An attractive encounter should be expected when Sevilla and Benfica meet in Turin on Wednesday in the final of the Europa League (19:45 BST, live on ITV4).
Sevilla come into the final on the back of a 1-0 defeat away to Getafe from which the majority of the first team were rested. With one round of matches left to play, they are fifth in the Primera Division table with 60 points from 17 wins, nine draws and 11 defeats.
Unai Emery’s side began their Europa League campaign back in August of last year and will play their 19th match of the competition on Wednesday. They won their group before seeing off Maribor, local rivals Real Betis, FC Porto and Valencia on route to the final. They won this competition in 2006 and 2007 and are hoping to become the fourth three-time winners.
Emery had looked on the verge of losing his job following Sevilla’s 2-0 round of 16, first leg defeat to Betis in mid-March, but a reversal of that scoreline, combined with six victories in his side’s subsequent seven league matches, saw him establish his credentials and earn himself a new contract. Europa League qualification is already assured for next season.
Sevilla have the joint fourth-best goals scored record (66) in La Liga. The strike partnership of Carlos Bacca and Kevin Gameiro has been particularly fruitful, providing 40 goals in all competitions, while in midfield, the 15 goals and 14 assists accumulated by Ivan Rakitic underline his importance to the side. As a team, they attack swiftly and efficiently.
Emery will be without the injured Sebastian Cristoforo (knee) and suspended Jairo Samperio for the final, while Vitolo (hamstring) is doubtful.
Benfica travel to Turin on the back of a 2-1 defeat to FC Porto in which their starting XI was made up mostly of B team players. They had already secured the Primeira Liga title and finished the season with 74 points from 23 wins, five draws and two defeats.
The Eagles are undefeated since dropping down from the Champions League into the Europa League, having won six and drawn two in overcoming PAOK, Tottenham Hotspur, AZ and Juventus. Defeated finalists last year, they are looking to end a run of seven consecutive defeats in European finals, stretching back to 1963.
It has been a successful season for Jorge Jesus and his team. In addition to their league title triumph, achieved by a seven-point margin over Sporting, they have already won the Portuguese League Cup and will face Rio Ave in the final of the Portuguese Cup on Sunday. It will be their 57th competitive match of the campaign – a new club record.
Benfica have been the class of the Portuguese league this season, both scoring more (58) and conceding less (18) than any other side in the division. Ezequiel Garay and Luisao form a strong partnership in central defence, Enzo Perez and Nico Gaitan supply energy and invention in midfield, while Rodrigo Lima (pictured), Oscar Cardozo and Rodrigo provide the goals.
Jesus will be without the injured Ljubomir Fejsa (knee) and Silvio (shin) and suspended Eduardo Salvio, Lazar Markovic and Perez for the final.
Sevilla v Benfica Europa League Final Betting Tips
These sides faced off in the preliminary round of the 1957-58 European Cup, with Sevilla winning 3-1 on aggregate, but that remains their only meeting in competitive action. Benfica have a poor overall record against Spanish opposition, but both of their European final triumphs were against Spanish teams. Sevilla have a winning record against Portuguese opposition.
Sevilla are a good side, who, with two excellent strikers, one of La Liga’s best central midfielders and some creative, if inconsistent, attacking midfielders, play to their strengths by attacking quickly whenever they gain possession. They are, however, not so impressive defensively and are likely to struggle against the slick movement of the Benfica attack.
The dynamism of Perez, the Primeira Liga player of the season, is a big miss for Benfica, as is the creativity of Markovic and Salvio, but they still have both the defensive solidity and final third quality to suggest that their billing as favourites is correct. They have come back strong from a disappointing conclusion to last season and will be determined to win.
We expect to see a high-quality encounter, with Benfica the most likely victors.
- Back Benfica to win in normal time @ 13/10 with Ladbrokes.
- Lima is Benfica’s top scorer this season, with 14 goals in league play and four in seven appearances in the Europa League. In 2010, while playing for Braga, he scored a hat-trick against Sevilla in a Champions League qualifier. Back Rodrigo Lima to score at anytime @ 2/1 with BetVictor.