Goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz is determined to enjoy RCD Espanyol's UEFA Cup final appearance after being on the bench for their Copa del Rey triumph last season.
The only Espanyol player to have starred in all 14 of their UEFA Cup games this term, the No1 has made an enormous contribution to their progress to Hampden Park. Now he hopes to make amends for missing out on the Spanish Cup win that earned his side their place in Europe, provided coach Ernesto Valverde continues his goalkeeping policy.
With Idriss Kaméni regarded as the Barcelona club's first-choice custodian in the Primera División, last season Gorka was - as is custom in Spain - given the chance to shine in the Copa del Rey, and indeed the UEFA Cup. However, a minor dispute between Kaméni and Espanyol resulted in the two keepers' roles being reversed in mid-term, with Gorka swapping cup for league duties. It was a promotion of sorts but one which left Gorka benched for the remainder of the Spanish Cup campaign, culminating in a 4-1 defeat of Real Zaragoza at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. "It was tough not playing against Zaragoza last season but you assume your responsibilities and support the team and the other keeper every way you can," said Gorka.
This season has seen another change of tack, with Cameroonian Kaméni playing all 34 of his side's Primera División matches, while Gorka has been 'Mr UEFA Cup', savouring at least one unforgettable night as a combination of good fortune and tremendous shot-stopping denied SL Benfica in Lisbon in the 0-0 draw that sent Espanyol into the semi-finals. His goalmouth may never again lead such a charmed existence, yet his experience of continental competition means he will be ready for whatever Sevilla throw at him. And if sitting out that Copa del Rey final was a blow, the observations the 26-year-old made from his perch on the sidelines should serve him well in Glasgow. "I tried to learn from the match because a great skill of any footballer has to be analysing every situation whether you are playing, on the bench or in the stands," he explained. "There is so much to learn, you must soak it up every single time and take it on board so you can use it to your advantage the next time you play."
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