All Spanish clash for European football glory
15 May 2007, GLASGOW - Sevilla's chase for a league, cup and European treble is starting to hurt.
15 May 2007
GLASGOW - Sevilla's chase for a league, cup and European treble is starting to hurt.
The Andalusian team needs to overcome fatigue as well as Spanish rival Espanyol to win Wednesday's UEFA Cup final.
Defending champion Sevilla is chasing an unprecedented sweep in Spanish soccer of league, Copa del Rey and UEFA Cup, and coach Juande Ramos is worried his team could run out of energy at Hampden Park.
"We know that we are fighting on three competitions," Ramos said Tuesday. "This means wear and tear and fatigue. Some people are telling us not to concentrate on all three, but which one should we not concentrate on?"
Sevilla is two points behind leaders Real Madrid and FC Barcelona in the Spanish league with four games left, and is without a league title since 1946.
Sevilla also plays Getafe in the Copa del Rey final on June 23, chasing its first domestic cup win in 45 years.
Still, the UEFA Cup's first all-Spanish final gives Sevilla the chance to become the first club since Real Madrid in 1986 to win consecutive finals, and could make Ramos the first coach to win the trophy in successive seasons.
His Espanyol counterpart, Ernesto Valverde, lost the two-legged 1988 UEFA Cup final as a striker with the same club. Espanyol won the first leg 3-0 in Barcelona but missed the return in Germany, where Leverkusen won 3-0 and then won on penalty kicks.
"A long time has gone by and I don't suffer from that defeat," Valverde said.
Valverde follows Huub Stevens and Dino Zoff as the third man to appear in a UEFA Cup final as a coach and a player, but could be the first to lose as both.
Espanyol, which avoided relegation from the Spanish league on the final day of last season, qualified for the UEFA Cup by winning the Copa del Rey. A month later, coach Miguel Angel Lotina resigned and Valverde took over.
"We went through ups and downs (last season) and this is going to be a moment to enjoy for us," said Espanyol striker Walter Pandiani, the competition's top scorer with 11 goals.
The teams beat each other in the Spanish league this season, with Sevilla's 3-1 home win on April 29 the most recent. However, Espanyol is 12th in the league and has been focusing on the UEFA Cup.
"We wanted from the outset of this season to come here," Valverde said. "It was a clear call. It motivates us."
While Espanyol eliminated Benfica in the quarterfinals and Werder Bremen in the semifinals, Sevilla survived a scare in the round of 16 when it needed a headed goal from goalkeeper Andres Palop to beat Shakhtar Donetsk. It then defeated two-time champion Tottenham in the quarterfinals and Osasuna in the semifinals.
Sevilla retained the bulk of the squad that defeated Middlesbrough 4-0 last year to win its first European trophy.
[Copyright AP with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news