Inter Milan have waited 10 years to reach another European final and will hope to add the Europa League trophy to their cabinet once again. But in their way are five-times winner Sevilla.
The La Liga club have lifted the trophy twice more than any other side and are aiming for a record-extending sixth title, although Inter are among the sides in joint-second place on three wins. They last won the UEFA Cup in the 1997/98 season and have not featured in a European final since their 2009/10 Champions League victory.
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But on a personal level, the two managers - who are both managing in their first major European final - could not be further apart in their trophy haul.
Antonio Conte will head into the Europa League final aiming to win a major trophy in his first season in charge of Inter Milan and extend the barren spell of his Sevilla rival Julen Lopetegui.
Conte won three successive Serie A titles with Juventus followed by the 2016/17 Premier League title and 2018 FA Cup with Chelsea, while Lopetegui has been unable to claim a single honour at senior level as coach.
The former goalkeeper oversaw the longest trophy-less spell at Porto between 2014 and 2016 before taking charge of Spain, where he was dismissed a week before the 2018 World Cup having steered his country to the finals.
Lopetegui made way for Fernando Hierro after it was announced he would be taking over at Real Madrid in August 2018. He only held on to the job until October that year after suffering a 5-1 La Liga thrashing by Barcelona.
The current season finally brought some joy as he guided Sevilla to a top-four finish in La Liga and then reached the Europa League final with a combative side whose work rate exceeds its talent.
They demonstrated this with a 2-1 comeback win against Manchester United in the semi-finals, taking advantage of some sloppy defending to extend their unbeaten run to 20 games in all competitions - the longest such run in the club's history.
But Inter are also in devastating form. They saw off Shakhtar Donetsk with a proverbial flick of the wrist, winning 5-0 in their semi-final meeting. They're also unbeaten in 11 games, winning the last six in all competitions and finishing just a point behind Juventus in Serie A.
Silverware for the Premier League's familiar faces?
Less than a year after leaving the Premier League, Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, Ashley Young and Christian Eriksen could be lifting their first major trophy with Inter Milan.
Of course, the trio all arrived in Italy from Manchester United. Young was the only player to have won trophies at Old Trafford, including the Europa League in the 2016/17 season.
Eriksen was also trophyless during his spell at Tottenham, coming closest in the 2019 Champions League final. Victor Moses is also on loan at Inter from Chelsea, playing four times in Europe so far this season.
Sevilla have their former Premier League stars too. Jesus Navas won the Premier League and two League Cups at Manchester City, and has been involved in two of Sevilla's previous UEFA Cup triumphs.
But it was two not so successful Premier League names that saw off Manchester United last time out. Suso came through the youth ranks at Liverpool but made only a handful of first-team appearances while match winner Luuk de Jong played in only 12 league games for Newcastle on loan in 2014.
The key men - Lukaku vs Banega
Two different positions but two equally dangerous players. At first glace, Lukaku's contribution is easily defined by his Europa League stats.
He has scored six goals - including two in the semi-final - with two assists, 18 shots on target and a shooting accuracy of 61.1 per cent. This isn't counting the two goals and two assists he registered during the Champions League group stages.
Lukaku has struck up a fine partnership with Lautaro Martinez, who also scored twice in the 5-0 win against Shakhtar, with Conte saying of the pair: "It was inevitable that, working hard and working together, a connection between the two would develop. They have the typical selfishness of all strikers, but they also work hard to help the others score."
But what Sevilla lack in a marquee striker they make up for with a formidable midfield maestro in Ever Banega.
He was named man of the match against both Wolves and Manchester United with his midfield string-pulling, tidy, classy and insightful play that has helped guide Sevilla to another final.
It was his sublime pass that opened Wolves up in the quarter-finals as Lucas Ocampos netted the only goal of the game. While he may only have three Europa League assists to his name this season, it his work further back that will be a real test for Inter's midfielders.
Lopetegui: Hard to stop Inter
Sevilla manager Lopetegui has conceded that, despite the club's record in the competition, trying to stop Inter will be a tall order.
"The team has a very characteristic way of playing, all Conte teams have it," he told Sevilla's official website.
"It is not easy for such high-level players to play in such a peculiar collective way. The squad is full of players with a talent, they will oblige us to play an extraordinary game.
"They are at a magnificent level, a team made to play Champions League football who finished just one point off (Italian champions) Juventus in Serie A, they have magnificent players and an experienced manager."
Sevilla's route to the final
|Europa League group stage||Qarabag 0-3 Sevilla|
|Europa League group stage||Sevilla 1-0 Apoel Nicosia|
|Europa League group stage||Sevilla 3-0 Dudelange|
|Europa League group stage||Dudelange 2-5 Sevilla|
|Europa League group stage||Sevilla 2-0 Qarabag|
|Europa League group stage||Apoel Nicosia 1-0 Sevilla|
|Europa League last 32 first leg||Cluj 1-1 Sevilla|
|Europa League last 32 second leg||Sevilla 0-0 Cluj|
|Europa League last 16||Sevilla 2-0 Roma|
|Europa League quarter-finals||Wolves 0-1 Sevilla|
|Europa League semi-finals||Sevilla 2-1 Man Utd|
He later added: "There are a number of sentences and famous lines that you can say about finals over the years. We've heard it all. Everything has been said, but as I've said we are all relaxed. We are calm and that's the calm that we need to have to make sure that we are balanced and focused.
"This is the match that we have been training for all season now and our aim is to go into the match fit and firing in terms of being prepared for the game, but also we need to strike the right balance and make sure that we are emotionally ready as well. It's not different to any other game, except that there is a lot more at stake."
Conte: We have to play with desire
Inter manager Conte wants his team to play with passion and show they are the better side in Cologne.
He told UEFA.com: "We have to play with the desire to win and bring the trophy back to Italy - and to bring a trophy back to Inter. We have to show that we're the better team.
"It's always important to be able to tell the lads at the end of the game that we don't have any regrets. If we're the better side, we'll lift the trophy. If not, we'll have given our all, and we'll applaud our opponents."
Inter Milan's route to the final
|Champions League group stage||Inter 1-1 Slavia Prague|
|Champions League group stage||Barcelona 2-1 Inter|
|Champions League group stage||Inter 2-0 Dortmund|
|Champions League group stage||Dortmund 3-2 Inter|
|Champions League group stage||Slavia Prague 1-3 Inter|
|Champions League group stage||Inter 1-2 Barcelona|
|Europa League last 32 first leg||Ludogorets 0-2 Inter|
|Europa League last 32 second leg||Inter 2-1 Ludogorets|
|Europa League last 16||Inter 2-0 Getafe|
|Europa League quarter-finals||Inter 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen|
|Europa League semi-finals||Inter 5-0 Shakhtar|
He added in his pre-match press conference: "We should be proud of the fact that we have reached a final for the first time in 10 years. Especially when you're at a prestigious club such as Inter.
"That said, as I've always said, ultimately history is written by the conquerors, the winners. History will only recall ultimately the team that wins this year's Europa League. It's a shame, but equally that's added motivation for us to try and go out there and achieve everything."
For Sevilla, the key question is the fitness of the team's top scorer Ocampos. The Argentinian was substituted with a knee problem against Manchester United and will face a race to be fit for Friday's final.
Inter could also be without Sanchez after he was an unused substitute against Shakhtar Donetsk with a strained right hamstring.
I have to admit, it is not my personal choice of who I would like, but these are two cracking European finals, and this is the curtain-raiser. Sevilla are the masters, but Inter Milan with Antonio Conte's dynamic style on the other side, has a great feeling about it.
I am sceptical of the way football started back in the Premier League, but with the European competitions it has been great to have the one-off games. I have had a nice personal run with some of my predictions, but I do feel football is going to be like this for the next couple of years.
However, this format would be great for the next couple of seasons. Teams are going for it, and yes there are a few defensive strategies, but these two will not adopt that approach.
Inter will play with their back three, with high wing-backs to accompany those. Romelu Lukaku has pace and strength up front too, so it has the makings to be an open, free-flowing game.
There will be a feast of goals again. Lautaro Martinez has been the star of the show for Inter. People have said that he is good enough to go to Barcelona. Other than Neymar, this could be the man. He has two great feet, he is a lovely finisher, he plays off the striker, and he could be the difference between the two sides.
The strength and power of Lukaku suits Martinez and the two play hand in hand. Conte will not stifle their ability. He will want his defenders to defend, the organisation to be correct, but going forward he wants goals. We are in for another treat.
- This is the first ever European meeting between Sevilla and Inter - it is the sixth time in 11 seasons of the UEFA Europa League that the two teams in the final are meeting for the first time ever in a European competition, with the last occasion the 2015-16 final, when Sevilla beat Liverpool 3-1.
- Inter have won all five of their UEFA Europa League matches this season and are looking to win six major UEFA European matches in a row for only the second time (six between December 2009 and April 2010).
- Sevilla have never lost a single game knockout match (not played over two legs) in UEFA Cup/Europa League history (P8 W6 D2), winning each of their last five such matches, including two finals.
- Sevilla are currently enjoying their longest unbeaten run across all competitions in the club's history (P20 W11 D9); among La Liga clubs, only Real Madrid have had a longer unbeaten run this season (21 games between October and February).
- Inter striker Romelu Lukaku has scored in each of his last seven European matches for Inter, scoring eight times and assisting four goals in those matches too. In all competitions, Lukaku has scored 33 goals this season, the most by an Inter player since Samuel Eto'o scored 37 in 2010-11.
- In the semi-final, Suso and Luuk de Jong became the 10th and 11th different scorers for Sevilla in this seasons UEFA Europa League - excluding own goals, only Manchester United (12) have had more different scorers.