Benfica coach Jorge Jesus believes his side’s experience in recent seasons makes them better equipped heading into the final of the Europa League against Sevilla on Wednesday. The Lisbon giants lost out on a treble of trophies in agonizing fashion 12 months ago, including defeat in this very competition, courtesy of an injury-time winner from Chelsea.
This season has thus far been an overwhelming success. Indeed, Benfica have already claimed the Primeira Liga title as well as the League Cup. With a final of the Portuguese Cup to follow the climax of the Europa League this weekend, there could yet be a historic haul of four trophies.
"Over the past year we've tried going down a similar route to last season, at least in getting to the final,” he said, according to UEFA.com. “Now, our know-how comes in. We've been here before and are stronger for the experience, we know what to expect. In the past we've gone match by match but over the past year it's been taking things final by final.”
Benfica’s strong recent pedigree in European competitions is demonstrated by their sixth place in UEFA’s Coefficient table. Yet, they have not lifted a continental trophy since winning back-to-back European Cups in 1961 and 1962. Seven finals have been lost since.
Benfica garnered themselves another chance to end that barren streak courtesy of a 2-1 aggregate victory in the semifinals over the team whose stadium will host the final, Juventus. But the win came at a cost, with Enzo Perez, Lazar Markovic, and Eduardo Salvio all suspended. Markovic still had hopes of featuring but his suspension was upheld on Wednesday after an appeal.
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Sevilla will miss one player through suspension, with winger Jairo Samperio unavailable after picking up a yellow card in his side’s dramatic semifinal second leg with Valencia. Leading 2-0 from the first leg, Sevilla went 3-0 down in Valencia before a 94th minute header from Stephane Mbia ensured Unai Emery’s men a trip to Turin.
In contrast to Benfica, Sevilla’s European pedigree is limited, but when they have made it to finals they have capitalized. The Spanish side’s only two previous finals resulted in them lifting the former version of the Europa League, the UEFA Cup, in 2006 and 2007 under former Tottenham manager Juande Ramos. And Emery revealed that he was inspired by watching those triumphs.
“I remember watching and wondering what it would be like to be in that situation one day,” he said, as he prepares for his first final. “And now I am here and eager to make the most of it. Opportunities appear when you're there, and we're here.”
“The path to this final has been very long, but wonderful too,” he added. “We have grown already and tomorrow we will grow more whatever happens. It would be wonderful to finish it with a trophy.”
Sevilla have taken just one point from their last three La Liga matches to fall out of contention for a Champions League place, but, sitting in fifth with one game to go, are guaranteed a return to the Europa League next season. Emery faces a late decision on the fitness of striker Kevin Gameiro and winger Vitolo ahead of Wednesday’s final.
Where to watch: The Europa League final will kick off from the Juventus Stadium in Turin at 2:45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Fox Sports 1 and in Spanish on ESPN Deportes. A live stream will be available on Fox Soccer 2Go and on Watch ESPN.