Ernesto Valverde is relishing "the highest point" of his coaching career as he prepares his RCD Espanyol side to face Sevilla FC in the UEFA Cup final this evening.
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Ernesto Valverde is relishing "the highest point" of his coaching career as he prepares his RCD Espanyol side to face Sevilla FC in the UEFA Cup final.
'Desperate to win'
The 43-year-old was part of the team that reached the 1988 final, but feels the all-Spanish affair at Glasgow's Hampden Park is his biggest achievement – to date at least. "It is the best thing you can hope for as a coach and as a club," he said. "To win a European trophy is the highest point you can reach. Of course, you hope to be challenging for leagues and cups in the future, but for us right now this is the biggest game we'll have. We are in a decisive moment, a life-changing moment in some ways, and we all know it. We are desperate to win."
Espanyol and Sevilla are both in their second UEFA Cup finals but here the similarities end. Whereas Sevilla are involved for the second consecutive campaign and lifted the UEFA Super Cup last August, their opponents last participated in a fixture of this magnitude 19 years ago. Valverde is confident they can meet the demands of the occasion, however, saying: "Pressure is a good thing because it makes you concentrate. We have had a great time in this competition – winning eleven games and drawing three – and we hope to finish the job. You have to be motivated by the pressure of an occasion like this. All the fans are relying on us, but this is the kind of pressure you want as it helps you to win. I would love to be going out on that pitch."
The match is only the seventh UEFA Cup showpiece to feature clubs from the same country yet Valverde does not expect that extra familiarity to make for a more cautious contest. "We have to try and impose our style, they'll do the same and I don't think either team will change particularly to suit this occasion," he said. "Given the season Sevilla are having – aiming to win three trophies – they are favourites, but there are never really favourites in a final. What worries me most is their fast tempo and the mood they are in. They are very confident, and very good at what they do. But my players are thinking only one thing: doing all they can to win. The pressure is on but in a good and positive way and hopefully it'll be a great occasion, especially for Espanyol."