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Europa League Final preview

Mbia shocker
Mbia shocker
Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

At Tuesday's press conference in the Juventus Stadium, Turin, Italy, Sevilla FC coach Unai Emery spoke about his team's chances in the Europa League final against tournament favorites Portugal's Benfica.

"Opportunities present themselves to those who are around to seize them, and we are always around. Today we are focused on tomorrow's game and only on that. History is written as it is made, and although I believe our opponents are the favorites to win the trophy we like our chances to make some history."

The Sevilla website echoed their coach's confident words in a banner across the page: "Europe knows what we are capable of...let's go get our cup."

Sevilla arrive at the finals in Italy on the wings of a shocker, a last gasp stoppage time score by Cameroonian midfielder Stephane Mbia over compatriots Valencia in the semifinals. The header tied up the aggregate score line at 3-3 but allowed Los Rojiblancos to move on thanks to the lone away goal differential.

Benfica arrived at Juventus' home stadium as spoilers having defeated this city's team by 2-1 at home and then tying them 0-0 here. As Juventus seemed the prohibitive favorites to win the trophy their conquerors immediately became the final's favorites.

Though both teams have injured starters for tomorrow's clash, Benfica has the strongest defense between the teams while Sevilla seems to have the more creative offense and is living a year of destiny. The Portuguese team has been stingy on opponents allowing the least amount of goals in the competition but not scoring overly many themselves. Nevertheless they swept through the former stages without a loss.

Sevilla have allowed more goals and have lost a game to each of their previous opponents, but they always seem to get what is needed to make it to the next round. They are not coming in with an underdog's profile but are instead in a defiant mood, granting their opponent's their due but clearly staking their claim to having earned their place in the finals.

Some interesting historical facts surround this final. Benfica has not won a European title in 52 years, ever since their legendary coach, Bela Guttman, led them to two European Cups (the Europa League predecessor). The coach, who left the club in 1962, did so under a cloud of a contractual dispute and left the team with what has turned out to be a parting shot curse: "Not in a hundred years from now will Benfica win [another] European Cup." It has only been half that long, but the curse has had its intended effect, one the Portuguese players want to shed. The Portuguese have been to seven finals since and lost all of them.

Benfica coach, Jorge Jesus, responded to journalists' queries at the press conference by stating that his team were not the favorites. "This is our second year in a European Final, which leaves everyone satisfied as we strive to be in this position. We won two trophies this season and we want another one this Wednesday. But, it will be a balanced game and there are no favorites. [Yet,] we are confident."

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