Liverpool attempt to win their first trophy of the Jurgen Klopp (pictured) era when they take on defending champions Sevilla in the Europa League final on Wednesday evening (7.45pm on BT Sport Europe).
The Reds had an extremely difficult run to reach the showpiece event in Basel, beating Augsburg, Manchester United, Borussia Dortmund and Villarreal in the knockout rounds after topping a group that contained Sion, Rubin Kazan and Bordeaux.
Sunday’s 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion saw Liverpool finish the Premier League campaign in eighth place, but Klopp’s charges may have ended the year higher in the table had they not shifted their focus to Europe and begun to heavily rotate their line-ups in the English top flight in the last few weeks of the season. Ending the year with a piece of silverware would make 2015/16 a success for the Merseysiders, who have won only a single trophy (the 2012 League Cup) since the FA Cup victory over West Ham United a decade ago.
Unlike their upcoming opponents, Sevilla began the season in the Champions League before dropping down to Europe’s secondary continental club competition after finishing third – behind Manchester City and Juventus – in their group. Molde, Basel, Athletic Club and Shakhtar Donetsk were overcome on their way to the final, with Unai Emery’s men aiming to win the Europa League for the third year in a row following successes over Benfica in 2014 and Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk 12 months ago. Sevilla ended the La Liga campaign in seventh spot but still have the final of the Copa del Rey against Spanish champions Barcelona to look forward to on Sunday evening.
Liverpool will be without Danny Ward (knee), Jordan Rossiter (hamstring) and Joe Gomez (knee) for their first European final since 2007, while Divock Origi’s chances of featuring are rated as doubtful due to an ankle problem. Klopp did not risk many of his first-choice stars at the weekend and will be pleased that no fresh injury concerns emerged from the West Brom game, which saw Danny Ings make his return to action after seven months on the sidelines. Jordan Henderson could start after he too got a few minutes under his belt at The Hawthorns, while Daniel Sturridge is in line to begin the match up top if Origi loses his race to be fit in time for Wednesday.
Sevilla, meanwhile, will be unable to call upon the services of Marco Andreolli (Achilles) and Michael Krohn-Dehli (knee), while Jose Antonio Reyes (appendicitis) and Benoit Tremoulinas (knee) are also expected to miss out. Coke, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Fernando Llorente will all be pushing for starting places after beginning Saturday’s 3-1 loss away at Athletic Club on the substitutes’ bench, with Kevin Gameiro looking to add to the seven goals he has already scored in this year’s edition of the competition.
It is difficult to predict the outcome of Wednesday’s Europa League final, with both teams appearing to be rather evenly matched after finishing their domestic seasons in around the same positions in England and Spain. Sevilla perhaps have the edge given their fantastic cup pedigree and recent record in this tournament, although Klopp and Liverpool will also fancy their chances having successfully negotiated a very difficult route to the final in Basel.
Taking everything into account, a narrow Liverpool victory looks to be the best bet for Wednesday night, although Sevilla’s Gameiro – scorer of 27 goals in 49 appearances in all competitions this term – could be the leading option for the game’s first goalscorer. If the Reds are indeed successful this midweek, it would be their fourth Europa League trophy and ninth piece of silverware in European competition.