So this coming Wednesday (27th May 2015) at Stadion Narodowy, Warsaw, Poland we will see first time finalists Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk (Dnipro for the rest of this blog) and serial UEFA / Europa League winners (and current holders) Sevilla take each other on. Here is my preview and prediction.
Dnipro’s european season actually started in the Champions League on the 30th July 2014 – however a two legged defeat by Copenhagen meant they dropped into the Europa League playoff round which they negotiated to make the group stage. However after three matches (L2 D1) it looked like their chances of having any European football after the Christmas break was slim. But a huge victory away in Azerbaijan over Qarabag kicked started their campaign and they scraped through their group to get to the knockout phase and this is where they blossomed. Victories against Olympiakos, Ajax and Club Brugge followed before defeating against all the odds a crack Napoli team who were overwhelming favourites. They did get the rub of the green with an offside equaliser in Naples but fully deserved their 1-0 home win that secured their place in the final at a rain lashed Olympic Stadium in Kiev. It was a resolute defensive performance – bodies were more than put on the line to stop the Italians getting back into the game and the scenes in Kiev were a joy to watch as the realisation of a first European final sunk in for the Ukrainian team and their fans.
Sevilla on the other hand are well used to these occasions. They have seamlessly progressed throughout this tournament with their intent being on retaining the trophy they won last year and if they do so they will defend the it for a second time after their 2006 and 2007 successes when it was in the guise of the UEFA Cup. Their only blip was a defeat to Feynoord in the group phase which meant they finished second in their group – though this did not hamper them as with a run of seven wins in their next eight games they have steamrollered their way to another final. They have looked vulnerable on occasion defensively and if Fiorentina had taken their chances, especially in the first leg of the semi-final it could have been oh so different – the Spanish side showed them how to do it in the second leg.
Judging on the differing ways the teams have made the final Dnipro – rock solid defensively (especially in the knockout stages) giving very little away, they know their limitations and make no apologies (and they shouldn’t) for their style of play which has proved extremely successful. Conversely the holders are flair personified – they look to score goals whilst giving opponents a chance at the back – it has worked so far throughout the competition and I expect to see similar this coming Wednesday night. If Sevilla win they will become the most successful side in UEFA Cup / Europa League history (with four wins) – though if you are a Dnipro supporter note that Ukrainian sides have a 100% record in UEFA European finals.
There is actually what I’m calling ‘The Joker’ which makes this final much more interesting and that is the fact the winners will qualify for next seasons Champions League. Sevilla’s league season has already finished and they ended up fifth so this is now their only opportunity of qualifying for the premier competition. Dnipro still have a small chance of finishing second in their league but they would need a major collapse by Shakhtar Donetsk in the final round of matches to nick that spot. In other words – if either side wants to be in next years Champions League THEY NEED TO WIN!!!!!!! Because of this I think Dnipro’s safety first style may give them an early advantage, though both teams will be nervous because of the huge prize at the end (as well as the trophy of course ;D). Anyways I think this will have an influence and I feel extra time will be the call. The first goal in this is crucial though I think if Dnipro get it a much better game will ensue – so I’m going for Sevilla to retain their trophy — score wise 2-1 after extra time.
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