Former SL Benfica defender Ezequiel Garay is seeking to reach his third straight UEFA Europa League final, this time with FC Zenit as they face PSV Eindhoven.
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Argentina defender Ezequiel Garay hopes FC Zenit's 2008 UEFA Cup win can inspire the Russian side and help him reach his third successive UEFA Europa League final as André Villas-Boas's men look to write a new chapter in Europe this season.
The 28-year-old joined the Zenitchiki from SL Benfica last summer after appearing in back-to-back UEFA Europa League finals – losing to Chelsea FC in 2013 and Sevilla FC in 2014 – and helping the Portuguese club to their first domestic treble last term. His performances for the Eagles earned him a place in the 2013/14 UEFA Europa League squad of the season.
The former Real Racing Club and Real Madrid CF player has not been overawed by two UEFA final defeats and aspires to get to the UEFA Europa League showpiece in Warsaw in May. "I enjoyed those finals, one against Chelsea and one against Sevilla – they are something I will never forget," he said. "If I make the final with Zenit, it would be my third consecutive final, and that would mean something."
Garay suffered more heartache before his move to Russia as part of the Argentina team that lost the 2014 FIFA World Cup final to Germany. "Unfortunately we lost the final, so the things you enjoyed and felt before [that match] are gone, especially playing in Brazil and at the Maracanã. But that was my nicest memory."
Zenit exited the UEFA Champions League after finishing third in Group C and now face 1978 UEFA Cup winners PSV Eindhoven in the UEFA Europa League round of 32. "PSV are top of the Dutch league," said the centre-back ahead of Thursday's trip to the Netherlands. "They are a strong team with quality players, especially in midfield and attack."
PSV forward Memphis Depay, who has scored six times in seven appearances in Europe this campaign, will pose a threat to Zenit's qualification prospects. Yet the Rosario-born Garay warns against concentrating on any individual opponent.
"They're a big team with great players, so we have to focus on the team and not on one player. That's how we are training: trying to do things in the best way possible, so that they'll create as little danger as possible."