Erling Haaland credited Edin Terzic after he scored twice in a 3-2 comeback victory over Sevilla in the Champions League, saying he has been "talking a lot" with the interim Borussia Dortmund coach.

Terzic, who has endured a difficult spell since taking charge in December, enjoyed an improved performance from his players as they cancelled out Suso's early strike with a goal from Mahmoud Dahoud before a brace from Haaland gave his side a 3-1 lead at half-time.

Luuk de Jong's late strike ensured Sevilla retain some hope of reaching the quarter-finals as they prepare for the return leg in Dortmund, but Haaland reflected on an improved performance from his team-mates.

"I felt like, I don't know if you can say it's down to motivation or passion or whatever, but we were more online today," Haaland, whose side arrived in Seville having won just one of their previous six matches in LaLiga, told DAZN.

"It was good. It was not good to let in two goals, but it is good to score three away goals and take them with us.

"We had a good plan. Edin has been good and I've been talking a lot with him. He said today would be my game and that I would get my chances and I did, so it was an important win."

With Dortmund in action against Schalke in the Bundesliga on Saturday, Haaland added: "We have to recover quickly now. We've got a big game ahead this weekend.

"We have to take this positive mindset into that game because we have to win that one as well, but it was really nice to win tonight in Spain."

Sevilla head coach Julen Lopetegui felt his side deserved more from the game, which saw them defeated for the first time in 11 matches in all competitions.

Dahoud's strike was the first goal Sevilla had conceded in nine matches, and Lopetegui felt Haaland gave the visitors the edge.

"The result is not good," he told Canal Sur. "But there is one game left and we hold on to that possibility.

"We have not deserved to lose, but in the end they have one of the best players in the world who has made a difference in three situations that we could have avoided.

"It is a very harsh punishment. We deserved the draw."

Monchi claims Isco is keen to leave Real Madrid but swatted away rumours Sevilla are preparing to sign the Spain international.

Attacking midfielder Isco has made just three LaLiga starts this season for Zinedine Zidane's team, with suggestions circling in the Spanish media that he fancies a change.

Sevilla director of football Monchi appreciates why Isco has been linked with a move to the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, given his former Madrid and national team boss Julen Lopetegui is head coach of the Europa League winners.

But Monchi says it is a non-starter, even if Isco's name came up in discussions he had with club president Jose Castro.

Speaking to Estadio Deportivo, Monchi said: "The conversation lasted approximately 15 or 20 seconds. It is news that had come out, he asked me and I said no, that was all the interest in Isco."

Monchi added: "I talk to the president or vice-president on a day-to-day basis. There are things that jump out and the president asks me if that is true and I say 'Yes, yes, I have not told you', but it is not the case with Isco.

"It is a rumour, a logical rumour, because he wants to leave, and here is a coach who has had him and for whom he played at a high level, but there was absolutely nothing, not a movement."

Isco was born and raised in Andalusia, and after a spell away in Valencia's system he joined Malaga, which is where he caught the eye of Madrid.

This is his eighth season at Madrid, and Isco has now entered the last 18 months of his contract.

It remains to be seen whether there is a future with Los Blancos for a player who scored 10 goals and had eight assists in the 2016-17 LaLiga campaign, and who in his debut campaign at Madrid created a remarkable 71 chances despite starting only 23 games.

Certainly, Sevilla appear to have made their position clear. They appear content with their attacking options, with Papu Gomez having newly joined from Atalanta and with players out on loan capable of returning and staking a claim.

Monchi said: "Fortunately in that position we have very interesting players. It is one of the positions on the field in which we can be calmer.

"In the profiles that Isco can play, we have players here and elsewhere that will give us a solid performance."

Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman does not believe Sevilla's 2-0 Copa del Rey semi-final first-leg win over the Blaugrana was a fair reflection of the match, while he also questioned the officials.

Jules Kounde opened the scoring in the first half with a fine individual effort, before former Barca midfielder Ivan Rakitic wrapped up a potentially significant win in the latter stages.

Lionel Messi did go close several times for the visitors, with Sevilla goalkeeper Yassine Bounou keeping him at bay as he made four saves in total – the Moroccan has saved all 18 shots on target he has had to face in this season's Copa.

The two teams renew hostilities at Camp Nou on March 3 for the second half, though Barca have only progressed past Sevilla once in the Copa when losing the first leg to the Andalusians.

Barca shaded the possession (53.6 per cent) and their 13 shots were two more than the hosts, with Koeman left convinced his side had been hard done by.

"It is a result with too much reward for them," Koeman said. "We have seen a Barca playing well, creating a very clear chances.

"We have put a lot of pressure in the second half. I cannot blame the team. There is another game left, we have to try to win and play the final.

"It is difficult at 2-0. We had opportunities to score, but their defence was good, as was their goalkeeper too, but at home this Barca is capable of anything."

Barca were left frustrated by a moment in the second half where Suso was adjudged to have fouled Jordi Alba just outside the box, yet Koeman and his players were convinced the offence occurred inside the box.

The VAR did not appear to intervene, and this left Koeman bemused.

"Mateu Lahoz [the referee] I think was good in general," Koeman said.

"Of course, there was always doubt with the incident of the penalty, because everyone says it was a penalty, so I have to believe them – not only the Barca people [said it should have been a penalty].

"I don't know why the VAR has not intervened."

Sevilla go into the second leg with a significant advantage and know that an away goal will give Barca a mountain to climb, but they are not getting ahead of themselves, aware the most difficult task is yet to come.

"We knew it was going to be very difficult, the team played a great game, we fought to the end and that is worth it, football gives back to you in this way," Rakitic said.

"But we have half the work left to do in Barcelona."

Coach Julen Lopetegui echoed that sentiment, adding: "The team played a great game against a Barcelona that arrived in good form.

"We played well, we defended well and it was a very beautiful game. Now, we have the most complicated and most difficult thing left, which is to play at the Camp Nou. We are aware of the challenge."

Sevilla have announced Julen Lopetegui has signed a new three-and-a-half-year contract as the Europa League champions' head coach.

Lopetegui was appointed by Sevilla at the start of the 2019-20 campaign and led them to a fourth-place finish in LaLiga as well as the club's sixth Europa League/UEFA Cup crown.

The Basque coach had previously seen his reputation take a hit.

He was sacked by Spain just before their 2018 World Cup campaign was due to begin as a result of accepting an offer to take charge of Real Madrid after the tournament, and he only lasted until October with Los Blancos before being dismissed again.

His first season at Sevilla saw the Andalusians finish in the top four after two campaigns out, though Lopetegui's biggest achievement was presiding over their successful Europa League run.

Sevilla had to see off Roma, Wolves and Manchester United in a tricky knockout phase, before then recovering well from a shaky start in the final to beat Inter 3-2.

The former Porto boss has also taken charge of a positive – if stylistically unspectacular – start to the 2020-21 campaign, with Sevilla sixth on 30 points after 16 matches.

However, they have at least two games in hand on all but one of the five teams ahead of them, and beat fifth-placed Real Sociedad 3-2 on Saturday.

After Saturday's victory, Lopetegui has a 58.2 per cent win rate in LaLiga with Sevilla, the best record of any coach (with more than four games in charge) in the club's history.

Lopetegui also guided Sevilla through their Champions League group, with Borussia Dortmund awaiting in next month's last-16 clash.

Sevilla head coach Julen Lopetegui believes Chelsea are "designed" to win the Champions League, labelling Frank Lampard's men the best attacking team in England.

LaLiga outfit Sevilla host Chelsea on Wednesday with both teams having already booked their places in the last 16 from Group E.

And Lopetegui was full of praise for Lampard's side, who have scored 22 goals in 10 Premier League games to sit third in the table.

"It's an exciting, tremendous challenge against a team that has been designed to be able to win the Champions League," he told a news conference.

"A team with great footballers and they're currently the best attacking team in England. It will be a tremendous challenge against a very well coached team.

"When we play against them, we know we have the chance to claim top spot in the group as our prize. Obviously, this chance is immediate as there is another game to be played.

"Again, the opportunity [to go top of Group E] tomorrow will help us have a good game."

Only Liverpool, who are second, have scored as many goals as Chelsea in the Premier League this season.

Chelsea rank fifth for total shots excluding blocks (94) and equal second for shots on target (54).

Only Tottenham (62.1 per cent) and Everton (60.9) have a better big chance conversion than Chelsea's 60, while Lampard's side are equal seventh for total big chances with 20 in their 10 games.

As for Sevilla, they sit fifth in LaLiga – eight points behind leaders Real Sociedad but having played two fewer games.

They have been linked with a move for Real Madrid playmaker Isco, but Lopetegui would not be drawn on a player who would boost his team's attack.

"I won't answer that question [if Sevilla are interested in Isco]," he said.

"Now is the time to speak about my players and my team and I obviously won't speak about any player that's not part of my team, and even less in a Champions League preview."

Lautaro Martinez's future continues to dominate headlines.

Martinez was tipped to leave Inter for Barcelona at the start of the season, but a move did not materialise amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, Manchester City are emerging as a serious suitor.

 

TOP STORY – CITY WANT LAUTARO

Manchester City are continuing their pursuit of Inter star Lautaro Martinez, according to the Mirror.

Martinez has been heavily linked with LaLiga giants Barcelona, as well as Real Madrid and City, where Pep Guardiola is eyeing a long-term replacement for Sergio Aguero.

The Argentina international has made his demands clear to Inter, who are hoping to re-sign Martinez.

 

ROUND-UP

Barca are open to the idea of selling Ousmane Dembele, says Mundo Deportivo. Dembele was wanted by Manchester United prior to the previous transfer window closing and Barca are reportedly aware of contacts between the France international and the Premier League side.

Arsenal are ready to part with club-record signing Nicolas Pepe, reports the Daily Star. Unconvinced about the Ivory Coast international, the Gunners are even reportedly open to a loan move amid links to Milan.

- The Sun claims Leeds United want Sevilla boss Julen Lopetegui once fan favourite Marcelo Bielsa leaves Elland Road.

- The Mirror claims United want to sign former defender Jonny Evans from Leicester City. Evans – who won three Premier League titles at Old Trafford – left United for West Brom in 2015 before joining Leicester in 2018.

- Barca have offered Philippe Coutinho to Juventus, according to Calciomercato. Barca need to raise funds as they look to recruit Lyon captain Memphis Depay and City defender Eric Garcia.

Marcelo Bielsa has been nominated for The Best FIFA Men's Coach, but Pep Guardiola will not contest the award this year.

Bielsa guided Leeds United back to the Premier League last season after 16 years outside the top flight.

The former Argentina coach has since overseen a solid start to the new campaign in the Premier League, securing draws against Manchester City and Arsenal.

And Bielsa has been rewarded for his achievement with recognition from FIFA.

The 65-year-old made a five-man FIFA shortlist for the world's leading coach in 2020, joining Bayern Munich's Champions League winner Hansi Flick and Liverpool's Premier League champion Jurgen Klopp among the contenders.

Zinedine Zidane is also in the running after Real Madrid won LaLiga, while Sevilla's Europa League triumph sees Julen Lopetegui included.

But there is no room for City boss Guardiola, who came second to Klopp in 2019.

City failed to defend their Premier League title, finishing 18 points behind Liverpool, and they are already eight points off the pace - albeit with a game in hand - down in 13th place this season.

Guardiola's wait for a first Champions League triumph away from Barcelona also went on as they were stunned by Lyon in the quarter-finals.

Meanwhile, Luis Suarez and Son Heung-min are among the frontrunners for the latest FIFA Puskas Award.

Atletico Madrid forward Suarez netted an exquisite backheel for former club Barcelona at the end of a team move against Real Mallorca, while Tottenham's Son tore through the Burnley defence for an individual effort.

The winners of all prizes - including The Best FIFA Men's Player, for which Robert Lewandowski is the favourite - will be revealed at The Best FIFA Football Awards ceremony on December 17.

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.

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