Juande Ramos is relishing the first leg of what could be a unique haul of trophies this season as Sevilla FC finalise their preparations to take on RCD Espanyol.
Sevilla FC coach Juande Ramos is relishing the first leg of what could be a unique treble as his side make final preparations for the defence of the UEFA Cup against RCD Espanyol.
No Spanish team has ever won a European trophy, the Primera División and the Copa del Rey in the same season, but Ramos's charges could rewrite history. With four games to go, the Andalusian club are third in Spain's top flight, two points off the summit, and they will also meet Getafe CF in the domestic cup final on 23 June. Such a schedule places extra demands on players but Ramos believes this has inspired his squad, saying: "We have a lot of matches but when you are playing for silverware on three fronts, the illusion of this and the excitement among the fans is more powerful than tired legs. After lots of lean years, this is great for the supporters."
The coach knows the Barcelona outfit better than most having had a short spell in charge there at the start of the 2002/03 campaign, yet he does not expect that knowledge to have any real significance at Hampden Park. "My time at Espanyol, five matches, isn't significant. It's neither a negative nor a positive. This season Espanyol have overcome [SL] Benfica and [Werder] Bremen in this competition. They've put a lot of effort into the UEFA Cup at the expense of their league campaign and having come so far and dedicated so much to getting here it would be huge for them to win. They have a lot of ambition and spirit and also have the extra motiviation of having lost a final a while ago [in 1988]. To lose this would hurt them a lot."
Twelve months ago Sevilla swept to victory against Middlesbrough FC in Eindhoven, although according to Ramos another final brings a totally new challenge. "Perhaps this is more difficult for us than last year because we're considered favourites," he said. "I don't really think that's true, Espanyol are a very strong team and have had a great campaign in Europe. The worry is that, in a one-off, they might be more up for it on the night. We have to play our best football and not allow them to surprise us. There will be less capacity for that as we know each other well, but neither team will be interested in playing for penalties. We'll both be going out to win; we won't change our approach and an early goal should really open up the game."