A UEFA Cup winner in 2006, Javier Saviola is hoping to sample European glory for a second time as SL Benfica aim to eliminate SC Braga and reach their first continental final in 21 years.
Saviola's success came at the end of a season-long loan with Sevilla FC, the Spanish club recording the first of back-to-back UEFA Cup triumphs by defeating Middlesbrough FC 4-0 in Eindhoven. Half a decade on and the diminutive striker stands on the verge of another major showpiece following Benfica's 2-1 victory in the first leg of the all-Portuguese UEFA Europa League semi-final.
"I had the chance to win the UEFA Cup with Sevilla," said the 29-year-old, who scored six European goals that campaign. "That was a unique feeling because these competitions are important for clubs and for the prestige of everyone.
"When I played for Sevilla I experienced it in a special way. People were very happy, and they experienced it in a very special way, too. I won a UEFA Cup, and hopefully we can win it again with Benfica, so we can make the people very happy."
Whether the travelling Benfica faithful will be just that after Thursday's denouement remains to be seen, particularly with Braga having Vandinho's away goal to build on. "They've always made it difficult for us; they've always played very good games against us," added Saviola, a scorer of two goals against the Arsenalistas this season. "We have to approach this game very humbly and with a lot of caution, realising that we're facing a very tough team."
A cautious approach is perhaps understandable given Braga's rock-like defensive displays this term – they have conceded in only one of their eight European home matches at the quarry-side Estádio Municipal de Braga. "They're a very compact team, with all the lines [defence, midfield, attack] playing together in the same way.
"There's also the knowledge side − they're a team we know well. They know how we play, and how they can play against us on the counterattack. The biggest benefit they have is their knowledge of every one of our players and the team."
Should Saviola and Co prevail, they are likely to face arch-rivals FC Porto in the final in Dublin on 18 May, the Dragons having swept aside Villarreal CF 5-1 at home last week. Either way, Saviola says the semi-final make-up illustrates the strength of the game in his country of work.
"Portuguese football has been growing in recent years, and this [three clubs in the last four] is a clear demonstration of that," said the former FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF striker. "This does Portuguese football a lot of good, and hopefully it'll grow even more."
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