Sevilla FC will become only the second side to successfully defend the UEFA Cup if they overcome RCD Espanyol in the all-Spanish final at Hampden Park – a victory that would be a triumph for continuity.
Juande Ramos's team are the fourth UEFA Cup holders to negotiate their passage to a second consecutive final, but until now only Real Madrid CF have completed the job. Los Merengues won back-to-back titles in 1985/86 and 1986/87, and after ensuring their presence in Glasgow on Wednesday, Sevilla are hoping to match their domestic rivals' achievement. Should they perform like they did against Middlesbrough FC in Eindhoven in last season's showpiece, they will certainly be difficult to beat.
Luis Fabiano, Enzo Maresca (2) and Frédéric Kanouté were all on target as Sevilla swept aside the English Premiership outfit to clinch the club's first major honour since 1948, much to the delight of their vociferous support. The fans will be out in force again at Hampden Park as Ramos's men, who remain in the hunt to add three more trophies to the UEFA Super Cup they secured in August, look to further establish themselves as a European force.
The Andalusian ensemble have not had things all their own way, however, and their aspirations of reclaiming the UEFA Cup had hung in the balance when they lost 1-0 to CA Osasuna in the semi-finals. They turned the tie on its head in the return, winning by the requisite 2-0 margin; another display of maturity from a cohesive side that are going from strength to strength. Stability has been key, with seven of the XI that beat Middlesbrough last May in the lineup against Osasuna at the Estadio Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán.
But stability does not guarantee success. The VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach team that went into the 1979/80 final against Eintracht Frankfurt was largely unchanged from the one that had lifted the trophy the previous year. Yet they were unable to hold on to a 3-2 first-leg advantage, losing on the away-goals rule. Four years later RSC Anderlecht came even closer to retaining the crown, eventually succumbing 4-3 on penalties to Tottenham Hotspur FC. Madrid finally managed the elusive two in a row during the following two campaigns – win tomorrow and Sevilla will equal the feat.
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