A spot in the Europa League final is up for grabs when two powerhouses in Sevilla and Manchester United lock horns in Sunday’s semi-final in Cologne.
Sevilla reached the last four courtesy of a slim quarter-final victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers, while United recorded a 1-0 success of their own against Copenhagen last time out.
Unai Emery was the mastermind behind three successive Europa League crowns for Sevilla between 2014 and 2016, but Los Palanganas had a run to forget last season as they bowed out at the last-16 stage to Slavia Prague.
However, the La Liga side will certainly not be looking back at that disappointment as they enter the semi-final showdown with United on a 19-game unbeaten streak across all competitions, and Julen Lopetegui has witnessed his side pick up seven wins from their last eight during that run.
Sevilla were certainly made to work for their victory over Wolves in the quarter-final, and the story could have been completely different had Raul Jimenez not missed from the penalty spot, but Lucas Ocampos’s 17th goal of the season in the 88th minute ultimately proved the difference on the night.
Lopetegui’s men are already assured of Champions League qualification owing to their fourth-placed finish in the 2019-20 La Liga season, but a piece of silverware at the end of a turbulent campaign would give Sevilla the confidence to push on and try to reduce the gap with Real Madrid and Barcelona next season
Manchester United have also booked their spot in Europe’s elite competition for next season, but if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants to lay down a marker ahead of the new campaign, a trophy is essential.
As is the case with Sevilla, United have produced the goods following the restart and have only tasted defeat once in their last 24 matches, but the Red Devils did not cruise past LASK and Copenhagen by any means.
The effervescent Bruno Fernandes was once again the hero from the spot for Solskjaer’s side, who were simply unable to break down the impenetrable wall that was Copenhagen’s Karl-Johan Johnsson for long periods of their quarter final.
United eventually got the job done against the Danish outfit, though, and the 2016-17 Europa League champions will be looking to replicate their success of three years ago, where they overcame Ajax in the final at the Friends Arena in Sweden.
The Europa League triumph of 2017 was United’s most recent piece of silverware, and if the Red Devils are to pave the way for a spate of success in the next few years, winning the tournament again this time around is certainly an ideal starting point.
The victors of this game will meet either Inter Milan or Shakhtar Donetsk in the August 21 final, with the other two semi-finalists going head-to-head on Monday evening.