Inter Milan manager, Antonio Conte, says he “sees the glass as half full” after their Champions League group-stage elimination resulted in them reaching Friday’s Europa League final.
Romelu Lukaku has scored in each of his last seven European matches for Inter (eight goals, four assists)
Inter face five-time winners Sevilla in Cologne (20:00 BST), looking to win a first trophy in nine years.
Sevilla boss Julen Lopetegui has yet to win a trophy as a manager.
“It’s been a positive season. We’ve done important things and have made major improvements,” said Conte.
“We’ve managed to get to the Europa League final, despite the small disappointment of not getting through the Champions League group stage.
“It has allowed us to have a much more successful journey in the Europa League than we would have had in the Champions League. I think this team – with a lot of young, inexperienced players – needed that.”
Inter finished third in their Champions League group, behind Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund, but have won all five Europa League matches, including a 5-0 demolition of Shakhtar Donestsk in the semi-finals.
|Uefa Cup/Europa League finals|
|2006 – 4-0 win over Middlesbrough||1991 – beat Roma 2-1 on aggregate|
|2007 – penalty shootout win over Espanyol after 2-2 draw||1994 – beat Austria Salzburg 2-0 on aggregate|
|2014 – penalty shootout win over Benfica after 0-0 draw||1997 – lost to Schalke on penalties after 1-1 aggregate draw|
|2015 – 3-2 win over Dnipro||1998 – beat Lazio 3-0|
|2016 – 3-1 win over Liverpool|
Sevilla winger Lucas Ocampos and Inter forward Alexis Sanchez are both injury doubts for the game.
Three-time Uefa Cup winners Inter were second in Serie A, their best finish since 2011 – which was also the year they last won a trophy, the Coppa Italia.
Conte took charge last summer and brought in five players from the Premier League, including 33-goal top scorer Romelu Lukaku, who has netted in a record 10 consecutive Europa League matches.
“It will be a tough game,” said former Chelsea boss Conte. “We’re playing the team with the most experience and who have won the most titles over the past decade of this competition.
“We have to be attentive but also play our own game with great enthusiasm and courage, like we have done so far.
“It’s a final and only the best teams get to the final. It’s always important to be able to say to the lads, at the end of the game, that we don’t have any regrets.”
Sevilla are the most successful team in the tournament’s history, winning all five of their Uefa Cup or Europa League finals.
Lopetegui, like Conte, is in his first season in charge. He has yet to win silverware in spells as head coach of Rayo Vallecano, Porto, Spain and Real Madrid.
The La Liga club are on their longest unbeaten run, with 11 wins and nine draws in their 20 games since 9 February – including wins over Premier League sides Wolves and Manchester United in the previous two rounds.
Their manager says Sevilla’s five titles are irrelevant to Friday’s result.
“This is a completely new and different team, with different players and a different manager,” said Lopetegui. “It helps that the club have reached this stage before, but I don’t think it’s an advantage for anybody.
“Two totally different teams are playing, and we are up against a great team.
“Inter are a team equipped to compete in the Champions League, given the calibre of players they have, which is extraordinary, and their very experienced manager who has coached many top teams.
“What I expect is a top-quality match which will demand the best of us. “We will try to prepare well for it and have the answers for such a daunting challenge.”
Inter Milan will become the second most successful side in Uefa Cup/Europa League history if they win. They have come out on top in three of their four previous finals.
They are the first Italian side to reach the final since 1999 – when Parma beat Marseille 3-0 – and are bidding to end an eight-year run of only Spanish and English sides winning the competition.
- This is the first European meeting between Sevilla and Inter Milan – the sixth time in 11 seasons of the Europa League that has been the case for the teams in the final.
- Inter have reached their 10th major European final (the ninth team to achieve that) and their first since the 2010 Champions League final, when they won 2-0 against Bayern Munich.
- Only Liverpool (six between 1973 and 1984) and Real Madrid (all nine since 1985) have won more consecutive European finals than Sevilla’s five.
- Inter have won all five of their Europa League matches this season and are looking to win six major European matches in a row for only the second time (six between December 2009 and April 2010).
- Sevilla have never lost a one-off knockout match in Uefa Cup/Europa League history (P8 W6 D2 – winning the two draws on penalties).
- Antonio Conte and Julen Lopetegui are both managing in their first major European final. They are two of the six managers to have managed at least 10 games in the Europa League with a win ratio of 70% or more.
- In the semi-finals, Suso and Luuk de Jong became the 10th and 11th different scorers for Sevilla in this season’s Europa League – only Manchester United (12) have had more.