13 min: Feyenoord win a throw-in down near the corner flag deep in Roma territory. Nothing comes of it.
11 min: Ne’er a chance for either team to report yet and on balance of play so far you’d probably say Feyenoord are having slightly the better of it.
9 min: Good work from Feyenoord’s Luis Sinisterrra (kind of the Latin for left-handed) down the left flank. His delivery is poor, howwever, and his cross goes straight into the gloves of Bijlow at the near post.
8 min: A Roma cross sent in from the right by Rick Karsdrop is a mite too high for Lorenzo Pellegrino, who’d made a smart run from midfield. Feyenoord clear.
5 min: Playing his first match since early March after being sidelined with a foot injury, Feyenoord goalkeeper Justin Bijlow receives a backpass and hammers the ball upfield. It drops on a Roma head.
4 min: Smalling concedes a second throw-in in quick succession deep in Roma territory. Nothing comes of it.
3 min: On the left of Roma’s back three, Chris Smalling wins a through ball from deep at the expense of Cyriel Desswers and wellies it downfield. It goes out for a throw-in near the halfway line.
2 min: There is no quarter being spared or given in these very early stages as both teams fight for the ball.
1 min: Feyenoord get the ball rolling, their players wearing grey shirts, yellow shorts and yellow socks. The players of Roma wear red shirts, shorts and socks.
Not long now: Referee Istvan Kovacs and his team of match officials lead the players of both teams out on to the pitch in Tirana and they loine up ahead of the last of the pre-match formalities. The stadium is full to it’s 22,000 capacity. One suspects these sides could have easily filled one four or five times larger.
Up for grabs! Whoever wins tonight’s final will get themselves a berth in next season’s Europa League. But what’s this? Neither of them need it because they’ve both already qualified for the competition by dint of their finishing positions in their respective domestic leagues.
Roma got a top-six finish in Serie A, while Feyenoord finished third in Eredivisie. There is, however, a shiny pot and a big cheque worth €4.25m to play for in tonight’s final.
Roma: Rui Patricio, Smalling, Ibanez, Mancini, Cristante, Karsdorp, Mkhitaryan, Pellegrini, Zalewski, Zaniolo, Abraham.
Subs: Vina, Perez, Shomurodov, Maitland-Niles, Veretout, Kumbulla, Sergio Oliveira, Spinazzola, Bove, Afena-Gyan, Fuzato, El Shaarawy.
Feyenoord: Bijlow, Geertruida, Trauner, Senesi, Malacia, Aursnes, Kokcu, Nelson, Til, Sinisterra, Dessers.
Subs: Pedersen, Hendrix, Jahanbakhsh, Linssen, Sandler, Cojocaru, Marciano, Walemark, Hendriks, Toornstra, Jansen, Hall.
Arne Slot speaks: “His CV makes you wary of his team,” said Slot of his opposite number. “He is known for winning many finals. But we mainly have to focus on his team, the tactics and the different ways they play. We shouldn’t pay too much attention to the fact that he has such an impressive track record in finals.”
Jose Mourinho speaks: “If I win I will become the first one to win all European trophies, but that’s only if I win,” said Roma’s manager ahead of tonight’s match. “When you arrive at a final after a season of work, the work is done. It’s the team’s moment, not the moment of an individual.
“I don’t believe in magical potions, I don’t believe in magical spells. There’s nothing special to be done, just us to be us as a team. Knowing the qualities we have, knowing the limitations we have. For me, no matter how the final ends, this is a positive season for us.”
Tonight’s match officials
- Referee: István Kovács
- Assistant referees: Vasile Marinescu and Ovidiu Artene
- Fourth official: Sandro Schärer
- Video Assistant Referee: Marco Fritz
Early team news …
Along with Chris Smalling in Roma’s defence, Tammy Abraham looks certain to provide English representation in this final, spearheading the Italian side’s attack having banged in 28 goals in all competitions during a successful first season for the club.
Behind him, Nicolo Zaniolo could start in midfield after playing the final 14 minutes of Roma’s 3-0 win at Torino on Friday after recovering from a muscle injury. Elsewhere in the Roma midfield, Bryan Cristante could start in place of Jordan Veretout. Henrikh Mkhitaryan is also available for selection following his recovery from a hamstring injury he suffered against Leicester.
Also flying the flag for England, Reiss Nelson is likely to line up for Feyenoord at the end of his season at the Dutch club on loan from Arsenal. Feyenoord goalkeeper Justin Bijlow is just back in training following a spell out injured since March and will probably have to settle for a place on the bench, with his more match fit understudy Ofir Marciano getting the nod. On loan from Genk, Cyriel Dessers is the top scorer in the competition with 10 goals and will play up front for the Dutch side.
The Albanian city of Tirana is the venue for the inaugural Europa Conference League final, to be contested by Roma and Feyenoord. Greeted with some suspicion and a little derision upon it’s launch, the competition has actually proved quite the success.
Tonight’s finallists have played 36 matches between them in the competition thus far and tonight either Jose Mourinho or the considerably less famous Arne Slot will mastermind victory for their side in the first ever final. Kick-off at the 22,000-seater Arena Kombëtare is at 8pm (BST) but stay tuned in the meantime for team news and build-up.