Europa League Final 2016 Preview: Liverpool vs Sevilla

Henderson and Klopp
Jordan Henderson, left, and Jurgen Klopp at St Jakob-Park, Basel, May 17. Liverpool face Sevilla in the final of the Europa League. Handout/UEFA via Getty

Liverpool head to Basel on Wednesday (May 18) to take on Sevilla with the Europa League trophy and a place in the Champions League at stake.

Jurgen Klopp, the Liverpool manager, has urged his side to become "legends" at St Jakob Park by bringing the trophy back to Merseyside.

But Unai Emery's Sevilla will not be beaten easily, as they are the current holders of the cup and have won it four times in the last decade.

Here, Newsweek looks at whether this could be the start of Liverpool's return to Europe's elite or if Sevilla's dominance in the competition is set to continue.

Liverpool's European Renaissance

This will be the club's 12th European final, six more than rivals Manchester United. But Liverpool has slipped away from its dominance of the 1970s and 1980s—the club won five European titles—and even further from the success enjoyed a decade ago when Rafael Benitez won the Champions League in 2005.

Not since 2009 has Liverpool progressed past the group stages of the highest competition in European football. Since then, the former giants have underperformed and underwhelmed.

But, with Klopp at the helm, the club may be heading back onto the right trajectory. Although he's had just eight months at Anfield, and not signed a single player, Liverpool have transformed into a Klopp team. The players have bought into his philosophy and the fans have begun believing again. A win on Wednesday (May 18) could see them start dreaming again.

Europa Dominance

Victory in the the competition last season saw Sevilla become the first club to successfully defend the title since… Sevilla. Then named the UEFA Cup, Juande Ramos' team beat fellow Spaniards Espanyol on penalties at Hampden Park, Glasgow, in 2007 having beaten Middlesbrough the previous year.

Sevilla has struggled to advance to the latter stages of the Champions League, reaching the last 16 once, in 2008. But when the club drops down to the Europa League, it dominates.

Victory would see Sevilla become the first team in history to win three consecutive Europa League titles.

Sevilla's Dangerman

The conveyor belt of talent in southern Spain continues to bring forth skilled players. The club that produced Dani Alves, Ivan Rakitic, and Aleix Vida, won the competition last year with the goals of Carlos Bacca. Bacca, bought in 2013 from Club Bruges for £5 million, is now gone, sold to AC Milan in the summer of 2015 for £26 million.

Into his place moved Kevin Gameiro, the French striker, who has scored half of Sevilla's 14 goals in the competition this season. Although he may not appear an imposing figure for defenders, the 29-year-old is strong, has a lot of pace and is a clinical finisher.

Kolo Toure, Dejan Lovren and Martin Skrtel, the Liverpool center-backs, will have to be at their best to keep Gameiro at bay.

Klopp vs Emery

In the last two years, Emery has guided Sevilla to four European finals. Victory in the Europa League against Benfica in 2014 and Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk the following year is tempered by defeats in the European Super Cup both years.

Defeat for Emery was, however, against the giants of Spanish football, Real Madrid and Barcelona. Sevilla fought back from 4-1 down against Luis Enrique's Barca in August 2015 to take the final to extra time, but eventually lost 5-4.

Klopp's record in finals isn't quite so successful. He led Borussia Dortmund, his former club, to the German Cup in 2012 where Robert Lewandowski scored a hat-trick to help Dortmund to a 5-2 win over Bayern Munich. Lewandowski would join Bayern two years later.

But since then, Klopp's not faired too well in finals. Bayern took revenge in the Champions League in 2013, when Arjen Robben scored an 89th minute winner in the all-German final. The following year Robben once again terrorised Klopp's team in the final of the German Cup, which saw Dortmund lose 2-0.

It was different opposition but same result in 2015. Wolfsburg were Dortmund's opponents in the cup, but an outstanding performance from Kevin de Bruyne saw Dortmund lose the game 3-1.

Klopp took Liverpool to the Capital One Cup just five months after taking the reins at Anfield. A late Philippe Coutinho goal took the game to extra time and penalties, but Willy Caballero, the Manchester City goalkeeper, saved three of Liverpool's shots and denied Klopp a dream start.