A lot more than a trophy is at stake when Sevilla face off with AS Roma in the Europa League final on Wednesday, May 31. A place in next season’s money spinning Uefa Champions League is the added bonus for winners as neither side has qualified for European club football’s principal competition via a domestic league position. Spain’s preeminence in European club competitions has also been challenged with Sevilla the country’s only remaining flag bearer in a final. Italian clubs Inter Milan and Fiorentina are vying in the Champions League and Europa Conference League finals.
Coaches Jose Luis Mendilibar and Jose Mourinho made wholesale changes to their starting line ups and suffered identical 2-1 defeats, with Sevilla suffering a 1-2 reverse at the Ramon Sanchez Picjuan Stadium at the hands of Real Madrid and AS Roma falling to Fiorentina at the Artemio Franchi Stadium by a similar margin. The side from Italy’s capital are sixth with one Serie A match to play whereas Sevilla are eleventh in Spain’s Liga Santander.
Mourinho’s proud record of winning every European final he’s contested comes under pressure from record Europa League winners Sevilla, who have won all six finals they’ve reached. Speculation is rife that Mourinho may leave after the final. The Portuguese tactician, who won the Uefa Cup with Porto in 2003 and followed it up by lifting Big Ears in 2004, before repeating the feat with Inter Milan in 2010; and is a Europa League winner with Manchester United in 2016 and Europa Conference League champion with Roma, is strongly linked to the vacant managerial job at Paris Saint Germain.
Mendilibar is not as celebrated as his coaching rival but he has steadied the ship after replacing Jorge Sampaoli with the Andalusians hovering just above the relegation zone. His side are also in better form, with Sevilla winning five of their last ten outings whereas AS Roma’s solitary victory over the same time was a 1-0 triumph over Bayer Leverkusen in the same tournament.Besides, the Stadio Olympico based side are sweating over the fitness of top scorer Paulo Dybala in whose absence the Romans’ attack has been blunt.