What started out as a huge collection of European teams has been whittled down to just 2, representing Spain and Ukraine. We’ve seen European giants such as Inter Milan, Celtic, Liverpool and Napoli fail as other, smaller, sides such as Club Brugge and Dynamo Moscow prosper (to an extent). Perhaps the biggest surprise of the whole tournament has been Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk run to the final, although given how well they are doing domestically maybe this isn’t such a shock? They will play last year’s Champions Sevilla in the final, to be held tonight (27th May) in Warsaw, Poland.
Maybe the best way to start this article is to introduce the two sides, talk about their history, this season and how they made it through the rounds to the final in Warsaw. I’ll start with Sevilla, based in the south of Spain. They are one of the oldest football clubs in Spain, forming in 1890. They’ve won one La Liga title (in 1945-46) but are probably better known for their recent exploits in Europe’s secondary competition. They share the records for most number of UEFA Cups/Europa Leagues won, with their 3 titles coming in 2006, 2007 and 2013. Furthermore, they won the Super Cup in 2007. They have been in Europe’s primary competition four times, with the most recent being 2010-11, reaching the quarter-finals in 1957-58. This season, they finished 5th in La Liga, narrowly missing out on a Champion’s League spot.
Due to their triumph last year, Sevilla qualified automatically for the group stage of the Europa League and were drawn alongside Feyenoord, Rijeka and Standard Liège, finishing 2nd. Their results in the group stage and beyond were as follows:
- 2-0 victory over Feyenoord (H)
- 2-2 draw with Rijeka (A)
- 0-0 draw in Liege
- 3-1 victory over Standard (H)
- 2-0 loss to Feyenoord (A)
- 1-0 win over Rijeka (H)
- Round of 32: 4-2 aggregate victory over Borussia Mönchengladbach
- Round of 16: 5-2 aggregate victory over Villarreal
- Quarter-Finals: 4-3 aggregate victory over Zenit St Petersburg
- Semi-Finals: 5-0 aggregate victory over Fiorentina
Their top scorers are Carlos Bacca with 5 goals and Kevin Gamiero, usually used as a substitute, with 4. Their recipe for success has been a 4-2-3-1 formation with Mbia and Blonbou providing the key defensive shield. For the final, they have a fully-fit squad to choose from.
Moving onto Dnipro, who I imagine you’ll know less about. Dnipro, apparently, is the Ukrainian name of the river Dnieper which flows through Dnipropetrovsk. They were fairly successful in the Soviet Top League, winning 2 titles in 83 and 88. Since Ukraine became independent they haven’t won a league title however have been runners-up twice, including last season. In Europe, they have little pedigree and this is their first European final although they did reach the quarters in the Champions League twice in the 80’s/early 90’s. The current squad is mainly made up of domestic players, with the most famous being the winger Konoplyanka. If Dnipro have a chance in the final, you feel he has to play well. The domestic season in Ukraine hasn’t finished yet and going into the final day, Dnipro sit 2 points behind Shakhtar in the hunt for the final Champions League qualification place.
They qualified for the Champions League qualification this season however lost to Copenhagen in the third-qualifying round and thus dropping into the play-off round of the Europa League. Obviously they won that, progressing into a group containing Inter Milan, Qarabag and Saint-Etienne where they were runner-ups to Inter. The full set of results are as follows:
- Beat Hajduk Split 2-1 on aggregate in the play-off round
- Lost 1-0 to Inter (H)
- Drew 0-0 in France v Saint-Etienne
- Lost 1-0 at home to Qarabag
- Beat Qarabag 2-1 in Azerbaijan
- Lost 2-1 to Inter (A)
- Beat St Etienne 1-0 (H) to qualify
- Round of 32: Beat Olympiakos 4-2 on aggregate
- Round of 16: Sneaked past Ajax on away goals (2-2 final result)
- Quarter-Finals: 1-0 win over Club Brugge
- Semi-Finals: Shocked Napoli 2-1 on aggregate
Dnipro haven’t relied on the goals from one or two players, indeed only 4 of their players have more than one goal. Kalinic leads the way with 3, Selezynov scored both of his in the semi-final legs, with Rotan and Fedetskiy also scoring twice. Unfortunately, Selezynov is a doubt for the final. Like Sevilla, Dnipro tend to line up with a 4-2-3-1 formation although have been known to change it to a flat 4-4-1-1 if the situation requires. With flexible wingers, this could give them an advantage in the final.
Unsurprisingly the bookies are making Sevilla favourites tonight, based perhaps on their greater European pedigree, better known players and coming from a less obscure league. There is no doubt seemingly that if Sevilla play to their full potential, they should have little problem in disposing of Dnipro. However, that is incredibly disrespectful to the Ukrainian side who have come through a tough run including Napoli in the semi-finals.
Given the troubles in Ukraine, including protests in Dnipropetrovsk although little fighting, a victory for a Ukrainian side in a major tournament will be a huge boost to morale. Whether this will encourage Dnipro, discourage them or not affect them is still to be seen. We are in for a very exciting match, between 2 attacking sides. There should be goals, although finals can be tense. The match will kick off at 19:45 British time and is live on ITV4. I’ll update this page as regularly as I can today.
Sevilla: Rico, Carrico, Tremoulinas, Kolodziejczak, Mbia, Banega (Iborra, 87′), Krychowiak, Reyes (Coke, 58′), Vitolo, Vidal, Bacca (Gameiro, 82′)
Dnipro: Boyko, Douglas, Fedetskiy, Kankava (Shakov, 85′), Léo Matos, Cheberyachko, Fedorchuk (Bezus, 68′), Rotan, Kalinić (Seleznyov, 78′), Konoplyanka, Matheus.
- Kalinić (Dnipro, 7′)
- Krychowiak (Sevilla, 28′)
- Bacca (Sevilla, 31′, 73′)
- Rotan (Dnipro, 44′)
Congratulations to Sevilla, the winners of the 2014-15 Uefa Europa League! A 3-2 victory confirmed their second title in succession and fourth in the last ten years. Indeed, those four successes mark them as the most successful team in Europa League/UEFA Cup history. They finished 5th in La Liga, 1 point away from a place in the qualifying round for the Champions League. That was gut wrenching but worth it as now they have a place in the group stage, which is finally a fair reward for the winners.
As easy as it would be to talk about Sevilla’s success, let’s not discount Dnipro who played their part in an enthralling final, worthy of the occasion. They took the lead in the second minute, only to be pegged back and fall behind before rallying to level before half time. For a long time in the second half extra time looked inevitable before Carlos Bacca popped up to score his 2nd of the match and 7th of this years tournament. Despite late pressure, Dnipro couldn’t find an equaliser and will return to Ukraine only with runner-up medals.
On a personal note, thank you for following these blogs as I detailed the Europa League as it progressed. There are things I would have improved on given the time, and some things I would remove completely however all in all I shall mark it as a success. I’m exploring the possibility of doing something similar next season, as without British involvement the British media tend to ignore the Europa League, which I find grossly unfair. This tournament is much more open and exciting than the Champions League, albeit with less attractive clubs. The blogs have been fairly well received, with quite a few views (especially for the first one) and so if it’s something you would be interested in then let me know – I can explore ways to improve my coverage for next season. Hopefully together we can see how Sevilla do trying to defend their crown (well, hopefully they won’t have to!).