Inter Milan and Sevilla meet in the final of the 2019-20 Europa League at RheinEnergieStadion in Cologne, Germany on Friday (3pm ET).
After a five-month suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the competition resumed at the start of the month, with the last 16 ties sorted out before the eight remaining teams converged in Germany to contest the decisive three rounds as one-off elimination ties.
That mini-tournament began on 10th August, but both Inter and Sevilla had already been in Germany a week longer than the other teams who made it through to that stage. The first legs of their round of 16 encounters against Getafe and Roma respectively were called off, meaning that those ties were also played on a one-off basis in German stadiums.
Both will therefore be more than comfortable in their surroundings, although there can be little doubt which of them will be more at home in a modern Europa League final. Sevilla lifted the trophy three times in a row between 2013-14 and 2015-16, and twice more in 2005-06 and 2006-07. Inter have won the competition on three occasions, but the last of those was in 1998. They haven’t made the final since.
In fact, Antonio Conte’s side are the first Italian team in over twenty years to make it all the way through to the final. That is also in sharp contrast to the success of Spanish participants. La Liga has provided six of the last eight and nine of the last 16 winners.
It is, though, Inter that are considered the marginal favorites for Friday’s match with both the top stateside bookmakers and the publicly available statistical models. They dropped down from the Champions League at the turn of the year, and then saw off Ludogorets, Getafe and Bayer Leverkusen before thrashing Shakhtar Donetsk in their semi-final on Monday.
Lautaro Martinez gave them an early lead and Inter then piled on as the match opened up after the hour mark. Danilo D’Ambrosio scored the second, Martinez notched the third and then Romelu Lukaku added two more to round off a convincing 5-0 victory.
Inter Milan finished the Serie A season just a point behind league winners Juventus in Conte’s first campaign at the helm, combining the league’s second-best scoring record with its best defensive record. They also had good underlying numbers, bolstering the idea that this is a structurally sound team that is also able to call on a potent strike force in the form of Lukaku and Martinez, scorers of a combined 52 goals in league and European action this season.
They are tough opponents but if any team might be capable of stifling them it would probably be Sevilla. Like Inter, over the course of the full season, Julen Lopetegui’s team conceded less than a goal per match in finishing fourth in La Liga, but they have been particularly tight at the back since the restart of play in June.
Over their final 11 matches of the league campaign, Sevilla conceded just five times, less than once every two matches. That has also held in the Europa League, where clean sheets saw them past Roma and Wolverhampton Wanderers prior to a 2-1 win over Manchester United in their semi-final on Sunday.
In truth, it wasn’t a vintage defensive display from Sevilla. Goalkeeper Yassine Bounou made a trio of good saves from shots inside the penalty area. The only goal they did concede came from the penalty spot and they reacted well to that early setback to level the scores through Suso prior to the half-hour point. Luuk de Jong then headed home a second-half winner to send them through to the final.
Lopetegui’s delight was clear at the final whistle and he now has a chance to add to his two European Championship successes with Spanish youth squads with his first trophy as a club manager. That his team are now unbeaten in 20 matches in all competitions certainly suggests he has a more than decent chance of doing so.
Inter are a very good team and their superior individual talent in attack does perhaps give them a slight edge. Sevilla do, though, appear slightly underrated by the sportsbooks’ betting lines, providing an opportunity to back them to lift the trophy, be that in normal time, extra time or on penalties, at a solid price. So our preview’s Sevilla vs Inter Milan predictions and picks for this Europa League Final 2020 are: