João Moutinho lost one European final with Sporting Clube de Portugal and is desperate to avoid the same fate when the FC Porto juggernaut comes up against SC Braga.
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A UEFA Cup runner-up with Sporting Clube de Portugal in 2005, João Moutinho wants a happy return to the European final stage with FC Porto – while goalkeeper Helton hopes for similar because Wednesday is his birthday.
The only Porto player to have contested a continental showpiece, Moutinho is doubly determined to take the opportunity available in Wednesday's UEFA Europa League decider. Part of the Sporting team defeated 3-1 by PFC CSKA Moskva six years ago, the Portugal midfielder wishes to make amends against an SC Braga side which, curiously, features several of his former Lions team-mates.
"I hope this time I manage to win the thing; we've worked hard all season for this," Moutinho said at Tuesday's press conference at the Dublin Arena. "I've spoken to some of the Braga boys who played alongside me in 2005 [Custódio, Hugo Viana and Miguel Garcia] – in fact, I've even made a friendly bet with Miguel Garcia. But we can't compare what happened then with this final – then I was unable to win with Sporting, now I want a happy ending with Porto."
The 24-year-old, one of three ever-presents in the Dragons' 14 UEFA Europa League games since the play-offs – alongside Helton and striker Hulk – has been a key feature of their memorable campaign. He expects a final to remember. "It could be a great match – there's two teams who have had great seasons in Europe and who are now really motivated about achieving their goal."
With the Portuguese Super Cup and Liga title won already, Moutinho is certainly unlikely to forget his first year in northern Portugal, having left Sporting in a €12m deal last summer. His captain Helton is more familiar with Porto victory parades, having been at the club since 2005. Any such celebration in the Irish capital would make complete the Porto captain's 33rd birthday. He is taking nothing for granted though.
"It is going to be a real test for us," the former Brazilian international warned. "I am delighted to be playing this final because every player dreams of games like these. But now we have to earn the right to win and then celebrate."
Tired legs, he stressed, will not be a concern for André Villas-Boas's men, despite this being their 57th competitive outing of 2010/11. "Our will to win ultimately determines our physical condition," Helton said. "We are talking about a final and you overcome any obstacle – I'm sure we're prepared for any situation. Braga are a good side but we're here to win."