After the Manchester terror attack of Monday night that put thick cloud over the UEFA Europa League Cup final, the stage is finally set for an epic clash of Manchester United and Ajax Amsterdam.
It is the 46th final match in the competition and Stockholm in Sweden is the stage as both sides look forward to a direct entry into the group stage of the next edition of the more glamorous UEFA Champions League.
If observations by Sports Village Square are anything to go by, the favourites appear to be Manchester United who have remained unbeaten in their last 10 European games. The scorecard looks very appealing – seven victories and three drawn games.
But sometimes, age play a role in determining contests. Ajax Amsterdam playing their first European Cup final match since the epic performance of the mid 1990s when the Nigerian duo of Finidi George and Nwankwo Kanu aided their success will be featuring a largely youthful side.
Sports Village Square gathered from UEFA that the average age of Ajax players is 22. Lasse Schöne who is likely to be fielded ahead of Donny van de Beek in the midfield will be the only over 25 in the Ajax side.
He is picked because of his experience and skill in taking set pieces. Both Ajax and Manchester United have players barred from the final match. For Ajax, Nick Viergever is suspended for the final.
Perhaps as a balancing act, Manchester United will also be without their Ivoirian defender, Eric Bertrand Bailly who is also suspended.
Also both have injury issues to contend with, but Manchester United is worse hit. For Ajax Amsterdam, Daley Sinkgraven has lost his race to be fit after six weeks out with a knee problem.
With Nick Viergever suspended, Jairo Riedewald is the most likely choice to fill the vacant left-back berth, though there’s an option to switch Joël Veltmann there, with Kenny Tete coming in on the right.
For the Manchester United, Zlatan Ibrahimović will have to watch from the stands on account of injury. José Mourinho gave debuts to five youngsters on Sunday but expect a far more recognisable line-up on Wednesday.
Sergio Romero will continue in goal – he has stood in for David de Gea for much of United’s European campaign – with Phil Jones favourite to deputise for Eric Bailly at centre-back. Marcus Rashford fills the sizeable void left by Zlatan Ibrahimović.
Likely XI: Onana; Veltman, De Ligt, Sánchez, Riedewald; Klaassen, Schöne, Ziyech; Traoré, Dolberg, Younes.
Out: Viergever (suspended), Sinkgraven (knee/fitness)
Likely XI: Romero; Valencia, Jones, Blind, Darmian; Fellaini, Herrera, Pogba; Lingard, Rashford, Mkhitaryan.
Out: Bailly (suspended), Shaw (ankle), Ibrahimović (knee), Rojo (knee), Young (hamstring)