Football Previews

Four things we think will happen in Sevilla vs Inter Milan

By Harry Edwards

Inter Milan v Sevilla predictions: Four things to expect | Europa League final

Published: 16:39, 20 August 2020

Well, here we are. Over a year after the first qualifying rounds kicked off, the 2019/20 Europa League final has arrived.

A total of 213 teams entered the competition at various stages, but we are now down to the final two. It is, of course, Sevilla and Inter Milan who will contest Friday night’s showcase in Koln.

For Sevilla, it’s reward for an overall fine campaign in the competition, in which they topped their group while losing only once before seeing off CFR Cluj, Roma, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Manchester United in the knockout stages.

Inter Milan will have entered the season with a different aim in mind. They dropped out of the Champions League after finishing third in a tough group, before going on to beat Ludogorets, Getafe, Bayer Leverkusen and Shakhtar Donetsk to reach the final.

Two very good teams with European history, but only one can walk away as the 2019/20 Europa League winners. So, who’s it going to be? And what else do we think could happen on Friday night?

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1. Romelu Lukaku to score

Inter Milan cruised into the Europa League final thanks to a 5-0 win over Shakhtar Donestk, making the task look fairly easy despite the high stakes.

Lautaro Martinez scored twice and Danilo D’Ambrosio made things comfortable with 15 minutes remaining, granting Inter some breathing room and an opportunity to really stretch their legs. And that’s where Romelu Lukaku thrived.

The Belgian has been simply excellent for Inter this season, having joined from Manchester United last summer. At the time of his arrival, Lukaku was still subject to criticism from those linked to Manchester United. Among that camp was Gary Neville, who questioned the Belgian’s professionalism.

But Lukaku quickly put that all behind him and started playing with freedom in Italy, leading the line well for Antonio Conte (who had previously tried to sign him at Chelsea). Two late goals in the semi-final win over Shakhtar took Lukaku’s tally for the season to 33 across all competitions. This is the most by an Inter player since Samuel Eto’o scored 37 in 2010/11.

Six of those goals have come in five Europa League appearances, and Lukaku is very much making the competition his own. It is now 11 games since Lukaku has failed to score in the Europa League (a competition record). Lille were the last team to keep the Belgian out way back in November 2014 when he was still at Everton.

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2. The action to come in the second half

Finals are typically close-run affairs. Neither Sevilla nor Inter Milan will want to hand an early advantage to their opponents. And in the Europa League this season, both Sevilla and Inter Milan’s matches have come to life after the half-time break, particularly at either end of the pitch where Sevilla are concerned.

In their 11 Europa League games so far this season, Sevilla have had a decent scoring record of 20, bettered only by Manchester United and Base, while conceding just five times. Of those 20 goals scored, 12 have come in the second half of matches, including three of the six they managed in the knockout stages. Against Manchester United in the last-16 it was a 78th-minute strike from Luuk de Jong while Wolves fell to a goal in the 88th minute. But Sevilla have also been leaky after half-time, with four of the five goals they have conceded coming in the second 45. Man Utd were the only team to score against them in the first half.

It has been a similar story for Inter Milan, albeit slightly more balanced. Antonio Conte’s side have scored seven of their 13 Europa League goals in the second half, including four against Shakhtar Donestk in their semi-final win. However, Conte’s men have been tighter than Sevilla in that they are yet to concede after half-time. Could Sevilla be the first side to do so?

Relevant William Hill odds:

  • Inter Milan to score in the second half: 4/6
  • Sevilla to score in the second half: 21/20
  • Both Teams To Scored in the second half: 12/5
  • Highest scoring half – 2nd: Evens

3. Someone to get a penalty

Every neutral fan loves a penalty shootout, and there may not be a more dramatic way for a final to be decided. But even if Friday’s Europa League final isn’t decided this way, it doesn’t mean there won’t be a spot-kick.

Inter Milan have conceded a fairly high 74 fouls across five Europa League fixtures this season, averaging 14.8 per game. Despite their domination of the scoreline against Shakhtar, Conte’s men allowed their opponents a lot of the ball and looked to hit them on the counter. One byproduct of this approach comes from the aggressive means by which Inter attempt to regain possession or disrupt play. In total, they conceded 21 fouls against Shakhtar, one of the higher numbers in the Europa League this season.

Despite the 21 fouls, no Inter player received a yellow card against Shakhtar. Their opponents have been less lucky, though. Sevilla’s 132 fouls conceded averages out at 12 per game and their highest single-game total isn’t too far behind Inter’s, having conceded 19 fouls in their final group stage game against APOEL.

The high number of fouls both Sevilla and Inter Milan average in the competition alongside the use of VAR can only increase the chances that a penalty will be awarded.

Only three teams have conceded more penalties than Sevilla in the Europa League this season, with Lopetegui’s side giving up three spot-kicks so far. Remarkably, all three have come in the knockout stages. Cluj were the first to be given the opportunity in the first leg of their last-32 tie, with Ciprian Deac scoring. Wolves then had the chance to score from the spot in the quarter-finals, but Raul Jimenez missed, while Bruno Fernandes scored his penalty for Manchester United.

Inter haven’t been perfect either, conceding a penalty in their last-16 tie against Getafe, though Jorge Molina missed.

Relevant William Hill odds:

  • Penalty awarded and scored: 13/5
  • Penalty awarded and missed: 8/1
  • Penalty taken – Yes: 2/1

4. Sevilla to win the Europa League again

To paraphrase Gary Lineker: in the Europa League, 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end Sevilla win.

Including its previous guise as the Uefa Cup, Sevilla have won the Europa League more than any other club (five times so far). But while the competition has a long and rich history, going back to the 1970s, Sevilla’s domination has been more recent.

Their first win came in 2006, when they beat Middlesbrough 4-0 in the final in Eindhoven and they retained the competition a year later, this time beating compatriots Espanyol on penalties.

After the competition was restructured and we stopped calling it the Uefa Cup in 2009/10, it took Sevilla some time to get back to the top. But once they did, there was no stopping them.

Between 2014 and 2016, Sevilla won three consecutive Europa League titles, beating Benfica, Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk and Liverpool in the finals and becoming the only club to accomplish a ‘three-peat’ in the competition. They are also one of just two teams to win it twice in a row, joined by Real Madrid (1985 and 1986).

In total, Sevilla have contested five Europa League finals so far (not including this Friday’s game) and have won all five. Across all Uefa competitions, only Liverpool (six between 1973 and 1984) and Real Madrid (nine between 1985 and 2018) have won more consecutive finals.

So history is not on Inter Milan’s side and, looking at more recent evidence, it is Sevilla who have had the slightly tougher route to the final. They were well-disciplined in their win over Manchester United in the semi-final, sticking to their gameplan despite conceding an early penalty to eventually overcome the Red Devils.

Relevant William Hill odds:

  • Sevilla to lift the Europa League trophy: 6/5
  • Sevilla to win in 90 minutes: 12/5
  • Sevilla to win in extra-time: 12/1
  • Sevilla to win on penalties: 11/1
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