Today is the first Conference League final in history
Useful to know about Roma
- The final in Tirana means a lot to the Romans. “The Wolves have been without a European Cup final since 1991, when they failed to bounce back from a home defeat in Milan and the UEFA Cup went to Inter. In the new century, the finals are held from a single match on a neutral field, and it is no coincidence that Mourinho cried when Roma beat Leicester – for his new club, such a chance is certainly historic. He is not tired of winning, nor is his colleague Ancelotti.
- Roma have only one international victory – in the Fairs Cup in 1961. And they have lost the finals of the European Championship and the UEFA Cup. But personally Mourinho has two victories in the Europa League (with Porto he won the tournament, which was then called the UEFA Cup) and two victories in the Champions League. The UEFA Super Cup does not go to him, he lost three finals. But the Portuguese could become the only one in the world who has three wins in three current European Cups, because the decisive match of the Conference League is the first in its history.
- The Romans began their journey into the tournament with qualifying, knocking out eventual champions Trabzonspor in Turkey. In the group, they mostly thrashed their opponents, but ran into Haykin and Budo Glimt and were beaten 6-1 on the road before losing 2-2 at home. Later that same opponent met in the playoffs. They lost again in Norway, 2-1, but at the fourth attempt Mourinho found a way to solve the puzzle. The 4-0 defeat in Rome added to the strength. Later, difficult matches against Leicester (1-1 away and 1-0 in Rome) sent them to the long-awaited final.
- Despite losses to Inter and Fiorentina, Roma’s form, even in Serie A, was tolerable. Sure, they grabbed red cards and signed peace cards left and right. But they thrashed Lazio 3-0 in March without losing away to Napoli. And before the final in Turin, they scored three unanswered goals against Torino. Abraham is on fire with 21 goals and four assists in all competitions in his debut season in Rome, Pellegrini and Mkhitaryan are handing out assists.
- Roma had one significant loss on the eve of the final – Mkhitaryan was injured. But Henrikh was treated and arrived in Albania, so it is only a question of the veteran’s readiness. There is other good news – Spinazzolla is back from the injury he sustained at Euro 2020. It’s unlikely Mourinho will risk putting him in from the opening minutes, but the tough lateral is in the squad, and that’s great. Zagnolo is also fine, ready for another Patriciu final – in the past he has been more lucky to win with the Portuguese national team rather than at club level. Roma do not have a superstar, but they have a strong squad. Jose can play a 3-4-1-2 or 3-4-2-1, it will be interesting.
Useful to know about Feyenoord
- “Roma” finished in sixth place in Serie A, got into the group round of the Europa League. Feyenoord, on the other hand, was third-placed in the championship fight in the Netherlands – behind Ajax and PSV, and only victory in the final in Tirana will send it directly to the Europa League group. Not as steep an award as a Champions League spot for Eintracht, a Bundesliga midfielder, but the Dutch club is not spoiled for international success; they made the Eurocup playoffs for the first time in six years.
- “Pride of the South” could become the first club to collect three European Cups with the Conference League included. In 1970 they won the European Cup – first among the Dutch teams, even before Ajax with Cruyff. And four seasons later Feyenoord won the UEFA Cup. The Dutch had not been in the finals since 2002, when Thomasson and Van Heudonck upset Borussia D, beating Matthias Zummer’s side 3-2. “Roma, on the other hand, won three big finals out of three.
- Feyenoord’s success was composed by another bald Dutch coach, Arne Sloth. The 43-year-old mentor was most recently assistant head coach at AZ, but then dropped the club from Alkmaar to second place himself. And he was invited to Rotterdam. In the first season they failed to shake off the throne of their eternal enemies, but reached the final of the Conference League – also a great result. Along the way they met Partizan, Slavia and Marseille. The Dutch have played 55 games all season – a well-oiled game, well-tested correlations.
- Standing out, of course, is Cyrille Desser. The Nigerian with Belgian passport scored 10 goals in 12 games in the Conference League – the best sniper in the tournament. We were lucky to sign the 27-year-old Genk forward on loan. They were also right to invite Gus Thiel – the Spartak player scored 15 goals in the Dutch championship, the best in the team in terms of goals in this tournament. Also cool is the small Colombian Sinisterra. He is only 22 years old, Luis has a tryout with a serious club today.
- The Dutch have problems with the lineup. Nelson, Malacia, Baylow and Trauner were in the infirmary. But the whole four should be ready, if there are no relapses and if the doctors approve the appearance of basic players from the first minutes. The Dutchmen play 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1, but it all depends on the plan chosen by Mourinho. If Roma offer high pressing and pace, the opponent will have to pull their midfielders deeper, making the defense lines wider. Although Feyenoord knows how to play with the ball at home, they have very few losses this spring.
Important to know about the confrontation
- Mourinho has never lost a European final since the playoffs. “Feyenoord took three big European Cups with three tries. Only in the 2002 UEFA Super Cup final did he allow himself to lose to Real Madrid. Jose also loves to lose such matches – it has happened to him three times. Someone will have a European Cup hat-trick today. Or a personal one for the Portuguese, or a club one for Feyenoord.
- Arne Slot repeated the trick of Peter Bosz, who played with Ajax in the final against Mourinho five years ago. Back then it was the Europa League, with MJ beating the talented Dutch. Smalling and Mkhitaryan were on Jose’s side in that case, too. Old acquaintances will meet new Dutchmen, but Feyenoord’s lineup is certainly more modest than that of Ajax, where young de Jong and van de Beek sat on the bench.
- At stake is a cup 57.5 centimeters high, weighing 11 kilograms, which consists of 32 hexagonal plates that symbolize each member of the group stage. The plates are connected together to form a trophy that resembles a Europa League trophy. 40 sets of gold and 40 sets of silver medals will find new hosts today.
- Perhaps at some point of the match there will be players with experience of playing for Rostov and Spartak at the same time. Shomurodov may appear as a substitute – a momentous event for the Uzbek soccer. And Gus Thiel is one of the leaders of Feyenoord, he is expected to be at the heart of the historic final. Whereas Hendricks is not expected, although Jorrit is back home and makes occasional appearances as a substitute.