There were mixed fortunes for the UEFA Cup finalists at the weekend as Middlesbrough FC were beaten and Sevilla FC secured a place in next season's competition.
There were mixed fortunes for the two UEFA Cup finalists in their final domestic games before the showpiece event in Eindhoven on Wednesday. Middlesbrough FC were beaten in their last English Premiership match, while Sevilla FC secured a place in next season's UEFA Cup with victory against Málaga CF.
Fulham FC 1-0 Middlesbrough FC
Steve McClaren was unable to guide his Middlesbrough team to victory in his last Premiership game in charge before he takes the reins of the England national team. With one eye on Wednesday, McClaren named a young side with ten of the starting eleven having come through the club's academy system. One such player, Lee Cattermole, was handed the honour of becoming Middlesbrough's youngest ever captain aged 18.
Striker Danny Graham thought he had given the visitors the lead just after half-time, only for the 20-year-old's effort to be ruled out for handball, while the only legitimate goal of the game was scored from the penalty spot by Fulham's Heidar Helguson following a foul by David Wheater. McClaren remained positive despite the defeat and a 14th-place Premiership finish. "It was an historic day for the club. The performance by the young players was incredible," he said.
"Fifteen of the 16 were born within 30 miles of the club and everyone will remember this for a long, long time. Some of the football was excellent. I was proud to become England manager on Wednesday and I was as proud today." McClaren is hopeful of a return for goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer for the trip to Eindhoven, with the Australian making good progress following a fractured cheekbone. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Gareth Southgate (both hamstring) could also return however, Gaizka Mendieta (foot) and Emanuel Pogatetz (broken cheekbone) are definitely out.
Málaga CF 0-2 Sevilla FC
Sevilla made sure of a place in the UEFA Cup next season with victory against Málaga before turning their attention to this year's final. Juande Ramos made it clear before the match that he wanted to travel to Eindhoven with no distractions and the coach was delighted after his side came away from La Rosaleda with a 2-0 victory. "The most important thing has been that the team has reached what was a very difficult target with two games of the season remaining. Now we have the luxury of being able to focus exclusively on the final," said Ramos.
The coach took the decision to rest several key players for the trip to Málaga as he left Javi Navarro, Daniel Alves, David Castedo and Enzo Maresca out of the squad. The move paid off as Renato opened the scoring for Sevilla after 18 minutes when he picked up a clearance and fired it past Francesc Arnau from outside the area. The scoring was completed in the final minute when Jordi López picked out Fernando Sales and the midfielder cut inside his marker before slotting the visitors' second goal into the net.
Striker Frédéric Kanouté is Sevilla's only injury doubt for Wednesday's final. The Malian international played for 21 minutes against Málaga having missed the last three weeks with a foot injury, but Ramos is still unsure if he will be fit for the trip to the Netherlands. "He's far from the level of fitness he showed earlier in the season because he had a relapse three weeks ago and has been unable to train normally," the coach explained.