Klopp must overcome most successful Europa side Sevilla in final for Liverpool to level
Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | May 6, 2016
Sevilla are already the most successful side in UEFA Cup/Europa League history and Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has never beaten the Bathtubs.
So, it’s astounding that Coral make the Reds 8/11 favourites to dethrone the defending Europa champions in Basel on Wednesday, May 18th, while Sevilla look superbly treated at 11/10 to add a third consecutive competition triumph to their trophy haul.
Is it Reds destiny?
The Bathtubs are the masters when it comes to Europa League football, with a potential fifth success in a decade awaiting them if they can humble the Merseyside men.
Yet, there may be something written in the stars for Liverpool, as when they won the Champions League against all odds in 2004/05. Trailing in both the quarters and semis, Klopp inspired comebacks to make this European final.
Under the Europa’s old branding of UEFA Cup, the Reds have won three titles, so can match Sevilla on four with victory at St Jakob-Park. A trophy in his maiden campaign would set up Klopp’s reign for bigger and better things, but he must do what he has been unable to in two previous attempts against this opposition.
Bathtubs counterpart Unai Emery has done sterling work at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan since being appointed in January 2013, guaranteeing European football for every full campaign he’s had in charge and matching Juande Ramos’ back-to-back Europa League triumphs.
Sustaining such success with Sevilla is significant because they have always been a club that sells star performers. Getting to another Europa final without Colombia striker Carlos Bacca, promising Spanish midfield duo Gerard Deulofeu and Denis Suarez who were both on loan, and right back Aleix Vidal, is a remarkable achievement.
It should put Bathtubs boss Emery in the frame for the Spain national job, which will become vacant following Euro 2016 when current La Roja coach Vicente Del Bosque has announced he will retire. Rafael Benitez, the former Liverpool and current Newcastle United manager, has also been mentioned in dispatches as a potential taker of the top job in his homeland.
Moreno has all the info
One player Klopp can count on to get the inside track on Sevilla from is left back Alberto Moreno, a member of the victorious Europa squad in 2013/14. Having come through the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan ranks, he commanded a reported fee of £12m following that triumph.
Emery had the confidence to give Moreno the breakthrough into regular first-team involvement and, although making one La Liga appearance the previous season, all 44 of his other league starts for the Bathtubs came under the compatriot coach.
Whether such inside knowledge can count for much remains to be seen, but there are a few members of the Sevilla squad who are also familiar faces to British audiences.
Names you’ll recognise
Reading fans may have caught the odd glimpse of Portugal international Daniel Carrico during his brief stay in Berkshire where the versatile defender made just three Premier League outings. Spurs and Argentina centre back Federico Fazio, meanwhile, is on loan with the Bathtubs and eligible for the Europa League.
Blackburn Rovers and Stoke City supporters know a lot more about French anchorman Steven N’Zonzi, whose tough-tackling style won him plaudits in Lancashire and the Potteries.
In attack is Sevilla skipper Jose Antonio Reyes, a member of the Invincibles vintage at Arsenal, and a player that has never really realised his true potential despite that auspicious start to his career.
Dangers are establishing themselves
Less well-known names carry the credible threat; Yevhen Konoplyanka, scorer of a spectacular goal for Ukraine at Wembley in a 2014 World Cup qualifier, provides the Bathtubs’ guile, while in-form diminutive forward Kevin Gameiro uses his low centre of gravity to wreak havoc inside the area.
Basque striker Fernando Llorente provides a more physical alternative up front, with midfield marshalled by Polish general Grzegorz Krychowiak, who looks like being the next Sevilla star the club is raided for.
With so much talent opposing them, Liverpool and Klopp have it all to do to live up being tagged as odds-on favourites for Europa League success, which would equal their opponents’ achievements albeit in a more spaced out fashion.