Liverpool will attempt to secure its first major piece of European silverware for 11 years when the Reds take on Sevilla in the Europa League final in Basel, Switzerland, today.
Sevilla finished seventh in Spain’s La Liga, 39 points behind champions Barcelona, yet cannot stop winning in the Europa League and is looking to win the trophy for a fifth time since Liverpool’s Champions League win in 2005 – and the third time in a row.
But who is its main threat? Why are they so good in this competition? Who is the mastermind behind their Europa League success?
Here, BBC take a look at what awaits Jurgen Klopp’s Reds at St Jakob-Park.
Sevilla earned a place in this season’s Champions League group stage with a successful defence of their 2014 Europa League triumph – one that ended with a thrilling 3-2 victory over Ukrainian side Dnipro in Warsaw, Poland 12 months ago.
A 3-0 win over Borussia Monchengladbach suggested Los Sevillistas could make an impression and advance to the knockout stages of Europe’s elite competition.
It wasn’t to be, however, as four straight defeats saw them eliminated from Group D, which also contained Manchester City and Juventus, although the third-placed did send them back in their favourite tournament.
Sevilla have owned the Europa League in recent years, with their back-to-back triumphs in the past two seasons following in the footsteps of consecutive wins in 2006 and 2007.
“Everyone connected with Sevilla thoroughly enjoys taking part in this competition, and I’ve always encouraged everyone to approach it with the passion it deserves,” said boss Unai Emery.
Since their first European triumph in 2006, Sevilla have also won the domestic Copa del Rey twice, and will have another chance to lift that trophy when they face Barcelona in the final at Atletico Madrid’s Vicente Calderon on 22 May.
That’s no accident because Sevilla have fielded some fabulous players in the past decade, including Barcelona pair Dani Alves and Ivan Rakitic, as well as prolific strikers in their prime such as Luis Fabiano, Frederic Kanoute, Alvaro Negredo and Carlos Bacca.
The club’s sporting director Monchi has been showered with praise for his ability to repeatedly build high-quality squads packed with ambitious players who are on an upward curve – and the silverware has been fully deserved.
Last season it was Carlos Bacca who was Sevilla’s main goal threat. The 29-year-old Colombia international’s departure to AC Milan has seen Kevin Gameiro step up to become the forward the opposition fear most.
Half of Sevilla’s 14 Europa League goals this season have come from the former Paris St-Germain player, who has proved influential since moving to Spain three years ago.
The 29-year-old France international marked his first season in La Liga with 15 goals and has followed it up with another 24 since.
Gameiro’s goalscoring form is excellent, but his biggest asset to the team is his insatiable work rate – and it makes him the kind of player who is a real pain for defenders.
Though he is not particularly physically imposing, Gameiro is fast, strong, has great balance, shows intelligent movement and never stops running. He also has the happy goalscorer’s instinct of finding space inside a congested penalty area.
onsidering the form he has showed this season and the controversial omission of Karim Benzema, it is somewhat surprising that Gameiro has been France squad for their home European Championship this summer.
But it could still be a busy summer for Gameiro because he has been heavily linked with a move to Barcelona, who are looking for an experienced striker to offer cover and competition for Luis Suarez.
“He has a fantastic turn of pace to get away from players and he’s very good at getting shots away quickly – a really sharp finisher,” said Emery.
“He puts the first line of pressure on the opposition, with his speed and ability in transitions. That’s very positive for the team.”
Emery does not always get the credit he deserves. He really should be regarded as an elite manager considering the success he has enjoyed throughout his career.
After starting out by leading lowly Lorca and Almeria to promotion, he guided cash-strapped Valencia to three consecutive third-place finishes in La Liga – and the scale of that achievement is underlined by how much they have struggled since he departed in 2012.
The 44-year-old Spaniard then had a brief and unsuccessful stint with Spartak Moscow before returning to Spain with Sevilla, where he has kept the team in the top half of the league as well as masterminding their cup successes.
SEVILLA’S EUROPA LEAGUE LOVE AFFAIR
2006: Final v Middlesbrough won 4-0 in Eindhoven
2007: Final v Espanyol won 3-1 on penalties (2-2 after extra time) in Glasgow
2014: Final v Benfica won 4-2 on penalties (0-0 after extra time) in Turin
2015: Final v Dnipro won 3-2 in Warsaw