Swept up in the euphoria of their 2007 triumph, Sevilla FC defender Federico Fazio is eager to savour the occasion first-hand this time round against Portuguese champions SL Benfica.
The Spanish club became only the second team to retain the UEFA Cup when they edged RCD Espanyol on penalties in Glasgow. Fazio absorbed events from the stands, four months after making the move from Argentina. "In 2007 we had a different team in a completely different situation. I was very young, so in truth everything passed me by," he said. "It went so fast, which inspires me to enjoy every single minute, even mealtimes, and just being together as a team. It's so important."
Now 27, the centre-back is operating at the peak of his powers with a Copa del Rey and 148 Liga appearances under his belt. Far from mellowing with age, he remains fiercely competitive and single-minded in his pursuit of the UEFA Europa League. "None of us are thinking about failure, the possibility of not winning," he stated. "We started playing in August and have since come a long way. We have kept up our form in the Liga and worked incredibly hard to get here. Now it's up to us to grasp this opportunity."
Indeed, Sevilla's UEFA Europa League odyssey has comprised 18 matches, starting in the third qualifying round nine months ago. In that time, Unai Emery's charges have garnered a reputation for staging comebacks, overturning first-leg deficits against Real Betis Balompié and FC Porto en route to the last four. Their propensity for drama then continued at Valencia CF as Stéphane Mbia popped up with a last-gasp strike to send his side through on away goals.
"We came back against Betis and Valencia, and have also done so in league matches. We fight till the end in every match and that's one of the reasons we are in the final," said Fazio, who will need to be at his best to contain a potent Benfica strike force. "Rodrigo and Lima are both fantastic players. They have their strengths and understand each other very well. Saying that, we have studied them as a team, not just individually. Much like us, they operate as a compact unit."
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