Inter Milan vs. Sevilla: Five things to know ahead of the Europa League final on Friday

    The first of the two major men’s European finals take place on Friday with Inter Milan facing off against Sevilla in the Europa League final. The final will take place at the RheinEnergieStadion in Cologne, Germany.

    Both teams faced a rather unprecedented road to get to this point in the competition as the coronavirus pandemic interrupted the normal course of action of two-legged ties. In their place was a series of one-legged ties all set to take place in the country where the final was scheduled to happen.

    For Inter, it’ll be a question of whether their squad of Premier League castoffs can come together for a final 90 minutes to bring home some hardware after falling short of doing so in Italy. For Sevilla, this game will be another chance to add to their Europa league dynasty.

    Here are five things to know about the match.

    1. Sevilla can add to their Europa League dynasty

    The La Liga squad have reached the final of this competition five times over the last 14 seasons and have come away with trophies all five times — 2006, 2007, 2014, 2015 and 2016. Of course, the more seasons that pass them by, the further away that last title becomes. This is the longest drought of Europa League titles since the break between 2007 and 2014. Will the legacy help propel Sevilla to victory, or will the pressure ultimately be their demise?

    2. Lukaku could potentially catch Ronaldo

    The former Manchester United and Everton striker has found his scoring touch since coming to Inter, having scored 33 goals this season in all competitions. That’s a total that some of the biggest in Inter’s history failed to reach including Christian Vieri, Adriano, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Diego Milito and Mauro Icardi. The only player to surpass him was the great Ronaldo, hitting 34 throughout all competitions. Just one goal for Lukaku brings him level to one of the greatest ever to play the game, while a double surpasses him. Scoring in a final is far from a simple task, but Lukaku has momentum on his side. His goal-scoring form has taken new life in the Europa league, where after this double against Shakhtar Donetsk, he has a scoring streak of 10 consecutive games in the competition.

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    3. Jules Kounde vs. Lautaro Martinez

    Believe it or not, this battle between a defender and a forward is not about how the prolific striker will fair against the stout defender, but rather how the striker will fair in pressuring a talented defensive facilitator. Even as a defender, Kounde serves as one of the biggest reasons that Sevilla is able to build up their attack. As WhoScored’s Martin Laurence wrote for The Guardian, the defender has made 77.8 passes per game in the Europa League this season, completing 93.1% of them. It’ll be up to Martinez to play some defense in his part of the pitch in order to stifle that sort of production.

    4. Don’t expect a high-scoring game

    But even with the fact that Lukaku is a goal-scoring machine for Inter (along with Martinez), and Kounde is the big reason why Sevilla’s attacks are effective in the first place, the defining feature of the recent matches for both teams is their ability to stop the other side from scoring. Sevilla have just conceded one goal in their last six matches, while Inter have conceded just one in their last seven. The stout defense could mean trouble for both sides in getting the ball into the back of the net. If neither team is able to tactically break through, then it’ll probably fall to whose legs tire out first

    5. Conte searches for first European title

    Antonio Conte’s managerial career includes an impressive five domestic titles — one with Bari in Serie B, three with Juventus in Serie A and one with Chelsea in the Premier League — but what’s conspicuously missing from his personal trophy case is a European title. It’s not like he’s unfamiliar with the feeling of winning one as he reached that mountain top as a player for Juventus in 1996. Still, he won’t be satisfied just making an appearance at this stage of the competition, and will be searching for the hardware in his coaching career, especially as questions loom about his future with the Italian club. Should he claim victory on Friday, Conte will bring Inter its first European trophy since Jose Mourinho did won the Champions League in 2010.

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