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Europa League final: Where Sevilla vs Roma could be won and lost

UEFA.com pores over the intriguing sub-plots that could tip the balance in the UEFA Europa League decider between Sevilla and Roma.

Alex Telles, Andrea Belotti, Ivan Rakitić and Chris Smalling
Alex Telles, Andrea Belotti, Ivan Rakitić and Chris Smalling

The destiny of a European trophy is often determined by the fine details – a tactical tweak, a flash of individual brilliance or gaining the upper hand in a much-anticipated head-to-head duel.

UEFA.com analyses the players and match-ups that could make all the difference at the Puskás Aréna in Budapest on 31 May.

Sevilla vs Roma: Latest updates

Italian lesson already passed

Sevilla showed against Juventus that they have the tools to break down Italian opponents who sit back – as happened after the Turin side took the lead in Seville. They looked to get the ball wide and with clever movement and combinations were able to create space to get balls into the box. A positive sign should Roma stay deep.

Europa know-how

Something about this competition brings the best out of Sevilla, underlined in their knockout ties against Manchester United and Juventus. They know what it takes and have a belief in their powers. Nobody embodies this quite like Ivan Rakitić and Jesús Navas who – at 35 and 37 respectively – were outstanding in helping their team over the line against Juve, Rakitić by dictating play in midfield and Navas by never stopping running. In a final such experience can make a telling difference.

Momentum under Mendilibar

Sevilla are a team on a roll. Two and a half months ago, few expected them to be in this final as they struggled in the bottom half of the Spanish Liga. Yet since Mendilibar's arrival they have recovered their form and confidence, and lost just twice in 15 games in all competitions.

Acuña absence

The sending-off of Marcos Acuña, the World Cup-winning left-back, in the second leg against Juventus is an undoubted setback for Sevilla. The Argentinian is not just a fierce competitor but an important attacking asset on the left – Sevilla's second biggest source of crosses after Navas and able to come inside and play as an extra midfielder too. Mendilibar has said "he could play in any team in the world" but sadly not for Sevilla in Budapest. Whether Alex Telles can fill his sizeable shoes remains to be seen.

Roma's defensive consistency

Chris Smalling's return from injury against Feyenoord is a big boost for Roma's defensive department, which is undoubtedly the team's main strength. Their consistency has been remarkable in this Europa League campaign. Just ask Real Sociedad and Leverkusen, who did not manage to score against José Mourinho's team. In general, it has been very difficult to breach Roma's back line in the Europa League, as the five clean sheets out of the eight matches in the knockout stage confirm. The presence of a reliable goalkeeper like Rui Patrício, who now has the most appearances in the Europa League era, is the icing on the cake for a defence that can also count on the leadership of Gianluca Mancini.

Mourinho factor

Sevilla are more used to these kind of games, and have won the Europa League a record six times, but Roma have Mourinho on the bench. This will be the sixth UEFA final of the Portuguese coach's career, and he has won all the previous five. Tirana and last year's UEFA Europa Conference League triumph showed how the 'Special One' has already transmitted his winning mentality to the Giallorossi, who will once again be able to rely on a game plan meticulously thought out in every detail. To become the first coach to win the Europa League with three different teams could be an extra motivation for Mourinho, and his players are determined to provide him with this record.

Strikers' struggles

The lack of goals from the strikers has undoubtedly been Roma's main problem this year, and Paulo Dybala's injury issues have certainly done nothing to improve the situation. Tammy Abraham, who was outstanding last year when he took Edin Džeko's place (27 goals in the season), has not been so prolific in this campaign, scoring just once in the Europa League so far. Andrea Belotti, who arrived with great expectations in the summer from Torino, has not scored in the league but has managed three in Europe. Could he be the man to make the difference in the final?

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