While Sevilla’s last-gasp victory over Wolves in the Europa League quarter-final put paid to a mouth-watering all-English semi-final tie, the Spanish side’s match-up with Manchester United looks set to be just as intriguing. After all, we’re talking about two sides who have won four of the last six Europa Leagues between them, Sevilla winning three times in a row between 2014 and 2016, and United winning the 2017 final.
Indeed, the two sides recently clashed in the knockout stages of the Champions League, meeting in the last 16 of the 2018-19 campaign. It was Sevilla who came out on top in that tie, beating United 2-1 at Old Trafford after a 0-0 draw in the first leg. The memories of that win will help to spur on a Sevilla side who need no invitation to perform well in the Europa League, boasting such a fine recent history in the competition.
The restart of the Europa League following its suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic has seen both sides struggle slightly for form in the competition. Both have got the job done, but there has been little in the way of flair in their performances, suggesting that perhaps the best is still to come from each team. The Europa League betting odds suggest there is little between the two sides.
United resumed their campaign by finishing the job against LASK, securing a 2-1 win at Old Trafford to seal a 7-1 aggregate victory. The next test was Copenhagen, and United struggled to assert their dominance in the match, failing to cash in on their chances before ultimately winning 1-0 through Bruno Fernandes’ penalty in extra time.
Sevilla won their single-legged last 16 tie with an impressive victory over Roma, before struggling against Wolves in the quarter-final. The English side had it in their hands to beat the Spanish outfit, but Raul Jiménez’s missed penalty in the first half was indicative of Wolves’ inability to handle the big occasion and deliver a telling blow to Sevilla. Lucas Ocampos’ late header was enough to see the Spanish side over the line.
Now these two titans of European football go head-to-head for a place in the final. United have undoubtedly developed a taste for winning the Europa League after lifting the trophy three years ago, defeating Ajax to secure the title for the first time in the club’s history. Sevilla, meanwhile, are Europa League specialists, leading the way with five triumphs in total, all of which have come since they first won the competition in 2006.
United come into the game full of confidence, having been exceptional in the Premier League after its restart, ultimately finishing in a commendable third place. It’s clear that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has found his feet at the club, and the arrival of Fernandes from Sporting Lisbon in January is one of the main reasons for their improvement.
The task for Solskjaer and United is to dampen the always-present fizz in Sevilla’s Europa League matches. The Spanish side knows what it takes to get the job done at this stage of the competition, and the fact that they finished outside the Champions League places in La Liga will be another motivating factor, given that the winners of the Europa League automatically secure a group-stage berth. With everything to play for, it’s set to be a cracking semi-final.