SL Benfica's sorrow was acute after last season's final defeat by Chelsea FC, but Jorge Jesus has impressively galvanised his charges by leading them to the brink of glory once more. The Eagles have swept all before them since dropping out of the UEFA Champions League, exhibition grit, determination and finesse to become the first side to reach the UEFA Europa League decider unbeaten.
Story of the season
Benfica underlined their credentials in the round of 32, strolling to a 4-0 aggregate win over PAOK FC. Tottenham Hotspur FC were expected to provide sterner opposition in the last-16, but Jesus' side produced a swashbuckling display at White Hart Lane, running out 3-1 winners before a 2-2 Lisbon stalemate.
They subsequently made light work of quarter-final opponents AZ Alkmaar, sending three unanswered goals past the Eredivisie team over two legs. With Juventus standing between Benfica and a place in the final, strikes from Ezequiel Garay and Lima either side of Carlos Tévez's leveller laid the foundations for a heroic goalless draw in Turin.
P2 W0 L2
Last 2012/13 v Chelsea FC (Amsterdam ArenA)
Record against final opponents
Benfica and Sevilla FC were both new to UEFA competition when they met for the first time in the 1957/58 European Champion Clubs' Cup preliminary round. Vicente Pahuet opened the scoring in the first leg, but Francisco Palmeiro equalised. Antonio Iborra restored the hosts' advantage and Pepillo sealed a two-goal advantage late on.
Sevilla goalkeeper José María Busto was in inspired form in the Lisbon return, ensuring the Spanish side's progress. The Eagles, though, already played two finals against Spanish opposition, and won both – against FC Barcelona (European Champion Clubs' Cup, 1960,61) and Real Madrid CF (European Champion Clubs' Cup, 1961/62).
Lima's ruthless 84th-minute winner against Juventus earned a vital 2-1 first-leg lead, yet it would have counted for nothing had captain Luisão not blunted the Bianconeri in the 0-0 return. The centre back's sheer will to win was epitomised on the stroke of half-time at the Juventus stadium, when he headed Arturo Vidal's looping header off the line with keeper Jan Oblak stranded.
"In five years we have got to two Europa League finals and one semi-final: it is a record that nobody can take away from us. We are in the final on merit and we deserve everything that is happening to us." Benfica coach Jorge Jesus
Despite being handed a starting berth just twice in eight UEFA Europa League outings, Brazilian striker Lima has registered four times. Averaging a goal every 70 minutes in this competition, the 30-year-old will be eager to get his hands on a trophy that has so far eluded him at SC Braga and Benfica.
Back at the club after a two-year long loan at Braga, Rúben Amorim has stepped up to the mark in the wake of Nemanja Matić's departure to Chelsea FC. A pivotal presence in central midfield, Amorim caught the eye at Tottenham with a judiciously weighted through ball for Rodrigo to open the scoring.
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