UEFA Europa League Preview: Sevilla v Benfica
By Football News
Benfica will try for the eighth time to banish the curse of Bela Guttman when they face Sevilla in Wednesday's UEFA Europa League final.
Legendary Hungarian Guttman took charge of the Lisbon club between 1959 and 1962, signing Eusebio and leading the club to domestic as well as continental success.
Two Primeira Liga crowns and two European Cups were won in his stint at the helm, but Guttman left the club after a dispute over his pay and is famously said to have decreed that Benfica would not win a European title for another 100 years.
Benfica, who have lost eight European finals since, were beaten in the European Cup final by PSV on penalties in 1988, though last season's 2-1 Europa League showpiece loss to Chelsea may have been their most heartbreaking.
Branislav Ivanovic's 93rd-minute winner dashed Benfica's dreams in a season that also saw them lose the Taca de Portugal final to two late goals, as well as being denied the league title by defeat to Porto in the season's penultimate game.
Rather than lick their wounds, Benfica have responded in fine style this term, winning the Primeira Liga with two games to spare, claiming the Taca de Liga over Rio Ave and reaching the Taca de Portugal final - where they will face the same opponents.
Centre-back and captain Luisao, however, is keen for his side to retain their focus as they look to finally break the club's continental hoodoo.
He told UEFA.com: "It will be very difficult. We are two teams with a shared goal going into this final.
"It will all come down to one game, and we have great respect for them – we know there are two teams that will be competing in this final."
Juventus Stadium will host the event, with Benfica having denied the stadium's tenants at the semi-final stage on their way to consecutive final appearances in the competition.
Sevilla are the last side to retain the trophy, having succeeded under Juande Ramos in 2006 and 2007.
Unai Emery's men reached Turin in stunning circumstances as Stephane Mbia's 94th-minute goal secured a semi-final victory over Valencia on away goals, having overcome city rivals Real Betis in the previous round.
The Andalusian side lost three key players in the shape of Jesus Navas, Alvaro Negredo and Gary Medel in pre-season, but have impressed under Emery and will finish in La Liga's top six, as well as looking to secure a European crown.
Striker Kevin Gameiro has replaced Negredo's goals with 21 strikes to his name, but expects his side will be seen as outsiders in Italy.
He said: "We know it's a great season for Benfica as well. They've had a great campaign, they've won their league, and they knocked Juventus out which was not an easy task, especially in Turin.
"But it's a one-off game and anything is possible. The most important thing is to give everything and not regret anything at the end – to give everything, to be 100 per cent fit and then see what happens."
Jairo Samperio will miss the final for Sevilla due to suspension, though Benfica have been left to count the cost of bans to three key players with Lazar Markovic, Enzo Perez and Eduardo Salvio unavailable.
Gameiro's own inclusion is in doubt as he battles a knee injury.