Liverpool will attempt to secure their first major piece of European silverware for 11 years when they take on Sevilla in the Europa League final in Basel, Switzerland, on Wednesday.
Sevilla finished seventh in Spain’s La Liga, 39 points behind champions Barcelona, yet cannot stop winning in the Europa League and are looking to win the trophy for a fifth time since Liverpool’s Champions League win in 2005 – and the third time in a row.
But who is their main threat? Why are they so good in this competition? Who is the mastermind behind their Europa League success?
Here, we take a look at what awaits Jurgen Klopp’s Reds at St Jakob-Park.
Sevilla earned a place in this season’s Champions League group stage with a successful defence of their 2014 Europa League triumph – one that ended with a thrilling 3-2 victory over Ukrainian side Dnipro in Warsaw, Poland 12 months ago.
A 3-0 win over Borussia Monchengladbach suggested Los Sevillistas could make an impression and advance to the knockout stages of Europe’s elite competition.
It wasn’t to be, however, as four straight defeats saw them eliminated from Group D, which also contained Manchester City and Juventus, although the third-placed did send them back in their favourite tournament.
|Sevilla’s Europa League love affair|
|2006: Final v Middlesbrough won 4-0 in Eindhoven|
|2007: Final v Espanyol won 3-1 on penalties (2-2 after extra time) in Glasgow|
|2014: Final v Benfica won 4-2 on penalties (0-0 after extra time) in Turin|
|2015: Final v Dnipro won 3-2 in Warsaw|
“Everyone connected with Sevilla thoroughly enjoys taking part in this competition, and I’ve always encouraged everyone to approach it with the passion it deserves,” said boss Unai Emery.
Since their first European triumph in 2006, Sevilla have also won the domestic Copa del Rey twice, and will have another chance to lift that trophy when theyface Barcelona in the final at Atletico Madrid’s Vicente Calderon on 22 May.
That’s no accident because Sevilla have fielded some fabulous players in the past decade, including Barcelona pair Dani Alves and Ivan Rakitic, as well as prolific strikers in their prime such as Luis Fabiano, Frederic Kanoute, Alvaro Negredo and Carlos Bacca.
The club’s sporting director Monchi has been showered with praise for his ability to repeatedly build high-quality squads packed with ambitious players who are on an upward curve – and the silverware has been fully deserved.
The goal threat
Last season it was Carlos Bacca who was Sevilla’s main goal threat. The 29-year-old Colombia international’s departure to AC Milan has seen Kevin Gameiro step up to become the forward the opposition fear most.
Half of Sevilla’s 14 Europa League goals this season have come from the former Paris St-Germain player, who has proved influential since moving to Spain three years ago.
The 29-year-old France international marked his first season in La Liga with 15 goals and has followed it up with another 24 since.
Gameiro’s goalscoring form is excellent, but his biggest asset to the team is his insatiable work rate – and it makes him the kind of player who is a real pain for defenders.
Though he is not particularly physically imposing, Gameiro is fast, strong, has great balance, shows intelligent movement and never stops running. He also has the happy goalscorer’s instinct of finding space inside a congested penalty area.
Considering the form he has showed this season and the controversial omission of Karim Benzema, it is somewhat surprising that Gameiro has beenFrance squad for their home European Championship this summer.
But it could still be a busy summer for Gameiro because he has been heavily linked with a move to Barcelona, who are looking for an experienced striker to offer cover and competition for Luis Suarez.
“He has a fantastic turn of pace to get away from players and he’s very good at getting shots away quickly – a really sharp finisher,” said Emery.
“He puts the first line of pressure on the opposition, with his speed and ability in transitions. That’s very positive for the team.”
Emery does not always get the credit he deserves. He really should be regarded as an elite manager considering the success he has enjoyed throughout his career.
After starting out by leading lowly Lorca and Almeria to promotion, he guided cash-strapped Valencia to three consecutive third-place finishes in La Liga – and the scale of that achievement is underlined by how much they have struggled since he departed in 2012.
The 44-year-old Spaniard then had a brief and unsuccessful stint with Spartak Moscow before returning to Spain with Sevilla, where he has kept the team in the top half of the league as well as masterminding their cup successes.
He was strongly tipped to move to AC Milan last summer before eventually rejecting the Italian giants – but his work with the Andalusians will surely earn him more big-name suitors before long.
While he was at Valencia, Emery worked with Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata before the player moved to Chelsea in August 2011, as well as David Silva, now at Manchester City.
West Ham reportedly wanted Emery before Slaven Bilic was appointed, while Everton have also been linked with the former midfielder since Roberto Martinez was sacked.
Emery is an expert video editor as well as a football obsessive and does not employ a video analyst. Instead he edits footage of his side’s opponents himself.
|Sevilla’s Europa League record over past three seasons|
Big game specialists
Sevilla have endured a fairly disappointing season in La Liga to finish seventh, but that’s mainly because they have suffered a series of disappointing results against lower-ranked opposition.
Their route to the final has included impressive wins over La Liga rivals Athletic Bilbao and Shakhtar Donetsk.
|Europa League 2015/16 – leading scorers|
|Aritz Aduriz||Athletic Bilbao||10|
|Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang||Borussia Dortmund||8|
However, Liverpool will be encouraged by Sevilla’s poor form away from their Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan home.
They were the only team in La Liga not to win on their travels in 2015-16, while their away success in the Europa League was a 2-1 victory in Bilbao.
Emery and his highly regarded sporting director Monchi have built an extremely strong squad with plenty of depth, and that is particularly the case in midfield where a wide range of options are available to support Gameiro.
Perhaps the most important player is the talented Argentina international Ever Banega, who is enjoying a real renaissance after being rescued from a frustrating spell at Valencia when he joined Sevilla two years ago.
With Banega pulling the strings, attacking penetration is offered by former Arsenal man Jose Antonio Reyes, Spain international Vitolo, the versatile Vicente Iborra and gifted Ukraine winger Yevhen Konoplyanka.
Although he often only appears from the bench, the ace in the pack could prove to be Konoplyanka, who is Sevilla’s most naturally talented player. His ability to cut in from the left wing to shoot, or deliver dangerous balls into the box from either flank, makes him a real potential match winner.
There is another familiar name in the shape of Steven Nzonzi, the former Blackburn Rovers and Stoke City midfielder.
The 27-year-old Frenchman has been a regular starter during Sevilla’s Europa League campaign – despite being sent off three times this season.
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The National Industrial Court, NIC, sitting in Abuja has stopped the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, and the Trade Union Congress, TUC, from embarking on a strike action tomorrow.
The labour unions had in a communique they issued at the end of an emergency meeting the held on Saturday, vowed to embark on a nationwide industrial action should the federal government refuse to reverse the sudden hike in the price of fuel.
However, in a ruling on Tuesday, the NIC President, Justice Babatunde Adejumo, restrained the labour unions from going on strike, pending the determination of a suit the federal government lodged before it.
Justice Adejumo further ordered all the parties to maintain status quo until the legal dispute is settled.
The order followed an ex-parte application that was filed by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN.
Determined to abort the planned strike action, the AGF approached the NIC, begging it to restrain the labour unions from “shutting down the nation”.
Placing reliance on section 14 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, FG, insisted that it would not be “in the national interest” for the NLC and TUC to proceed on nationwide strike over the fuel price increase.
Malami, SAN, argued that no amount of damages could serve as compensation if the labour unions are allowed to shut down the economy.
Contending that the balance of convenience was in favour of the government, the AGF, prayed the court to determine “Whether the respondents (NLC, Trade Union Congress) have complied with the laid down condition precedent for embarking on strike”.
As well as, “Whether indeed there exist in law and in fact the basis of which the respondents’ total closure of the economy can be justified”.
He told the court that the respondents met on Saturday and issued a communique wherein it gave government a three-day ultimatum to reverse the decision increasing fuel price.
He said the respondents, aside threatening to shut down the country if government failed to reverse the fuel price increase, equally threatened to close down all government offices, seaport, airports and markets.
The AGF argued that ordinary and law abiding citizens would be subjected to hardship if the respondents were allowed to go ahead with their threat.
He said the government was left with no alternative but to seek the intervention of the court.
Besides, Malami told the court that he got notice of the communique on Sunday and quickly filed an originating summons, a motion on notice and an ex-parte application to determine whether NLC’s decision was justified in the circumstance.
He insisted that “great and irreparable damage” would be done against the nation and “ordinary and law abiding citizens”, should the court refuse the ex-parte application.
Meanwhile, though neither NLC nor TUC was represented in court, Justice Adejumo granted the ex-parte motion, even as he ordered the service of all the relevant court processes on the respondents.
The restraining order against the respondents will elapse after seven days.
The Dangote Farms Tomato Processing Factory announced that it has halted operations in its $20 million tomato paste facility due to a scarcity of tomatoes, barely two months after beginning operations. This announcement comes as a surprise to many that believed Dangote was the reason for the tomatoes shortage plaguing Nigeria. The tomato plant was anticipated to help reduce wastage of the fruit in the country and to also minimise the amount of imported tomato pastes in the Nigerian market. According to Nigeria’s Ministry of Agriculture, Nigeria produces about 1.5 million tons of tomatoes a year, but over 900,000 tons is lost to rot.
Nigerians have been severely affected by the scarcity of tomatoes, which is a key ingredient in most of the delicacies prepared in this part of the continent. The price of the fruit has increased by 400 percent; Nigerians now pay around 200 Naira for the same quantity of tomatoes which was sold at 50 Naira few months ago. But while there have been different rumours concerning the tomato scarcity, the real reason for the scarcity is a devastating pest attack which has affected this year’s harvest. A pest known as Tuta absoluta has reportedly affected tomato farms in Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina and Plateau states.
Tuta absoluta is also known by the common name tomato leafminer or the South American tomato moth and has been spreading rapidly across the world from South America, where it was first discovered. It has the ability to destroy a whole tomato farm within 48 hours and is also very difficult to control as it has a high mutation capacity with the ability to develop a resistance to insecticides. Around this time last year, farmers in some parts of Nigeria recorded losses as a result of this same pest attack but the consequences of this attack weren’t reflected in the price of the commodity because the demand for the crop wasn’t as high as it is now.
If the Nigerian government does not treat this as a matter of urgency it can take years to recover from the attack. It took Sudan about three years to recover from a similar attack in 2010. This plague could also dampen the export of fruits and vegetables.
Quick facts about the tomatoes industry in Nigeria
- Nigeria is the 14th largest producer of tomatoes in the world.
- It is the largest producer of tomatoes in sub-Saharan Africa.
- It is the eighth largest importer of tomato paste in the world after Iraq and Japan.
- The country has a significant demand for processed tomatoes but almost half of the tomato pastes found in its markets have been imported from China and Italy.
- Last year, the Director General and CEO of the Raw Material and Research and Development Council (RMRDC), Dr. Hussaini Ibrahim, revealed that Nigeria spends about $1.5 billion annually on tomato product-importation from China and other parts of the world.
- Erisco tomato paste known as Nagiko is the first tomato paste to be made in Nigeria.
The two factions of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and members of Civil Societies, yesterday, rose from their respective emergency National Executive Council (NEC) meetings, vowing to call out Nigerians on a nationwide strike on Wednesday if the Federal Government fails to retrace its steps on the contentious N145 new pump price of petrol recently announced by the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu.
The announcement by the junior minister ‘deregulating’ the downstream sector of the Nigerian oil and gas industry has also ignited another round of free fall of the naira in the foreign exchange market.
A development the president of Association of Bureau De Change Operators of Nigeria (ABCON), Alhaji Aminu Gwadabe, said was caused by the permission the minister granted the fuel importers to source their foreign exchange from secondary sources.
According to him, the market had been stable all this while due to drastic reduction in imports, “but the announcement on Wednesday has changed the whole thing.” He fears that the exchange rate will rise to N400 a dollar this week if the condition persists. On Thursday, the naira lost N7 to the dollar as exchange rate rose sharply to N334 per dollar from N320 per dollar.
This persisted on Friday with the parallel market exchange rate rising to N370 per dollar which translated to N50 depreciation of the naira in two days.
Kachikwu had said that the lingering fuel scarcity in the country was caused by the forex crisis in the country since the collapse of the prices of crude in the international market.
A development that forced the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to peg the official exchange rate of the naira against the US Dollar at N197 a dollar.
He said, “The reason for the current problem is the inability of importers of petroleum products to source foreign exchange at the official rate due to the massive decline of foreign exchange earnings of the Federal Government. As a result, private marketers have been unable to meet their approximate 50 per cent portion of total national supply of PMS (Premium Motor Spirit, also known as Petrol).”
It is against this backdrop that experts say that unless the fuel subsidy is retained, the importers will in the nearest future, increase the pump price of petrol again, otherwise, they will be running at a loss and will not be able to go back and import more.
The options available then are that the subsidy is retained and the price pegged or the importers continue to bring in the product at the rate naira is exchanging with the dollar at the forex market and sell as he buys.
The implication, according to a former president of Association of National Accountant of Nigeria (ANAN) Dr. Samuel Nzekwe, is that price of petrol would rise to N200 a litre gvery soon and will then fall down slowly if the naira stabilises.
Meanwhile, the organised labour, accused the President Muhammadu Buhari administration of betrayal of trust reposed on him by Nigerians, stating that the hardship the administration has brought on Nigerians since its inception over a year ago is not in tandem with the change mantra of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) which Nigerians voted for.
President of the Wabbaled faction of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, at the end of the union’s meeting in Abuja yesterday, lamented that President Muhammadu Buhari had broken his electioneering promise of not removing fuel subsidy if he was elected.
According to him, the Congress would on Wednesday May 18 mobilise Nigerians to the streets, close down the airports, sea ports as well as all public and private offices after which he added that the labour unions would direct Nigerian workers to embark on indefinite industrial action as their response to the government’s policy.
The NLC President, who read the communiqué issued at the end of the meeting on behalf of other unions, lamented what he called the Federal Government’s disinclination for consultation on issues of public interest and its obsession with protecting product marketers at the expense of the Nigerian public.
The Comrade Joe Ajeroled NLC, which concluded its emergency Central Working Committee (CWC) meeting, in Lagos yesterday afternoon, said, “Where the government fails to heed these calls and correct itself, we shall be forced to call Nigerian workers and masses out onn the streets all over the country to shut the critical sectors of this economy down for as long as it shall take to force the government to subject itself to the desires of the people.”
Comrade Wabba noted that after his election, President Muhammadu Buhari had maintained that there was no subsidy in the petroleum product price regime and that even if there was, he did not see how its removal would be beneficial to the ordinary Nigerian, noting that the slightest product price adjustment often leads to inflationary spiral and unimaginable suffering for the people.
“On January 18, 2016, the government further allayed the fears of the Nigerian people by reducing the pump price of PMS to N86:50, explaining that the reduction was in furtherance of the implementation of the revised component of the Petroleum Products Pricing for PMS and kerosene,” he said.
The unions also blasted Kachikwu for allegedly speaking from both sides of his mouth saying, “Whereas last year, he had strongly canvassed for the removal of ‘subsidy’ in defiance of President Buhari, about a month ago, he claimed the subsidy had been removed through his ingenuity and that Nigeria was saving $1billion from this process”.
The unions had, therefore, wondered what informed government’s sudden and dangerous policy summersault and its desperate attempt to convince the public that Labour was part of the decision that led to this price increase.
They further said that the new price announced by the Federal Government without the input of the board of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), which is statutorily vested with powers to recommend price, is illegal, noting that since the board of PPPRA was yet to be constituted, the Federal Government has no right to fix price unilaterally.
While arguing that the new price increase is unrealistic, unaffordable, unacceptable and is thus rejected by Nigerian workers, the NLC President said that there has been no increase, in the past five years, in salaries or wages or pensions in the face of devaluations, spiralling inflation and other vagaries of the economy.
He said that government is unable to justify the price increase other than the puerile explanation that marketers need to recover their costs, without a thought for the aggregate or larger national interest including the need for local refining and creation of jobs.
Speaking also on the increase in electricity tariff, Comrade Wabba said that government has remained recalcitrant in spite of a subsisting court injunction on the issue of the criminal increase in electricity tariff even in the face of everworsening power supply situation.
“From the foregoing, it is evident that the neo-liberal forces in the government have taken over the government and we should expect more inhumane policies which will further degrade the living standard of the average Nigerian. The punitive electricity tariff and PMS product prices may just be teasers.”
On the position of National Union of Petrol and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and Petrol and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), who have already supported the deregulation of the oil and gas sector, the NLC President said: ”NLC, TUC and other civil society allies are not unaware of the positions taken by the Unions in the oil and gas industry.”
“A process of engagement will be put in place in order to ensure the success of the struggle to protect the overall interest of the Nigerian people,” he added.
Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), said oil exploration by multinational companies was a major contributor to environmental warming and climate change effects in Nigeria.
Coordinator of the organisation, Mr Nnimo Bassey, stated this on Sunday at an environmental awareness campaign tagged “Break Free 2016” in Ibeno, Akwa Ibom.
He said that exploitation of crude oil and flaring of gas had destroyed the ecosystem thereby causing environmental warming in the country.
“We can break free from fossil fuel; we cannot keep on burning fossil fuel and the oil companies knew many years ago that oil extraction causes global warming,” Bassey said.
He said that the spread of chemical in the ocean during oil spills had affected fishing activities in the parts of the country.
According to him, the polluted water has affected the quality and quantity of fish in the ocean.
“It is happening in 15 countries around the world; everybody is saying the use of crude oil, the use of crude, the use of gas is destroying the planet.
“It makes the planet to change, everywhere is hot; it is because when oil is burning, it pollutes the air as the weather is changing,” Bassey said.
He alleged that a scientific study sponsored by a multinational in the area had proved that oil exploration was detrimental to human health and the environment.
“They paid scientists to hide the information so that they can make profits in dollars now that the information is coming out in the USA,” Bassey alleged.
He called on the multinational companies to the leave the oil in the soil, saying that 80 per cent of the chemical kept in the soil had polluted the ocean.
Also speaking, Executive Director, Peace Point Action (PPA), another NGO, Mr Umo Isua-Ikoh, said that residents of oil-bearing communities were suffering from respiratory and skin diseases.
Ikoh attributed the situation to breathing of poisonous gases emitted into the air through oil exploration and extraction activities in the area.
He said that the objective of the awareness campaign was to stop the impunity committed in the Niger Delta by the oil multinational companies.
“If we are sincere about doing our part to fight climate change, then we must leave the oil and gas in the soil,” Ikoh said.
He said that oil and gas companies were sacrificing peoples’ lives and future of children “at the altar of profit’’ and that governments in the country had “unfortunately, become their bedfellows’’.
“Our roofs top wear and tear very fast because of acid rain. Companies around continue to flare gas with impunity in spite of several targets to end gas flaring.
“We want to see an end to gas flaring in the Niger Delta region,” Ikoh emphasised.
He claimed that though Akwa Ibom had been the highest oil producing state in Nigeria, it had the worst socio-economic indicators in the Niger Delta.
According to him, oil wealth does not directly translate to wealth and sustainable development for the people.
“The truth is that oil and gas exploration and production has left in its wake only environmental disaster, time bomb, poverty, disease and conflict in the region,” Ikoh said.
In his remarks, a former Chief Medical Superintendent in the state, Dr Charles Abakam, decried the state of devastation of the environment in Ibeno Local Government Area by oil extraction activities.
Abakam said that people living in an environment where oil was exploited had the tendency to develop prostate cancer.
He said that apart from destroying the ecosystem, oil exploration was injurious to the health of the people in the oil producing areas and called for cessation of oil extraction.
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, has said the federal government would have had to shop for N16.4 billion every month to offset subsidy claims of petrol marketers if it had not taken the decision to remove subsidy on fuel consumption.
Kachikwu explained in a tweet on his twitter handle @ibekachikwu that as at the time the government made the decision to end subsidy on petrol and subsequently hiked the pump price, it was incurring about N13.7k as subsidy on each litre of petrol bought by Nigerians.
He said at such rate, government would have paid out N16.4 billion to marketers monthly, adding that the government does not have such fund in its 2016 budget, more so now that the country’s earning from crude oil production has dropped.
THISDAY monitored the minister’s tweet weekend in Abuja where he tried to justify the new framework for petroleum supply, distribution and pricing. He also listed the benefits of the new policy.
“There is no provision for subsidy in 2016 appropriation. As at today, the current PMS price of N86.50 gives an estimated subsidy claim of N13.7 per litre which translates to N16.4 billion monthly. There is no funding or appropriation to cover this,” said the minister in the tweet.
He further stated: “NNPC has continued to utilise crude oil volumes outside the 445,000 barrels per day, thereby creating major funding and remittances gaps into the federation account.”
Kachikwu also said renewed insurgency and pipeline breaks in the Niger Delta has resulted to Nigeria’s daily crude oil production dropping to 1.65 million barrels per day (mbpd) as against the 2.2mbpd that was projected in the 2016 budget.
He said this has reduced government’s earnings and foreign exchange build ups to perhaps support subsidy on importation of petrol into the country.
He equally listed the benefits of the new policy, saying that going forward, 100 per cent payment to the federation account on the allocated 445,000bpd of crude oil to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) would be assured and tailored to provide palliative measures for the country.
He also said the policy will encourage market stability in the downstream petroleum sector; stabilise fuel supply in the country; discourage hoarding of products and reignite investors’ interests in setting up refineries in the country to cut importation of petroleum products.
Meanwhile a former energy and mines minister of Venezuela, Dr. Alirio Parra has described the recent decision of the government on Nigeria’s downstream petroleum sector as historic and smart.
Parra who is also a member of the global oil industry outfit, CWC Group, stated at a forum in Abuja over the weekend that the liberalisation of the downstream sector in the oil industry is a bold testament to the fact that oil is a market-driven commodity.
A statement from the Group General Manager, Public Affairs of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mallam Garuba Deen Muhammad stated this.
According to Parra in the statement: “One really important change in the oil and gas industry in Nigeria is the decision by the federal government to open the domestic market for competition.
“I am not necessarily talking about the elimination of subsidy, but opening the market, is a statement that oil is market driven and that with time, it is going to be to the benefit of Nigeria, and to all Nigerians.”
He further stated that the opening of the market will in no time encourage more players to bring in petrol which would eventually lead to a new era of competitive pricing.