Inter Have Scent of Europa Success in Cologne

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Inter Milan face Sevilla on Friday in what looks set to be a vintage edition of the Europa League final.

Romelu Lukaku

Inter Milan have been wandering in the football wilderness for a decade but can step out of the shadows on Friday by capturing the Europa League title in Cologne.

However, to do that they’ll have to get the better of a well-drilled and resilient Sevilla side who have a 100 per cent record in Europa and Uefa Cup finals.

While the Andalusians rode their luck to see off Manchester United in the last round 1-0, the Nerazzurri destroyed Shakhtar Donetsk 5-0 in their semi-final and are worthy favourites based on that showing to land their first piece of silverware in nine years.

Sevilla Seek to Hide Vulnerabilities

Inter are 4/7 to win the cup, 421 days after the Europa League started, with Sevilla 27/20 to lift the trophy for an incredible sixth time since 2006. Even with their affinity for this competition, it is tough not to ignore the Italians based on the strength of their squad and their recent performances.

Antonio Conte’s men saw their Serie A title hopes undone by inconsistencies throughout the campaign but the former Chelsea and Juventus boss currently has his team humming. Conte is set to name the same side for the fifth match running on Friday and there is unlikely to be any surprises in how they play having been happy to sit back and soak up the pressure in recent games.

Inter had just 37 per cent of the ball against Shakhtar but still managed to score five times as they sealed eight wins from the last ten matches. Their performances have improved as the Europa has gone on but they’ll have to go up another notch to defeat a Sevilla side that hasn’t lost in 20 matches.

They have upset the odds in Europa League finals in the past having beaten Liverpool in 2016 when underdogs and Lopetegui has shown his tactical nous in the second half of the season, making life very difficult for the opposition. However, their limitations were laid bare by United in the semi-finals, the Red Devils firing in 20 shots on target as goalkeeper Yassine Bounou put on a clinic.

With Inter having netted five times in just 12 attempts against Shakhtar, their superior attacking quality could prove to be the difference. Should Inter click into gear, then this could threaten to be another one-sided Europa League, like Chelsea’s 4-1 thrashing of Arsenal last year. However, Sevilla have shown they can be extremely resolute under Lopetegui and it is more likely to be a long night for both sides with Inter 9/1 to win in extra time and 11/1 to triumph on penalties.

Lukaku Can Light up Europa Showpiece

If it is to be a tight final, then Inter will hope Romelu Lukaku can prove to be the match-winner having netted 33 times this season. He has set a record by scoring in 10 consecutive Europa League outings and will be a real handful for Diego Carlos and the rest of the Sevilla defence.

The Belgian has formed a good partnership with Lautaro Martínez, who himself has scored 21 times across all competitions this season, the duo assisting one another for a goal each in the win over Shakhtar. Lukaku is 7/5 to score anytime in the final, with Martinez a 19/10 chance, and both are worth considering with Inter having been full of goals lately.

They have netted two or more in 14 of their last 16 games but will need to work hard to extend that run against a Sevilla side who have kept clean sheets in nine of their 14 matches since football’s return.
Sevilla’s goal hopes rest firmly on Lucas Ocampos but he’s battling a knee injury and is unlikely to be at 100 per cent on Friday, even if he does manage to start.

With topscorer Ocampos struggling and Inter keeping clean sheets in six of their last seven matches, Sevilla might find it tough to get on the board and are 9/5 to net under 0.5 team goals.

With Inter strong at the back and potent going forward, European success for the first time since their 2010 Champions League triumph appears within their grasp.

*All odds correct at time of writing

Chris is broadcast and written journalist with a wealth of experience, across a number of different sports. As well covering football on the radio, he is a regular online and print contributor on the likes of rugby union, American Football and Formula One.
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