exciting football to watch, but who cares about that right now? It’s time to get results, not impress the YouTube highlight reel merchants. That’s what Sevilla do best, and that’s why they will be confident of lifting the Europa League trophy when all is said and done.
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