While there was little excitement on the last day of either of the domestic seasons in Spain and England once Man City and Barcelona took early leads, this final is sure to get the juices flowing. UEFA’s decision to give the Europa League winner a spot in the following season’s Champions League has paid dividends here as both clubs had (typically?) disappointing domestic campaigns.
Sevilla finished seventh in La Liga, 12 points adrift of Villarreal who took the final Champions League spot while Liverpool ended in eighth in the Premier League, though they were just six points behind Man City in fourth.
Sevilla are aiming for their fifth UEFA Cup/Europa League this millennium though they’ve not won La Liga since 1946. They are, impressively, also going for a hat trick of triumphs in this competition after they conquered Benfica in 2014 and Dnipro last year. Liverpool won the UEFA Cup in 2001 and the Champions League, famously, in 2005 but it’s now been 9,524 days since they won the league in England. At Football Form Labs we maintain a proprietary grading system, with which we rate all European domestic clubs. The system not only allows us to compare current matchups but it’s also consistent through time so we can compare the Barcelona team of 2011/12 to, say, the AC Milan team of 1994/95. Coming into this tie, Sevilla have a grading of 158.4 while Liverpool are currently rated 153.3.
For comparison, the Champions League finalists have gradings of 184.4 (Real) and 176.2 (Atletico). In the last 30 major European finals, the higher graded side has lifted the trophy on 23 (77%) occasions. Furthermore, in the 10 games in the sample where there has been a comparable grading difference to this match the higher-ranked team is undefeated in 90 minutes and they’ve lifted the trophy eight times – the two exceptions were the penalty shootout Champions League victories for Chelsea in 2011/12 and Milan in 2002/03. Interestingly, seven of the 10 were level after 90 minutes while the higher-rated side has won in extra-time three times.
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Spanish teams currently have an iron-grip over European trophies which isn’t surprising given the talent in La Liga. Sevilla have contested the last two Super Cups against Real Madrid and Barcelona and if they win here it’ll be three consecutive seasons that both the Champions League and the Europa League have ended in Spanish hands. Spanish teams have faced English opposition in finals six times this century and they’ve won five with four victories in 90 minutes. More generally, 17 of the 32 Major European finals this century have had Over 2.5 Goals while 13 have gone to extra-time.
Both teams were involved in exciting semis to get here. Sevilla drew 2-2 at Shakhtar in their opening leg before winning 3-1 at home while Liverpool bounced back from a 1-0 loss at Villarreal with a faultless 3-0 victory at Anfield. Both sides were also involved in dramatic quarter-finals as Sevilla only just edged passed Bilbao on penalties while Liverpool won 4-3 against Dortmund despite trailing 2-0 and 3-1.
One of Liverpool’s heroes that day, Mamadou Sakho, misses the final after he failed a drugs recently but the Reds should otherwise be at full strength. Meanwhile, Sevilla are also close to full strength and their fans can take heart from the expected inclusion of Banega and Gameiro after both were rested at Bilbao on Saturday. They’ve played together 13 times for Sevilla in La Liga since the start of last season and the Spaniards have an impressive W9-D3-L1 record in those matches but when at least one has been absent they’ve gone W28-D14-L21, including picking up just two points from their last seven.
Liverpool are a rejuvenated side under Klopp but they look massively overrated in this final. Sevilla are rated higher and their players have much more experience of playing, and winning, at this level. Past finals between sides with a similar difference as these two have often been tight so we wouldn’t put anyone off backing the draw at 3.40 or even Sevilla to win in Extra-Time at 13.0 but the standout selection is the Spaniards to complete a hat-trick of Europa League wins.
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