Sevilla is truly an enigma in the footballing world. Three years ago they qualified to the Europa League as a ninth place team because two teams ahead of Sevilla got hit with bans from UEFA, so they were thrust into the European spotlight. Who knew that Sevilla, a team who many thought had no business in European football, would end up winning the Europa League?
Although Sevilla is known as one of those teams that always finish mid-table in La Liga, which is dominated by giants Barcelona and Real Madrid, they do surprisingly well in Europe. Not so much the Champions League, but most of their successes have come in the Europa League/UEFA Cup.
2006 – Sevilla 4-0 Middlesbrough
It started in the 2004-05 La Liga season when they won a UEFA Cup spot by finishing in sixth place, finishing two points above Valencia. From there a squad that fielded future greats like Dani Alves, Jesús Navas, Adriano and Luís Fabiano got through a tough group that featured Zenit, Bolton Wanderers and Beşiktaş and advanced to the knockout stage.
From there Sevilla had to get through two rounds of Russian opposition being able to make easy work of Zenit and Lokomotiv Moscow in the round of 32 and the quarterfinals. In the round of 16 they had to struggle, but managed to beat a tough Lille side 2-1. In the semifinals, Schalke took them to added extra time in the second leg, but an Antonio Puerta goal in the 101st minute sent them to the final where they made easy work of Middlesbrough to win their first UEFA Cup by a score of 4-0.
2007 – Sevilla 2-2 Espanyol (Sevilla won 3-1 on penalties)
The next year was more of the same for the boys from Andalucia, as they finished fifth in La Liga, which enabled them to defend their championship the following year. In the 2006-07 version of the UEFA Cup, Sevilla finished second in their group, below AZ Alkmaar and above Braga to advance into the next stage.
After easily defeating Steaua Bucureşti, they struggled mightily in the next two rounds against Shakhtar, but an a.e.t. winner in the second leg in the Ukraine by Javier Chevantón got them through, and Tottenham (as early goals in White Hart Lane were enough to draw Spurs 2-2 after winning 2-1 in the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán). That set up an all-Spanish semifinal against reigning Copa del Rey winners Osasuna in which Sevilla were able to erase a 1-0 deficit in their home stadium to send them to their second consecutive final.
It was an all-Spanish affair as well as they took on Espanyol, and it was an exciting match as after drawing 2-2, the game went into penalties. Espanyol cracked under the pressure missing three of their four attempts, and with Kanouté, Dragutinović and Puerta making their shots, Sevilla was able to celebrate back-to-back UEFA Cup conquests.
2014 – Sevilla 0-0 Benfica (Sevilla won 4-2 on penalties)
After being able to crack into the Champions League talks for a few years, Sevilla was back in the newly named Europa League. After failing to make it past the round of 32 in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 campaigns, they were back in the Europa League even after finishing in ninth place. However, this team (under the leadership of Unai Emery) would give us the rising star that is Ivan Rakitić and the feel-good story of Carlos Bacca.
After finishing first in a pretty weak group, their first challenge came with Maribor as a Kevin Gameiro goal in the second leg gave them the 4-3 advantage to pass, then they faced-off against Real Betis, where they were taken to penalties after drawing 2-2 after both legs. Late misses by Betis gave the victory to Sevilla, who went to face Porto in the quarters and after a four-goal performance in the Pizjuán they advanced to the semis for an all-Spanish clash against Valencia.
In the second leg, it looked as if Sevilla’s luck had finally run out after going up 2-0 in Seville but were down 3-0 in Valencia with time running out. However, a 94th minute goal by Stéphane Mbia gave Sevilla the equalizer on aggregate and the advantage on away goal that saw them go into the finals of the Europa League.
In Turin, they faced Benfica and after 120 minutes of scoreless football, they once again went into penalties. Two key misses by Benfica in PKs doomed them as Sevilla did not miss a single one and once again celebrated a European title after a seven-year absence.
2015 – Sevilla 3-2 Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk
And much like they did in 2006-2007, the Rojiblancos went back-to-back as they reached Warsaw for another Europa League title, after crashing out of the Champions League. Finishing second in their group, behind Feyenoord, they were on their way to the knockouts to defend their title.
Even without Rakitić, Sevilla did well to replace him with Éver Banega, and he was instrumental in their success in this version of the Europa League. In the round of 32, Sevilla was able to get past a tough Borussia Mönchengladbach 4-2, made quick work of Valencia (unlike last year) by soundly beating them 5-2 and were able to hold off Zenit with two crucial away goals in Russia by Bacca and Gameiro.
The semifinals were a walk in the park for Sevilla as they destroyed Fiorentina 5-0 and it set up a final matchup against Dnipro. In an exciting match, Bacca scored two key goals that gave Sevilla the 3-2 win for their fourth overall Europa League title, and second consecutive one in two years.
Now Sevilla find themselves on the cusp of a third consecutive Europa League championship, but they must defeat a Liverpool squad that is determined to break the Spanish side’s streak of reaching the Europa League final and winning the title. If there is anyone that knows how to win the Europa League, it is the enigmatic Spanish squad of Unai Emery.