Middlesbrough and Sevilla are both are playing in their first European final when they meet in Eindhoven for tonight’s UEFA Cup final.
“I’ve looked through the programme and there are many, many famous names, many famous clubs, that have won this trophy,” Middlesbrough manager Steve McClaren said on the eve of what will be his last game in charge before he leaves to become the next England manager.
“We’d like to put our name on it and I would certainly like to be the coach that leads the team to victory.”
Sevilla have not played in a major final since 1962 and coach Juande Ramos is aware of the importance of tonight’s fixture.
“Just to be here is great,” Ramos said. “It’s a dream and we’re ready to go into this historic match for Seville and Andalusia.”
Middlesbrough have enjoyed a rollercoaster ride in this season’s competition, providing thrills aplenty with their comebacks against Basel and Steaua Bucharest in previous rounds. On each occasion the Premier League outfit were required to score four goals to progress and their firepower has not gone unnoticed by Ramos.
“A team that has scored so well is a very serious opponent,” Ramos said.
“Even when they’re behind, they hope for a miracle. They’re always fighting, but we’re confident we have sufficient strength and ability to win this final. We’ve been training well and hope the game will justify the work we’ve been doing.”
McClaren is expected to plump for the experience of Mark Viduka and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink up front, with the likes of Massimo Maccarone and Yakubu kept on the bench in case any Boro require any more miracles.
Goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer should start, possibly wearing a mask to protect his fractured cheekbone.
For Sevilla, Frederic Kanoute is not match fit, meaning Luis Fabiano could partner Javier Saviola in attack. Saviola, on loan from Barcelona, has scored six times in the competition to date and Ramos is expecting the Argentinian to be an influential figure tonight.
“He is a great player and always gives his best for the team,” he said. “A player like him knows what an important match this is.”
McClaren meanwhile, has denied that his appointment last Thursday as the new England coach has affected his side’s preparations.
“To finish in a final and to win would be very, very special,” he said.
“The team has been very focused. We’ve had four games in eight days – enough for the team to concentrate on. We can’t wait for this game. You make your own luck with preparation and opportunity. We’re prepared and we now have an opportunity.”
McClaren has identified Saviola and Kanoute as Sevilla’s danger men, happy to adopt the role of “underdogs”.
Ramos stressed, though, they would not be guilty of overconfidence despite their status as favourites.
“We need a positive state of mind,” he said. “We’ve done well lately and we’re comfortable in the league, but if we’re not at our best we won’t win.
“At times we’ve been overconfident and our results have gone down. But the players know they’ll have to work hard from the first minute. You will see on the pitch how good we are.”
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