Julen Lopetegui believes there has not been a European side as dominant as Bayern Munich in some time, as his Sevilla team prepare to face the Champions League winners.

Bayern – under the tutelage of Hansi Flick – won the treble last season.

The Bundesliga giants appeared to have stagnated under previous boss Niko Kovac, but have thrived since Flick took charge.

Sevilla, meanwhile, finished in LaLiga's top four and capped off their season with yet another Europa League triumph – a record sixth triumph in the competition.

Though Lopetegui hailed Flick's all-conquering side, he believes Sevilla have what it takes to challenge Bayern in Thursday's UEFA Super Cup contest in Budapest.

"A team like this has not appeared in Europe for many years," Lopetegui told a news conference.

"Bayern have a coach who deserves a lot of credit for the way he has led the team and has given a strong identity.

"It is very difficult to do what he has done because they know exactly how they want to play, how they want to attack, where they are going to defend.

"We come to this game with high hopes. We have a real desire and we are excited to compete again. Playing against this team has to motivate us and make us grow.

"We are going to need the best physical, mental and collective characteristics of the whole team to be able to beat Bayern.

"We will try to get them to give their best version and face the game in the best possible way."

While Sevilla are yet to start their LaLiga campaign, Bayern kicked off their Bundesliga season with an 8-0 demolition of Schalke on Friday.

It is 16 years since Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid were all beaten to the Spanish title. Valencia were the victors then.

The season before saw Real Sociedad push Madrid all the way in the title race; Sevilla entered the final day of the 2006-07 campaign with a chance of an unlikely success, while Villarreal finished second the following year.

In more ways than one, it feels like a bygone era. As the money in football grew exponentially, so did the margin for error for the biggest clubs.

Atletico managed to buck the trend, re-establishing themselves as a top club through smart recruitment, plenty of money and finding a coach in Diego Simeone who was not only able to get the best out of players, but improve them.

Although they haven't quite kicked on in the manner many might have expected, stagnating perhaps, Atletico have finished in the top three every season since 2011-12.

But ahead of 2020-21's kick-off on Saturday, there is a feeling there might finally be the possibility for other clubs to join the party again.

With Madrid, champions though they are, by no means spectacular and seemingly reluctant to spend, Barcelona tearing themselves apart from the inside and Atletico in stasis, now seems to be as good a time as any for a challenge to come from elsewhere.

Sevilla and Villarreal will hope it's their time.

"Why can't we dream?"

In the past 14 years, if any club has mastered knockout football, it's Sevilla. Six UEFA Cup/Europa League trophies now fill the museum at their atmospheric Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan home – no other team have won as many titles in UEFA competitions in that time.

So far they have failed to elevate themselves to the next level, though, with only one genuine title challenge in the same period – it's difficult to even consider them Champions League regulars either.

But their most recent Europa League success felt a bit different. Their route to the final was tricky, beating Roma, Wolves and Manchester United, before winning 3-2 against a resurgent – and expensively assembled – Inter in the showpiece.

It was a statement of intent, a declaration of ambition – it was the Europa League, but they beat Champions League-level opponents to win it.

The coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly impacted upon the transfer market, and that has hampered the way Sevilla usually work. Sporting director Monchi makes no secret of the fact the club must sell every year in order to build a squad they otherwise would not be able to afford.

But the flipside to that is, for arguably the first time since Monchi first took up his role in 2000, Sevilla will begin the season with a settled squad. Sergio Reguilon and Ever Banega are the only major departures, while Oscar Rodriguez and Ivan Rakitic are fine acquisitions to replace the latter.

Coach Julen Lopetegui took a while to win over supporters, but by the end of the season he had Sevilla looking consistent and difficult to beat, setting a new club record of 21 matches unbeaten in all competitions.

That being said, Lucas Ocampos aside, the jury is out on their attack. Youssef En-Nesyri and Luuk de Jong failed to reach double figures for goals in LaLiga, and one gets the impression Sevilla will struggle to reach the next level without a deadlier finisher in the squad – their haul of 54 in 2019-20 was not especially remarkable.

But at the back Sevilla were frequently excellent, their 34 goals conceded being the third-fewest in the league and the lowest – by 13 – they have managed over the past five years.

The transformation in the team's style of play has been significant. They went from 35 fast breaks in 2018-19 to 19 last term, made almost 3,000 more passes and became increasingly direct, with headed attempts on goal up to 93 from 75.

But again, their main problem comes back to goals – they dropped 20 points from winning positions, and when you look at their 13 draws, seven were in matches where Sevilla netted first, and five of those finished 1-1. An extra goal in each of those five games would equate to 10 more points across the season.

Enough to win then the title? Not quite, but it highlights the fine margins - clubs like Sevilla don't have the room for error that Barca and Madrid do. They have to be more ruthless, and if they are, who's to say where they'll end up.

"Why can't we dream [about winning LaLiga]?" asked club president Jose Castro, quoted on the front cover of Marca recently. Challenging for the title is the next step and they look readier now than they have in 13 years.

Yellow Submarine ready to make a splash

The mess at nearby Valencia has proven particularly beneficial for Villarreal. Los Che are financially crippled, not in Europe this season and the whole club appears to be at odds with itself.

But few expected to see certain key players leave.

Captain Dani Parejo and Francis Coquelin headed for the Ceramica, joining Villarreal for a combined figured of just €8m – the former was a free transfer.

Landing Spain international Parejo represents a remarkable coup for Villarreal. He had been a long-term servant at Valencia, spending nine years there and developing into one of LaLiga's most complete midfielders.

His arrival at Villarreal could be a game-changer, while Coquelin has also proven himself dependable in LaLiga. Add to that pair the precocious talents of Takefusa Kubo, a loan arrival from Madrid, and there's plenty of cause for optimism.

The Yellow Submarine finished fifth last term, 10 points adrift of Sevilla in fourth, but until the latter stages they had pushed Lopetegui's men - and Atletico - hard.

Villarreal's end-of-season struggles led to the sacking of Javi Calleja as coach, but in Unai Emery they have a replacement with pedigree, who also has a point to prove.

No one is expecting Villarreal to challenge for the title, but given the positives of 2019-20 and their impressive business off the field, there's certainly reason for optimism regarding a top-four push. Whether that also puts them in touch with the leaders depends on the form of Barca, Madrid and Atletico.

Defensively they will need to improve – 49 goals conceded meant only two teams in the top 10 let in more. At the other end of the pitch, they netted 63, making them the third-highest scorers in the division.

With Paco Alcacer, Gerard Moreno and Samuel Chukwueze all still there, it seems unlikely they will suddenly have problems in attack this term.

Their mentality was also questioned at times and it's easy to understand why when you consider they gained just four points from losing positions, while they also spurned 52 big chances. Although a slight decrease from the season before (54), those totals of big chances gone begging in each of the last two years were a significant increase on the previous three campaigns.

One of the main differences between Villarreal and Sevilla last season was the latter's superior resilience, as they gained three times as many points (12) from losing positions, but the right coach can inspire changes in such areas – Emery had the very same effect on Los Nervionenses in their run of three successive Europa League wins from 2014 to 2016.

He may have been criticised back then for not doing better in LaLiga, but in Europe Emery's Sevilla never knew when they were beaten and always seemed to have immense belief.

Villarreal will do well to mount a title challenge, that much is clear, but they look set to be a force to be reckoned with. The Yellow Submarine can summon everything necessary to make a splash in 2020-21.

Sergio Reguilon says Real Madrid is his "home" but the left-back is keeping his options open amid reported interest from numerous clubs.

The 23-year-old enjoyed an impressive 2019-20 campaign on loan with Sevilla, which culminated in Europa League success with victory over Inter in the final.

His form has earned him links with Manchester United, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain, plus a call-up to the Spain national side.

And Reguilon, in line to earn his international debut against Germany or Ukraine this week, is still contemplating where his future lies given he is under contract with Madrid until 2023.

"I go day by day. If I am thinking about calls and my destiny I will not enjoy the national team and I do not have that," he told Radio Marca.

"Obviously Real Madrid is my home, but it is not easy... I have all the factors in mind."

Sevilla head coach Julen Lopetegui managed to get the best out of Reguilon, who featured 38 times in all competitions in his season at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.

The defender is glad to have been able to reward Lopetegui's faith by playing a starring role in the club's latest European triumph.

"He means a lot to me and I have a lot of affection for him," Reguilon said. "He gave me my first opportunity in professional football and now we have shared something very nice. 

"When I saw him crying after winning the Europa League I couldn't be more happy, he worked like a b***ard."

An emotional Julen Lopetegui dedicated Sevilla's Europa League final triumph over Inter to the club's late greats Jose Antonio Reyes and Antonio Puerta.

Sevilla edged a thrilling encounter in Cologne, as Los Nervionenses battled back from Diego Carlos' third penalty concession in as many games – Romelu Lukaku converting this one.

A Luuk de Jong brace put Sevilla in front, but Diego Godin restored parity after Diego Carlos conceded a free-kick and then lost the Uruguayan.

But the Sevilla defender went from zero to hero 16 minutes from time, his overhead kick going in off Lukaku and Lopetegui's men held on to lift the trophy for a sixth time.

The last time they won it in 2016, Reyes was club captain. The former Arsenal, Real Madrid and Spain star died a little over three years later in a traffic collision.

Although he was no longer at the club, it was an incident that rocked Sevilla, a club that was already familiar with tragedy following the 2007 death of Puerta – the scorer of the decisive goal that qualified the Rojiblancos for their first UEFA Cup final in 2006 and passed away after suffering a cardiac arrest during a LaLiga match.

Following the example of captain Navas, who came through the club's academy with both Reyes and Puerta, Lopetegui dedicated Friday's win to them, saying: "I am very happy.

"For me, it is an immense joy. I ask the fans for prudence, but that they celebrate because this victory is for them and also for Reyes and Puerta.

"I am very happy, especially for the players. Everyone has helped, whether they play or not, in a very complex scenario.

"They are great for their work and for what they transmit. They sought the jackpot and achieved it against a great team, and having conceded three penalties at the beginning of the three games.

"The anthem says that this team never gives up, and we have put it into practice."

An emotional Jesus Navas dedicated Sevilla's record sixth Europa League success to his late former team-mates Antonio Puerta and Jose Antonio Reyes.

Julen Lopetegui's side won a thrilling encounter against Inter 3-2 in Cologne, with a Luuk de Jong brace overturning Romelu Lukaku's early penalty.

Navas' superb cross set up De Jong's equaliser but Inter concluded a riotous first half on level terms thanks to Diego Godin.

The decisive moment came 16 minutes from time when Diego Carlos, who had endured a torrid night at the hands of Lukaku and might have been sent off when he brought down the Belgium striker for his fifth-minute spot-kick, saw an audacious overhead kick deflect home off Inter's number nine.

Navas previously won the trophy he lifted on Friday in the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons before missing the three in a row under Unai Emery while claiming a Premier League title and two EFL Cups at Manchester City.

Wing-back Puerta collapsed on the field and died due to cardiac arrest in August 2008 having played alongside Navas in those earlier triumphs, while three-time winner Reyes was killed in car accident last year.

"This group deserves it, they overcome every day after the problems that existed," the Spain international told Movistar.

"To be able to lift this title for Sevilla and for all those who are not here like my godfather, who has passed away, for Puerta, for Reyes. This group deserves the greatest.

"I want the Sevilla fans to feel proud of us, they deserve to get happy in the face of all the problems that there are."

Navas returning home, now a dependable right-back where he was once a tearaway winger, to skipper Sevilla amounts to a heart-warming story.

However, the club great was keen to share the plaudits with his team-mates after playmaker Ever Banega's final outing for the Andalusian outfit.

"We will all lift the trophy," Navas added. "We are all captains."

Banega, who will end a colourful stint in European football when he joins Saudi Arabian side Al-Shabab, paid tribute to Lopetegui – the coach who could celebrate the maiden triumph of his career in the dugout after a nightmare 2018 when he was sacked by both Spain and Real Madrid.

"It's time to say goodbye as I deserve - I want to thank Lopetegui," he said. "I recovered my best level with him. 

"I remember when I lowered the level a bit, he left me out of the team and showed me that without work you can't get anything."

Luuk de Jong's unlikely heroics, Diego Carlos controversially escaping a red card, Romelu Lukaku losing focus at the decisive moments – much will be analysed and discussed in excruciating detail following Sevilla's latest Europa League success, but Julen Lopetegui deserves all of the attention.

This is a tale of redemption, from a man who was lambasted and derided in equal measure over the past two-and-a-bit years, to a coach who masterminded a European success against a sleeping giant that was ready to awaken.

Lopetegui's history is well-known – on the eve of the 2018 World Cup, he was unceremoniously given the boot by Spain for agreeing to join Real Madrid, for whom he had previously worked in the youth team, after the tournament.

It was an ugly affair that, rightly or wrongly, led to Lopetegui harbouring the blame for Spain's disappointing campaign, for which Fernando Hierro ultimately took charge.

Lopetegui's Real Madrid dream then lasted only until October, his sacking coming after a humiliating 5-1 Clasico defeat to Barcelona.

The Basque coach, a former goalkeeper for both Clasico clubs, disappeared from the limelight, and who could blame him?

That was until Monchi came calling in June 2019.

Sevilla's sporting director will rightly receive acclaim from far and wide for this triumph – after returning from an underwhelming spell with Roma last year, he built a squad that has got the club back into the Champions League via a fourth-placed LaLiga finish, and now possesses yet another Europa League crown.

But Lopetegui is the true hero of this success. To further understand Lopetegui's fight, we must go back to February.

Sevilla scraped past Cluj in the Europa League last 32. A 1-1 draw in Romania was followed by the cagiest of return legs, as Los Nervionenses were dominated for long stretches.

Their European quest appeared to be over when Cluj scored late on… But VAR bailed them out.

Real discontent from the fans swirled around the team and Lopetegui at that point – they haven't lost a game since, embarking on a club-record 20-match unbeaten run.

Aside from some of their players attracting negative headlines due to their lack of social distancing, the coronavirus-enforced hiatus served Sevilla well.

After securing fourth in LaLiga, they came into the Europa League knowing they were likely to face an extremely difficult route to winning the tournament – Roma came first, then Wolves, Manchester United and now Inter. They all failed to end the club's remarkable record in European finals.

But there's no doubt they rode their luck in Cologne on Friday.

It looked like being a long night for Sevilla right from the off – a rare lapse from Ever Banega on the edge of the Inter box allowed the Italians to break, and pantomime villain Diego Carlos then took centre-stage.

The highly rated Brazilian, who conceded penalties against both Wolves and Manchester United, continued his bizarre streak as he found himself the wrong side of Romelu Lukaku, who he eventually hauled down in the area.

Quite how Diego Carlos remained on the pitch is a mystery. He clearly made no attempt to get the ball, but referee Danny Makkelie only produced a yellow. It would prove decisive, but initially Lukaku made the most of the spot-kick and at that point one had to fear for Sevilla.

A resilience swiftly shone through, however. Luuk de Jong, one of the most heavily criticised players in Spain this season, again showed his worth as he did with the winner in the semi-final.

A clever stooping header from Jesus' Navas' cross gave Samir Handanovic too much to do, and he soon followed that up with an even better goal – again with his head – as he met a marvellous delivery from the exceptional Banega.

Given he had previously lost his place in the team to Youssef En-Nesyri, being restored to the line-up was a big call by Lopetegui, but the Dutchman – scorer of just eight goals before this game – vindicated the decision.

Diego Carlos was again under the microscope for the equaliser. His needless foul led to Marcelo Brozovic's free-kick, and Diego Godin lost the former Nantes defender to nod home.

The second half was a much tenser occasion – Sevilla continued to see more of the ball, but Inter appeared to have the greater threat in attack.

Lukaku failed to beat Yassine Bounou when one-one-one and Sevilla took full advantage.

Inter failed to clear a corner and Diego Carlos unleashed an overhead-kick, which Lukaku turned into his own net with 16 minutes to go.

And that was that.

Inter's chance to end a nine-year wait for silverware ended with that incident, as Sevilla clinched the trophy, remarkably, for a sixth time in just over 14 years.

As was the case all of those years ago when they won their first against Middlesbrough, much of the spotlight will fall on Monchi, the transfer guru, but Lopetegui fought back from the brink to mastermind this triumph.

From moulding together what was essentially a brand new squad, to establishing a new style of play that secured Champions League football and another European success for Sevilla, Lopetegui answered his critics resoundingly.

This was a tale of redemption.

Sevilla secured a sixth Europa League triumph this century as Diego Carlos proved an unlikely hero in a thrilling 3-2 win over Inter in Cologne.

Romelu Lukaku gave Inter a fifth-minute lead from the penalty spot – Diego Carlos might have been sent off for bringing him down - but Sevilla's semi-final hero Luuk de Jong overturned the deficit with a pair of fine first-half headers.

Diego Godin's 35th-minute leveller had Inter swiftly back on terms and the Serie A side appeared to be in the ascendency during a more circumspect second half, until a stunning twist in the tale.

Diego Carlos had been tormented by Lukaku for most of the game but his overhead-kick when Ever Banega's 74th-minute free-kick was partially cleared took a decisive touch off Inter's top scorer and flew into the net.

Inter have named the same starting XI that thrashed Shakhtar Donetsk for Friday's Europa League final with Sevilla, who have rewarded Luuk de Jong with a start after his late heroics in the semi-finals.

Antonio Conte's men crushed Shakhtar 5-0 on Monday to secure their passage to the final in emphatic fashion.

Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku – who scored four of the five goals between them last time – lead the line, while Danilo D'Ambrosio lines up on the right having netted the other goal on Monday.

Victory for Inter will see them claim their first title since 2011.

As for Sevilla, hoping to lift this trophy for a sixth time having won it three times in its current guise and twice as the UEFA Cup, Julen Lopetegui makes just one alteration.

De Jong comes in for Youssef En-Nesyri, a just reward for turning in the winner in the 2-1 semi-final victory over Manchester United on Sunday.

Lucas Ocampos keeps his place on the left flank despite suffering a knock of late, while Suso also starts again after scoring against United.

Midfielder Ever Banega will be playing his final match for the club before heading to Saudi Arabia, his European swansong fittingly coming against one of his former clubs.

Julen Lopetegui expects Sevilla to "leave our lives on the pitch" in the Europa League final against Inter, for which Lucas Ocampos remains a doubt.

Sevilla have won Europe's secondary club competition a record five times, three of which came in succession from 2014 to 2016.

They take on Serie A runners-up Inter in Cologne on Friday and Lopetegui hopes to continue the club's rich tradition in the Europa League.

However, the former Real Madrid and Spain boss acknowledged overcoming Antonio Conte's team will prove an extremely difficult task.

"We are calm. This is a final we have worked hard for. The objective is to arrive well in every way, with balance and the right emotions," Lopetegui told a pre-match news conference on Thursday.

"Inter are a very complete team with very great players and a very specific way of playing. They know how to attack a lot and do not give away chances.

"We must be a very complete team. How we are going to face them will be by playing to our strengths and understanding what is happening in every moment of the game.

"Every detail of the final will be important. This is not different from any other game. We must do what we always do and be prepared to overcome the difficulties that Inter will put us through with their world-class players.

"We are going to leave our lives on the pitch and [the fans] should not have the slightest doubt about this."

Sevilla star Ocampos has been struggling with a knee injury and was replaced after 56 minutes of the semi-final triumph against Manchester United.

Ocampos has scored 17 goals and set up another five in all competitions for Sevilla this season but Lopetegui is unsure whether he will be fit enough to play a full part.

"We are going to wait for training today, which is another day, but let's hope that tomorrow everyone is ready," he said when asked about the Argentine's condition.

Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui predicts Manchester United have an "extraordinary" future but is adamant his team are deserving of their place in the Europa League final.

United were beaten 2-1 in Cologne on Sunday as their season ends in disappointment at the semi-final stage of the competition Sevilla have already won five times – three in its current guise and twice as the UEFA Cup.

After an even first half, which saw Bruno Fernandes and Suso net for either side, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men began the second period in devastating fashion and crafted a host of chances.

But they could not find a way past the inspired Yassine Bounou, and once United began to fade, Sevilla hit them on the break – Luuk de Jong netting the decisive goal 12 minutes from time.

Lopetegui remains convinced United are on a positive path, even if he believes Sevilla fully deserve their spot in the final.

"It was a game of resilience, of being able to compete to the limit as we have always done," Lopetegui told Movistar.

"Manchester United were the best team in England after the return from lockdown, they have an extraordinary path ahead of them.

"There are few teams that have the central game of United. In the first half we managed to control them, in the beginning of the second half we didn't and Bounou was fantastic. Then it balanced out and we had options to hurt them.

"I've great happiness for the boys, the fans ... it is a difficult team to face and they deserved the reward.

"We have achieved it and now we rest. When you get to a final, what you want is to win it."

Sevilla will play either Inter or Shakhtar Donetsk in the final on Friday.

In a lot of ways, there was not much more Manchester United could have done to reach the Europa League final on Sunday, but they nonetheless succumbed to a 2-1 defeat to the competition's almost perennial winners, Sevilla.

United played a lot of good football and were the greater threat in attack – but while they were routinely thwarted in the Sevilla penalty area, they were their own worst enemy at the other end and in the dugout.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men follow their Manchester rivals City out of Europe 24 hours later and they will have a similar feeling of regret despite a great start in Cologne.

In fact, Solskjaer's selections made perfect sense. The choice of Fred in midfield instead of Nemanja Matic, while initially surprising, was by no means without merit.

Those who can recall the last time these two met will surely understand why, with Matic part of a midfield that was dominated by Sevilla's Ever Banega – the Spaniards winning 2-1 at Old Trafford to knock United out of the Champions League last 16 in 2017-18.

Fred's role would seemingly be to harry Banega and stifle Sevilla's creativity in the middle, and although the extra dynamism offered by Fred could certainly be noticed at times in the first half, it's difficult to say he nullified Banega, who completed 49 of his 50 passes before the interval.

The Argentine playmaker, who is set to move to Saudi Arabia at the end of the season, offered plenty of class for the Spaniards, but ahead of him – perhaps bar their first goal-scorer, Suso – few others were on a similar wave length.

No, in the end, for all the attention on the like of Banega and Lucas Ocampos, the main men for Sevilla were arguably two of the most unlikely.

Having been frustrated for a long time by Copenhagen goalkeeper Karl-Johan Johnsson in the quarter-finals, United's forwards will surely have been baffled by another outrageous performance between the posts.

This time Yassine 'Bono' Bounou was stellar in the Sevilla net – the Morocco international a stand-in for usual first-choice Tomas Vaclik, who missed the LaLiga run-in through injury.

While he was helpless for Bruno Fernandes' penalty, Bono went on to make six saves, several of which came in a ferocious flurry at the start of the second half.

Anthony Martial twice had what looked like certain goals denied, while Mason Greenwood forced Bono into his best stop.

As United faded after that, there was an air of inevitably about the eventual outcome, though Solskjaer could have done more.

For the most part, Solskjaer and his counterpart Julen Lopetegui were well-matched. It was a fascinating tactical battle for a long time, as United looked to exploit the spaces behind Sevilla's full-backs, who at the same time were generally Los Nervionenses' liveliest players in attack.

But where Lopetegui came out on top, thus giving Sevilla the edge, was with his substitutions. Ocampos and Youssef En-Nesyri came off before the hour, while they made three changes before United even made one.

You couldn't even say they would've been popular changes either – Ocampos is their top-scorer, while En-Nesyri's replacement, Luuk de Jong, has been one of the most-criticised players in Spain this season. He hadn't scored in his previous 11 appearances.

It was then telling how decisive those alterations were. Two of Sevilla's subs were involved in the winning goal. Franco Vazquez – brought on three minutes earlier – found Jesus Navas, and his cross was turned in by, you guessed it, De Jong.

United's defending for the winner will be debated for days, it was that poor. Brandon Williams should've done better against Navas, who was only ever going to cross right-footed, while Victor Lindelof and Aaron Wan-Bissaka let De Jong escape.

But had Solskjaer reacted earlier, the end result may have been significantly different. The overriding realisation was how little trust the Norwegian has in his fringe players, and not for the first time this season.

This defeat doesn't have to mean it's all doom and gloom for United from here. After all, Liverpool suffered Europa League disappointment to Sevilla in the final a few years ago, but they built on what was a promising run in the competition by making smart acquisitions – now look where they are.

But United must learn from this, and first and foremost those lessons should influence them in the transfer market.

If Solskjaer doesn't trust his back-up players, United's squad suddenly appears even shallower than many of us think. He needs squad options that he can depend on, players he feels can make a difference.

A little well-placed trust can prove decisive – just ask Lopetegui and De Jong.

Julen Lopetegui believes the Manchester United side Sevilla will face in the Europa League semi-final is the best Red Devils line-up for a long while

United and Sevilla meet in Cologne on Sunday for the right to play against either Inter of Shakhtar Donetsk in the final.

Sevilla come into the match on the back of a 19-game unbeaten run, boosted by wins over Roma and Wolves in their past two outings, while United have lost just once since January.

While United were underwhelming in their 1-0 quarter-final win over Copenhagen, requiring extra time to emerge victorious, Lopetegui clearly rates Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men highly.

Sevilla stunned United in the last 16 of the Champions League when they last met two years ago, but Lopetegui is certain the Red Devils are much better now.

"This United is the best Manchester United in recent years, a team that has found its way, that's why they haven't lost in the Premier League since January," he said.

"They have found the space for the many quality footballers that they have. They are complete, they will force us to play a great game to compete with them.

"This is what I hope for tomorrow, a semi-final in a game of maximum difficulty and that will require us at all levels to play collectively.

"We like to play beautiful and important matches. For that we have fought and worked all year. It is an important game against a great opponent.

"We will be able to arrive prepared. We will try to overcome them, no matter how big a team they are."

Sevilla are chasing their sixth title in Europe's secondary competition, having won the Europa League three times and its predecessor – the UEFA Cup – twice.

Julen Lopetegui says Manchester United are "the biggest team in the world" but is confident Sevilla will come out on top in Sunday's Europa League semi-final tie.

The LaLiga side set up a showdown with 2017 winners United in Cologne with a late 1-0 victory over another English opponent in Wolves on Wednesday.

Yassine Bounou saved Raul Jimenez's early penalty and that proved a key moment, with Sevilla's pressure telling two minutes from time when Lucas Ocampos headed in.

United beat Copenhagen 1-0 after extra-time on Tuesday and now await Lopetegui's men, who are seeking a record-extending fourth triumph in the competition since its rebranding in 2009.
 
"We are going to play against Manchester United in the next match - they're the biggest team in the world but we're going to be prepared for them," Lopetegui told reporters.

"We're focused on the next game, against a top, historic side, one of the best in the history of the sport who are in great form. 

"We will give our best as we always do. To play against them will be really tough, but we'll go into it believing we can beat them."

Sevilla had 76 per cent of the ball against Wolves but created only a couple of chances before Ocampos popped up late on with his 17th goal of the season.

Lopetegui insists his side were good value for the win and is after a similar type of performance against in-form United next weekend.

"I think we deserved the win today. The key was to chip, chip, chip away, have patience and wait until the right moment," he said.

"I am very proud of my players because we were against a very good team. We needed to have the ball and not make mistakes because they have very fast forwards. 

"We played very well against a good team. We had to be very concentrated."

Defeat for Wolves brings an end a gruelling 2019-20 campaign that started 13 months ago and saw them play 17 games in Europe.

Boss Nuno Espirito Santo is proud of his players' efforts and already has one eye on next season, which begins in a little over four weeks' time.

"There is a sense of frustration," he told BT Sport. "The last minute [goal] is something that's happened to us too many times, but I'm proud of the boys. 

"We played a tough team but it's all about small margins. We came this far, now it's over – let's rest and look to the future.

"There are players out there who gave everything. Of course the legs and the brain don't work so good. 

"We must be proud of ourselves and admit we made some mistakes this season which we need to rectify to compete at a higher level. 

"It was a long journey. We wanted to go as far as we could - we had it very close today and everyone's disappointed but we should not ignore the players' efforts. 

"It's been almost 14 months of hard work. Disappointment is something that can't take away all the good things we've been doing."

Real Madrid have been champions of Europe 13 times and their first title came in dramatic fashion in Paris on this day 64 years ago.

Back in 1948, meanwhile, the New York Yankees welcomed Babe Ruth for one last time to the stadium where he wrote large chapters of baseball folklore.

Cricket's Twenty20 format initially upset many purists but has become a money-spinning, highly successful element of the sport since it was introduced in June 2003.

More recently, Spain's 2018 World Cup plans were left in tatters, with Real Madrid at the centre of another major sporting story.

 

1948 - Babe Ruth's last goodbye to Yankee Stadium

For the 25th anniversary celebration of Yankee Stadium's opening, there was a guest more special than all the rest.

The legendary Ruth was in the house, but it was clear for all to see that he was seriously unwell.

It was already known as 'The House That Ruth Built', and as Ruth stood with a baseball bat instead of a cane, it would be his last visit to his old stamping ground.

This was the day his number three shirt was retired. Stricken by cancer, and a shadow of his once powerful self, Ruth would die aged 53 on August 16 of the same year.

 

1956 - Real Madrid launch a dynasty

The first of 13 European Cup and Champions League triumphs for Real Madrid came at the Parc des Princes on this day.

Having beaten Milan 5-4 on aggregate in their semi-final, they faced a Reims side who had overcome Scottish outfit Hibernian to earn a rather short trip to Paris.

The French side surged two goals ahead in 10 minutes, before Alfredo di Stefano cut the deficit.

A dramatic match saw Reims 3-2 ahead with 25 minutes to play, but Madrid ran out 4-3 winners, Hector Rial's second goal of the game in the 79th minute proving to be the winner. Madrid won the tournament each year from 1956 to 1960, beating Reims again in the 1959 final.

 

1976 - Barker shows her bite

Sue Barker is better known to television audiences as a tennis presenter, often tasked with conducting on-court interviews with newly-crowned Wimbledon champions, and her grand slam success is regularly overlooked.

The greatest day of her playing career came on this day at Roland Garros, when Barker won the French Open with a 6-2 0-6 6-2 victory over Czech opponent Renata Tomanova.

The field had been weakened that year by the absence of defending champion Chris Evert, who elected to skip the tournament. Barker was the top seed, and capitalised.

 

2003 - Cricket takes the fast track

The England and Wales Cricket Board pioneered Twenty20 cricket, with the vision that it would draw a younger audience to the sport, and the short format made its debut on June 13, 2003.

The Twenty20 Cup launched with five matches in a day, with Warwickshire the highest-scoring side, piling up 188-7 at Taunton in a 19-run win over home side Somerset.

Warwickshire's Trevor Penney got into the spirit of the competition with a rapid 52 from 28 balls, clubbing four fours and three sixes.

2018 - Spain sack Lopetegui on World Cup eve

A day before the World Cup began in Russia, Spain's camp collapsed into chaos with the sacking of coach Julen Lopetegui.

The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) was furious after Real Madrid revealed Lopetegui would become their next boss, an announcement that was said to have been conveyed to them just five minutes before the rest of the world knew.

It was the first the RFEF knew of any negotiations, and they swiftly ditched the man who was preparing to lead the country's bid for glory. Fernando Hierro took over, and Spain were eliminated on penalties by Russia in the first knockout round.

Lopetegui failed at Madrid but is back in business with Sevilla.

Julen Lopetegui concedes Sevilla must learn to adapt to previously "unthinkable" circumstances in the derby against Real Betis, whose head coach Rubi warned fans not to gather in large groups.

After a lengthy coronavirus-enforced suspension, LaLiga is scheduled to resume on Thursday with the clash between the Seville rivals at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.

With the world still in the midst of the global health crisis, supporters will not be in attendance for what would normally be a cauldron of noise for a bitter rivalry.

Sevilla head coach Lopetegui recognises the unique situation but said his side are still aware of the importance of the fixture.

"We are looking forward to competing again. We are under circumstances that were unthinkable three months ago, but today they are a reality," Lopetegui said.

"We must adapt to a different situation, so we will play the derby. We all know the meaning of this derby.

"We will try to do our best, to adapt well to the situation we will face. And, especially, to try to beat a very good team, such as Betis."

Opposite number Rubi also acknowledged the significance of the game being played behind closed doors and urged fans not to break safety protocols for the fixture.

"No doubt, it is an historic derby, because it will be hardly repeated, fingers crossed, in these circumstances," he said.

"Therefore, the score of this derby will be always remembered. It is the one post lockdown, post-pandemic, no fans, first game of resumption in LaLiga.

"That's why it is even more important from my point of view. It will be remembered, the date and the score of the game.

"It has been a tough month for the squad. We started having training on May 10 and we are now at June 10, so we have been only a month and it has been a complicated month because there have been new phases, new periods of time, we change training from home to the pitch, but I think we're in a really good condition.

"I agree 100 per cent on all the opinions which have been made until now. It is very important to follow what we are demanded to do, keeping the social distancing, and not forming large groups of people.

"Fans have to enjoy the game at home or in the pubs where they are allowed to get in with friends.

"It is a different way. Hopefully, it will be only once in a lifetime. For once, let's enjoy it in another way, enjoying at 100 per cent. We will do it, although there will be no fans, making it a weird day, we will do our best to enjoy it at the maximum.

"They [fans] will have to do [so too], and we will feel it, but maybe they should do it in a different way than they are used to doing."

Sevilla are third in the table with 11 games to go in their battle for Champions League football, while Betis are down in 12th.

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