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Espanyol bank on 'Little Buddha'

Iván de la Peña hopes his experience will calm nerves as he and his RCD Espanyol team-mates face "the form team in Europe" in Wednesday's UEFA Cup final.

Iván de la Peña was born in the uppermost tip of Spain, Santander, he lives in Barcelona's Zona Alta - historically the city's upper-class neighbourhood - and he has been plying his trade at or near the top of European football for ten years now.

Final experience
Given full fitness he will trot on to the Hampden Park turf on Wednesday as the most experienced European finalist among either the RCD Espanyol or Sevilla FC squads. Like his coach, Ernesto Valverde, the 31-year-old midfielder has worn the colours of both Espanyol and FC Barcelona, although his occasionally frustrating career has also taken him to S.S. Lazio and Olympique de Marseille.

'Little Buddha'
The 'Little Buddha' has UEFA Cup Winners' Cup medals from 1997 and 1999, Copa del Rey medals from 1997, 1998 and 2006 plus one Spanish and one UEFA Super Cup title to his name. He also played in the 1996 UEFA European Under-21 Championship final, losing on penalties to an Alessandro Nesta-inspired Italy. Sometimes he started those finals, sometimes he was merely on the bench, but on every occasion he soaked up experience and know-how which may be vital if Espanyol are to overcome their more fancied rivals in Glasgow.

Nervy moments
"It's understandable when you reach your first final, there will always be quite a few nerves surrounding the occasion," he told uefa.com, recalling 14 May 1997 when he and his Barcelona team-mates defeated Paris Saint-Germain FC thanks to a Ronaldo penalty in Rotterdam. "But you learn through your career that before any big game, be it a semi-final, a final or a vital league match, you will always feel adrenalin kicking in during the days and hours before kick-off. The important thing about this Espanyol side is we've reached two major cup finals in successive seasons and that proves to others, and to ourselves, we are competitive at the top level."

Sevilla steel
Renowned as one of Spain's most creative and clever users of a ball, De la Peña is comfortable joining in the general appreciation of how attractively Wednesday's opponents play football yet is keen to dispel any notion that Juande Ramos's men will be at Hampden to put style before substance. "Sevilla like to play, that is true," he smiled. "But they also press the opposition. They are very aggressive in terms of gaining possession and how they use it - a really competitive side. The fact they are still in three competitions at this stage of the season tells you that Sevilla are perhaps the form team in Europe. They will be hard to beat but it hasn't been easy getting to Espanyol's second UEFA Cup final and we intend to take full advantage. Sevilla are favourites but I've learned anything can happen in a game like this."