Despite Sevilla's continued success in the Europa League (5x winners), the 2015–16 season proved to be another finish outside the top four with the side finishing in seventh. Keen to progress domestically and make the most of their participation in the Champions league, Sevilla signed the mastermind behind Chile’s resurgence on the international stage, Jorge Sampaoli.
His blossoming team showed a very powerful combination of tactical and technical intelligence, securing 4th and reaching the Round of 16 in the Champions League. However, Sampioli could not resist the calling of Argentina national team and left after a single season.
In came Eduardo Berizzo, another man from the school of progressive attacking football. Just like his predecessor, the football was very innovative but unfortunately Berizzo’s time was cut short after he was diagnosed with Prostatic Carcinoma.
Sevilla briefly hired Vincenzo Montella who knocked Mourinho’s Manchester United from the Champions League and then Pablo Machin who came with a lot of promise but ultimately was a disappointment.
After a horrid spell of 14 games at the helm of Real Madrid and getting removed from the job as Spain's National Team coach, Julien Lopetegui’s budding managerial career was in tatters. He has since picked himself up and produced a stellar effort at Sevilla.
When he first took over the reins in June 2019, the club had just finished sixth in La Liga and were knocked out from the Europa League in the round of 16. The following summer, Sevilla lost their front line, with Luis Muriel, Wissam Ben Yedder and Pablo Sarabia all leaving in the same transfer window. The task wasn’t getting any easier.
It proved a blessing in disguise as it provided the incentive for a complete overhaul of personnel at the club. Lopetegui brought in young blood some of whom he had worked with at the Spanish youth set ups. Fast forward to this season, Sevilla have finished an impressive fourth place equal on points with third place Atletico Madrid and a clear 10 points ahead of fifth place Villareal. They are now considered dark horses to win La Liga title in coming years.
Football in Seville has never been boring. Both Sevilla and their arch enemies Real Betis always put a show for their supporters. Even at times of disappointment, one cannot complain about the football on display.
For Sevilla in general, whether they’ve played under the tactical noux of Unai Emery, the wing wizardry of coach Juande Ramos or the pressing and control of Sampaoli and Berizzo, it has always been breathtaking to watch. The Ramon Sanchez Pijuan stadium has always witnessed a spectacle in football.
Lopetegui is no less impressive. Coming from successes of managing Spain’s youth levels which resulted in titles at the under 21 European Championships, the coach comes with a strong pedigree. Even his tenure with Real Madrid had seen some great possession and controlled football.
He has worked on eliminating the flaws in his previous teams. Defensively, the team is a perfect blend of power and technique while upfront Lopetegui has rotated the front line to keep his players fresh. They score goals and they don’t concede many – a recipe for success.
Throughout his years in management, Lopetegui has focused on flexible systems. His most favored being the 4-1-4-1 which shifts to a 4-3-3 in attack. Key to that system is possession in quick triangles and fast transitions in attack. His most important player plays in a central role in the middle three with a distinct skill set being the hall mark.
The player he focused his attention on most at youth levels was Thiago Alcantara, so much so that rumors were Thiago might join him at Real Madrid. No such rumors at Sevilla. That is because at Seville, Lopetegui has the services of a certain Ever Banega.
During his early years, Ever Banega built a reputation of a bad boy that just couldn’t keep himself out of trouble. Whether it was coming to training drunk, letting his car run over his ankle or watching his expensive automobile burn, the player was in the news for all the wrong reasons.
His artistry on the pitch however was something that could not be denied. Coaches like Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho have praised Banega for his performances. And with Banega himself leaving his troubles behind, nobody was surprised by his MVP performances against Dnipro and Liverpool (two of the three Europa League finals won consecutively by the Seville club).
He’s the perfect combination of tactical versatility and technical prowess. Banega has proven time and again to be the kind of talent teams are built around. He’s an all-round playmaking midfielder with perfect vision. It is no wonder that Lopetegui has relied on him so much and rightly so. Banega’s match winning performances this season have helped Sevilla reach another final.
Recent seasons have not been kind to Inter Milan. The ownership change, injection of funds, bringing in new talent, it’s been very slow and steady. You could point to the long =erm vision and consider it part of a continual process but you could also be forgiven for believing the process might not or has not yielded any tangible results.
And judging by that you can understand the feeling when fans of the Italian club are not happy. After all this is a club that did the treble under Mourinho, dominated Serie A for 5-6 seasons. That is until Juventus came along. A Juventus side that was all conquering, invincible and had a very steely look about them. They were Antonio Conte’s Juventus.
Thus, scenes of joy were inevitable when Antonio Conte was unveiled as coach of Inter Milan. Juventus wasn’t his only success of course. Following the revival of his Italian National side, Antonio Conte won the English Premier League with Chelsea beating the likes of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, Pochettino’s Spurs, Klopp’s Liverpool and Mourinho’s Manchester United. No mean feat by any means.
And now we have Inter playing his trademark style and although the players have taken time to understand his methods and philosophy, the team is gradually showing promise. Just like many top level coaches, Conte doesn’t buy big in the transfer market, he buys smart.
With players such as Lukaku, Ashley Young, Alexis Sanchez and many more, Conte has bought talent that should fit his style of play and solidify his team’s presence on the field. They have finished Serie A in second place only by a point to winners Juventus and judging by their recent performances, they’re a team growing in confidence.
Inter have history in European competitions. Helenio Herrera’s Grande Inter twice won the European Champion clubs’ cup in the 1960s. The German Inter of Andreas Brehme, Lothar Mattheus and Jurgen Klinsmann won the first 3 UEFA cups in the 1990s, then Jose Mourinho led them to the famous treble in 2010.
It wouldn’t be unfair to say Inter particularly love this competition, it’s earlier form (UEFA cup) anyway. Indeed, when El Phenomeno Ronaldo joined them in 1997, his brilliant performance against rivals Lazio in the final won them the UEFA cup in 1998. Conte will try to get his team to do the same in this year’s final.
Conte loves his 3-5-2 set up. His teams are defined by the use of dynamic attacking wing-backs to provide the width and industry in central areas through the use dynamic box to box players either side of a holding midfielder (Brozovic). That overload and constant movement up and down the field ultimately creates chances for the two men upfront.
Lukaku the target man and Lautaro Martinez the deeper lying forward, are a modern day 2 man strike force partnership and the duo is very lethal in front of goal. Lukaku has scored 23 goals wi8th a total of 47 shots while Lautaro Martinez has scored 14 goals out of 45 shots in total. With some excellent interplay, the two men upfront could make the difference.
The set-up is very flexible. When required, the wing backs can stay back giving the system a 5-3-2 look. The defense has a very rugged look about them with Godin providing the experience and De Vrij the physical presence. They love playing from the back and the measured passing from defense to through to midfield has been a feature.
They are good at set pieces and in Brozovic they have a player with a mean long shot. They don’t play a high line. It’s more or less a variant of contained football with a lot of movement off the ball especially around the flanks.
Lopetegui's likely to start with 4-3-3 which turns into 4-1-4-1 during games. Inter will rock a 3 at the back in defence. It will be 3-5-2 formation with a key strategy being give the ball to Lukaku and use him to hold it off to create chances for other players – Kounde will need to be mindful.
In the middle of the park, Nicola Barella’s late runs will need monitoring, but Inter will have to stop MVP elect Ever Banega, the inform player of the tournament. And if they’re able to stop him then Sevilla might overload the midifield with the inverted movements of Suso or by bringing on Franc Vasquez.
Out wide, with their attacking wing backs, Inter will fancy going down the flanks if they don't get pockets of spaces in middle of the park but Sevilla also likes to exploit the wings with Sergio Regulion and Jesus Navas bombarding forward from full back position. Young will need to be mindful of the influence of Ocampos.
Sevilla FC: Bono, D. Carlos, J. Kounde, J. Navas, Reguilon, Fernando, J. Jordan, E. Banega, Suso, L. Ocampos, Y. En-Nesyric
Inter Milan: S. Handanovic, S. de Vrij, D. Godin, A. Bastoni, D. D’Ambrosio, A. Young, R. Gaglliardini, N. Barella, M. Brozovic, L. Martinez, R. Lukaku
We believe it is going to be a very close game. This should be a Round of 16 tie of Champions League given the quality we have in this match. Both teams play with a certain style and has certain type of swagger in their game. Both Conte and Lopetegui are experienced so expect a good tactical game. .
Prediction: Amer went for a 2-1 win to Sevilla and Vipul went for a 2-1 win to Inter.