As FC Shakhtar Donetsk and Werder Bremen vie to become the 38th and final team to win the UEFA Cup, the coaches of both sides in Istanbul are fully expecting to bring the curtain down on the competition in style.
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Hanging on the walls at the entrance to the Şükrü Saraçoğlu Stadium in Istanbul are a series of posters depicting the winners of each UEFA Cup final stretching back to Tottenham Hotspur FC's inaugural triumph in 1972. As FC Shakhtar Donetsk and Werder Bremen vie to become the 38th and last name to be added to that honours list before the competition becomes the UEFA Europa League, an era is coming to a close and the coaches of both sides expect to bring the curtain down in style.
"I'm sure we'll see an exciting game between teams with two different styles," Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu said. "Bremen are always attack-minded, they are a very physical team. Our style is based on our skill which we'll try to use to take control of the game." His opposite number Thomas Schaff called for a show of courage, explaining: "We have to be assertive. It will be a hot match but a final is never easy and we're happy to face this challenge."
The finalists have been doing that all campaign. Both were pushed to the limit against domestic rivals FC Dynamo Kyiv and Hamburger SV respectively in the semi-finals and having got this far Lucescu is enjoying the moment. "I'm very happy to return to Istanbul," said the Romanian, who won the Turkish title with both Galatasaray AŞ and Beşiktaş JK. "I love this city. Playing in the UEFA Cup final is a dream for any player and I'm happy mine have fulfilled it."
Winning, of course, remains the ultimate goal, a habit to which Shakhtar have grown accustomed; they come into the game having won 23 of their last 27 games in all competitions and ten of their last eleven. It is a far cry from Bremen, who have struggled for consistency and whose 3-1 home defeat by the Bundesliga's bottom side Karslruher SC on Saturday was not ideal preparation for their most important match of their season. In addition, Schaaf has been hampered by injuries as well as the suspension of talisman Diego.
Striker Hugo Almeida is also banned and with centre-back Per Mertesacker injured, the coach's choices are limited. Mesut Özil will take on the playmaker's duties with Alexandros Tziolis coming in on the left side of midfield. Captain Frank Baumann faces a late fitness test, although injury doubts Claudio Pizarro and Markus Rosenberg should play, while Sebastian Prödl will partner Naldo in central defence. "You can't replace those players on a one-to-one basis but we'll make the most of our squad; we have good quality there," Schaaf said.
Lucescu can name a near full-strength side. With Jadson fit again, suspended midfielder Tomáš Hübschman is the only absentee and Mariusz Lewandowski is likely to replace him. For Shakhtar, reaching the UEFA Cup final represents more the start of an era than the end of one. It is their first European final and they are the first Ukrainian side since independence in 1991 to contest such a showpiece. Bremen, meanwhile, are determined to claim a second European trophy to add to the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup they won in 1992. The UEFA Cup is coming to an end, but for these sides the drama is just beginning.