What a cracking final in store: Liverpool - Sevilla!
We ended the league campaign a little nauseated by a few unforeseen setbacks. Sevilla allowed the backbone of their squad to rest ahead of their last two games of the season, which Granada gratefully benefitted from. Then there was Real Sociedad’s meetuing with Rayo which someone, somewhere – lord knows who, insiuated goings-on which have not been corroborated. Sporting’s visit from Villarreal was poisoned by Marcelino’s foolish comments (and his wife’s...) which left Rayo destroyed and hurtling towards the Second Division. We have witnessed a couple of weeks full of tangled knots and suspicions, vaudeville, and doors which open and close. A black comedy in which the astute spectator could tell what might all end.
Now we are facing something else entirely – a final – a proper final, with no double-dealing. It’s Sevilla’s fifth in 10 years (they won the last four of them), and standing in the way of them collecting number five are Liverpool – a mighty club. It was at Liverpool where a strange and exportable way of viewing the beautiful game was born. That Bill Shankly Liverpool side – one where the youth academy players would dutifully clean the boots of the senior players; the legendary boot room where tactics were hatched and live-changing instructions given to players making their debuts; the majestic and terrifying collective roar of the Kop signing ‘You’ll never walk alone’; the theory that football is not a question of live or death but ‘something much more important than that’. All of that is Liverpool, and that’s who our Sevilla will be up against tonight.
A Final in every sense, two great clubs and two even greater anthems. Liverpool have a more venerable history, mostly written during the ‘post-Beatles’ years, when all eyes in Europe were focused on that city. Sevilla’s history is more recent but just as brillant and ongoing; tonight they will be gunning for their fifth Europa League trophy. It’s a contest between the city of King Alfonso X, against the city of the Beatles. What have both got in common? Well, apart from music, a notorious sense of humour and that they both sit on important rivers, not a great deal else really. But football unites strange bedmates in finals, and I love that – for all that separates both cities.
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