Sevilla FC begin their UEFA Cup defence with their in-form striker Frédéric Kanouté telling uefa.com "our start to the season could not have been better".
Sevilla FC begin their defence of the UEFA Cup with a potentially tricky trip to Greece to take on Atromitos FC in Athens tonight with the Spanish side, and in particular striker Frédéric Kanouté, in buoyant mood having started the season in exhilarating fashion.
The Malian international has scored in each of his team's first three matches of the campaign, most notably in the UEFA Super Cup victory against UEFA Champions League winners and Primera División title-holders FC Barcelona in Monaco at the end of August. That strike, Sevilla's second in a 3-0 triumph, made Kanouté only the third man to score in two UEFA finals in a year since the UEFA Super Cup became a one-off event nine years ago - and the first to finish on the winning side in Monaco with Raúl González (2000) and Pierre van Hooijdonk (2002) both registering in a losing cause. His team-mate Enzo Maresca then achieved the same feat with a last-minute penalty at the Stade Louis II to add to his late double in Eindhoven.
"We couldn't have started our season any better," Kanouté told uefa.com having also found the net in Primera División successes against Levante UD and Real Sociedad de Fútbol. "Winning the UEFA Cup at the end of last season was a great experience for us and we mean to carry that on. We worked hard over the summer and everything we planned and practised has come off, which is particularly pleasing. Collectively this is a very strong group of players. We finished last season really well and we must look to build on that. We've already started well and now we have to continue in the same manner."
'Beat the best'
Sevilla had never appeared in a UEFA final before overwhelming Middlesbrough FC 4-0 in Eindhoven in May and, having produced a similiarly dominant display to defeat Barça, have proved their credentials for the big occasion. "Winning two UEFA finals in the space of a few months is great for this team and scoring in both games is a huge personal achievement," the 29-year-old went on. "These victories are great and I'm delighted to be part of this success. In each of the two finals, we've played as well as we can and stopped the opposition from playing - when you do that, you can beat the best teams."
European debutants Atromitos will pose a different challenge for Kanouté - who will assume even greater responsibility in the absence of Luis Fabiano - but it is one he is relishing. "We're looking forward to starting our defence of the UEFA Cup. It was a great adventure last year and it's going to be hard to repeat that, but we'll try. I expect it to be harder this season as teams will recognise us as more of a threat and perhaps will be more cautious against us. When you win things, that is what happens and we must be ready to deal with it." The first indication of how Sevilla are coping will come at the Georgios Kamaras stadium this evening.