The Europa League has reached the semi-final stage, with Manchester United set to take on Sevilla and Inter Milan playing Shakhtar Donetsk. The United match will be played in Cologne on Sunday (August 16th), with the Inter game set for the following evening in Dusseldorf. Both games will kick-off at 9 pm local time.
A Cup final is difficult to predict, especially this year in the absence of fans in neutral venues. Nevertheless, David Nugent from SoccerTimes predict that Sevilla will begin favourites to defeat United, possibly by a score line of 2 -1. Similarly, Inter are backed to overcome the Ukrainian side, again by a similar score.
No team in the history of the competition has enjoyed more success in it than Sevilla. They have won it five times in its various guises, including three successive years between 2014 and 2016 when Unai Emery was their manager.
They rode their luck a bit to beat Wolves in their quarter-final, surviving an early penalty miss by the normally reliable Raul Jiménez. But they were the better side on the night, and deserving of their late winner, courtesy of a header from Lucas Ocampos.
United travelled to Germany as favourites to win the trophy for the second time in their history, but laboured in their quarter-final with FC Copenhagen, although they were unfortunate to find goalkeeper Karl-Johan Johnsson in inspired form for the Danes. However, too many off their players looked leggy after a long season and having to play extra time will not have helped them one bit.
They will always have a chance whilst Bruno Fernandes is in the side, and they can rely on him for his dead ball prowess, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men will need to play a lot better to beat the Spaniards.
Inter Milan are the new bookies’ favourites to win the trophy. They finished the domestic Serie A season strongly, coming within a point of eventual champions Juventus, and with a superior goal difference. They were good value for their 2 -1 win over local favourites Bayer Leverkusen on Monday, with only the intervention of VAR preventing the score from being more emphatic.
And they have a man in form in Romelu Lukaku – not only was his goal his 31st for the season, but it set a new Europa League record. He became the first player to score in nine successive games in the competition. Fellow striker Alexis Sanchez – now signed from Manchester United on a permanent basis – is struggling for fitness, but he was unlikely to start the match.
Shaktar should not be underestimated by any means, although they are probably the outsiders of the four teams.
In 2009, they became the first Ukrainian team to lift a European Cup when they lifted this trophy, and they are serial winners of their own domestic league. They also have a team full of Brazilians, with the likes of Junior Moraes, Taison, and Dos Sandro Pedros, all of whom scored as they overwhelmed Basel of Switzerland 4 – 1 on Tuesday.
In the end, Inter’s bench may just give them the edge. They have multiple options to change things if they are not going to plan, whilst Shakhtar do not have the luxury of such strength in depth.