European finals are often settled by the finest of margins – a moment of individual brilliance, a lapse in concentration or a decisive breakthrough in a head-to-head duel between two of the protagonists.
UEFA.com analyses the players and match-ups that could make all the difference at the Estadio Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán in Seville on Wednesday evening.
Can Kostić quell marauding Tavernier?
James Tavernier has been Rangers’ talisman in the knockout stage with seven goals to his name, making him the competition’s leading scorer. It’s an astonishing tally for a defender and, while four of those have come from the penalty spot, the Englishman thrives when he’s given the freedom of the right-hand side in a 3-5-2 formation.
The match-up with Filip Kostić coming the other way will be fascinating but look out for Tavernier arriving at the back post, hoping to get on the end of one of Ryan Kent’s deliveries from the left as he did against Braga and Leipzig.
Will Frankfurt outflank Rangers?
It’s no secret that Frankfurt thrive on their wing play. It’s been that way since Niko Kovač deployed the 3-5-2 system that is now the Eagles’ go-to formation. Kostić has run the show in that department as underlined by the fact he leads the competition in crosses delivered by a healthy margin.
However, Kostić now has an able partner-in-crime with Ansgar Knauff on the opposite flank. The 20-year-old, on loan from Dortmund, has produced his best performances in the Europa League and, if he and Kostić can hit the peak of their powers, they will pin back Kent and Tavernier while posing a threat of their own.
Lundstram’s influence in both directions
It’s amazing to think that, around the turn of the year, there was speculation John Lundstram could leave Rangers. The Liverpudlian had taken time to settle in Glasgow and been used sparingly under previous boss Steven Gerrard. However, the midfielder has become a key player for Giovanni van Bronckhorst, who has deployed him as a centre-back in a three, as well as in his preferred midfield role. Lundstram’s goals against Dortmund and Leipzig mean he’s now a firm fans’ favourite and sure to be a major influence at both ends.
Kent rising to the occasion
With Alfredo Morelos injured and Kemar Roofe in a race against time to overcome a knee injury, Rangers could line up in the final without a recognised striker. Joe Aribo has shown that he can be effective as a false nine but, without an out-and-out frontman, the onus will fall on Kent to be the potential match-winner. The winger tends to reserve his best performances for Europe, where he enjoys more freedom, and his pace, dribbling and trickery in the opposition box could be the key to unlocking the door.
Frankurt’s forward conundrum
When Frankfurt made it to the Europa League semi-finals in 2018/19 they had a frontline of Sebastien Haller, Luka Jović and Ante Rebić. The problem was when the trio didn’t score, the Eagles struggled. This season, Rafael Borré has led the line and, while he has struck important goals, the key for Frankfurt is that in the final third, the collective is greater than the sum of their parts.
Whether Jesper Lindstrøm is fit enough to start or not, it will be a diminutive front line, like the one Leipzig unsuccessfully deployed in the semi-final first leg against Rangers. The idea to work the channels in behind was right, but Frankfurt will be hoping they execute better in Seville.
Roar power a factor in Seville
For all the talk of where this game can be won on the pitch, the ’12th man’ off it will play a key role in what promises to be an emotionally-driven evening in Seville. Both sets of fans showed what they’re capable of in the semi-finals, but Rangers won’t have a leg with home advantage to fall back on this time around.
Frankfurt have won all of their away games in the knockout stages and their travelling support deserves a share of the credit. On their last trip to Spain, Frankfurt ended up taking over the Camp Nou in a 3-2 defeat of Barcelona and, with history on the line against Rangers, the Eagles’ supporters will be ready to lift their side to even greater heights on Wednesday.