Dnipro vs Sevilla | Wednesday 27 May | Stadion Narodowy | 20:45
Sevilla will defend their Europa League title against Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk at the Stadion Narodowy on Wednesday night. This year, the winner of the Europa League is guaranteed a Champions League placement and with both teams currently outside of their league's qualifying position for that prestigious tournament, this final could ultimately be the only avenue they have to qualify.
To Win (90mins)
To Qualify (Lift the Trophy)
The runners-up from last season's Ukrainian league have been without doubt the surprise package of the tournament and when they finished second in Group F with just seven points, nobody would have imagined them to be potential finalists. Dnipro have worked very hard to reach the finale, having to come back late in the second leg against both Olympiakos and Ajax to win those knockout ties and taking until the last ten minutes of their quarter-final match against Club Brugge to score against the Belgians. The Ukrainian side beat a very good Napoli team in the semi-final 2-1 on aggregate, and one would guess the ability to remain a solid defensive side will aid Dnipro in the final. While they're definitely the underdogs having reached the final for just the first time in their history, they certainly have the talent to cause Sevilla problems and won’t be rolling over. Manager Myron Markevych knows how to get the best out of his players on the big occasion and will be looking to make history in Warszawa. Dnipro are a side of hard grafters but their one player of genuine quality is Ukrainian attacker Yevhen Konoplyanka, who showed all his best attributes against Ajax and Club Brugge. Blessed with excellent pace and skill with the ball at his feet, as well as a quick football brain and a rocket shot, he remains Dnipro’s most dangerous player. On the domestic front, Dnipro currently sit third in the Ukrainian Premier League, twelve points behind leaders Dynamo Kyiv who they lost 1-0 to in their last outing. They’ll be desperate to end their campaign off with a trophy on Wednesday night.
Holders Sevilla are coming off a 5-0 rout on aggregate against Italian side Fiorentina and will be favourites in the final. Los Rojiblancos have quite the history in the Europa League, having won the tournament three previous times. With a victory in Warsaw over Dnipro, they would become the first four-time winner of the title, so this is a side that has proved capable of winning the Europa League before. Manager Unai Emery’s side are unbeaten in their last nine games in the competition, with eight wins and a draw. Sevilla have been in stunning form – since the beginning of March, the team have lost just one game, which included a 2-2 draw against newly-crowned La Liga champions Barcelona and a goalless draw against Atletico Madrid. This is a team that is peaking at the end of the season, which will make them extremely tough to beat. Sevilla have a talented attack, but anything they do going forward to get past Dnipro's stodgy defence is going to have Carlos Bacca at the heart of it. The Colombian has notched up 26 goals in all competitions this season and has struck four times (and added two assists) in Europa League play. His pace, skill and ability to hold up the ball are essential to the way Emery wants his side to play and he’ll be eager to get on the scoresheet. Los Rojiblancos will also look to their pacey wingers Kevin Gameiro and Jose Antonio Reyes who are constant threats on the flanks. Reyes will look to put Dnipro to the sword with dazzling dribbles, close control and his trademark blistering pace. He, and fellow countryman Vicente Iborra – who scored a brace in Sevilla’s 2-1 victory over Almeria last weekend – will provide shield and sword in midfield and are key players in key areas for Emery’s team.
VERDICT: Sevilla 6/10
It’s no surprise that Sevilla are strong favourites to win this final. They’re a team full of quality players with experience in the big occasions. The job Emery has done with the Rojiblancos has been immense, and they have become an intense side full of talented players and capable of challenging any team on the planet. Most of these players have already triumphed in last year’s final and I’m tipping them to reign again.