On Wednesday, May 14, 2014 (11:45 AM Pacific), Sevilla will take on SL Benfica at the Juventus Stadium in Turin for the UEFA Europa League final, in a match with an unpredictable outcome between the last campaign’s finalist, SL Benfica, and a surprising Sevilla side that got their ticket to the final thanks to a last minute goal from the Cameroonian international midfielder, Stéphane Mbia.
The former European champions, SL Benfica, arrive at the final for the second time in a row, hoping to put an end to Béla Gutman’s “curse” once and for all. After winning two European Champions Cups with the Lisbon back in the early 1960s, the Hungarian manager “cursed” the club, claiming that not in a hundred years’ time Benfica would win another European trophy. Until today, Gutman’s evil spell seems to have prevented the Portuguese club from winning any major European competitions, but they were came very close to achieve such trophies several times.
Jorge Jesus’ Benfica left pundits stranded after having eliminated Juventus on the semi-finals and although the Italian side’s officials keep claiming they were unlucky and that they deserved a different outcome on both matches, the truth is that Benfica put up two quality performances, first at Lisbon and later at Turin, and arrived to the final with full credit.
The semi-finals second leg at Juventus Stadium, however, limited Jorge Jesus’ player choices for the final. With Enzo Pérez, Toto Salvio, and Lazar Markovic suspended and with Ljubomir Fejsa injured, the Portuguese manager will need to reinvent his midfield line if he wants to stand a chance against Sevilla’s powerful midfield quartet.
As for Sevilla, the Andalusian side has suffered a lot to grant their presence in the Turin final. After beating Valencia at Sánchez Pizjuan 2-0 for the first leg of the semi-finals, the Sevillistas were thrown against the ropes at Mestalla by a mighty Juan Antonio Pizzi’s Valencia that controlled the entire match but was caught up by surprise on the 94th minute with a goal from Stéphane Mbia.
On opposition to Benfica’s almost flawless career at the Europa League, Sevilla’s path was ripe with ups and downs as the team failed to win any of their last three away matches.
Unai Emery’s side, on the other hand, looked far stronger when playing at home in front of their fans, as they won all three last matches, thus granting their ticket to final.
The Spanish manager has tried different tactical approaches throughout the competition, since he opted for an attacking 4-4-2 style when playing at home and for a more conservative counter-attacked based 4-2-3-1 style when playing away from Sánchez Pizjuan. It will certainly be interesting to see how he will build his team to play against a Benfica side that remains faithful to their 4-4-2 style from the very beginning.
For the Turin final, Unai Emery will not be able to count on Jairo Samperio, who is suspended, and on Sebastián Cristóforo and Denis Cheryshev, who are both sidelined due to injury.
Tomorrow’s match will not be an easy one for any of the teams, since both of them will try to add more silverware to their trophy rooms. Sevilla want their third UEFA Europa League/UEFA Cup trophy and Benfica not only want to put an end to Béla Gutman’s “curse” and to grab the third UEFA major trophy of their history, but they also want to return to victories against Spanish teams on international competitions, something that hasn’t happened in last 32 years. That being said, the most likely outcome is 2-1 for SL Benfica.
SL Benfica (4-4-2) – Oblak – Maxi Pereira – Garay – Luisão – Siqueira – R. Amorim – André Gomes – Gaitán – Sulejmani – Rodrigo – Lima
Sevilla (4-2-3-1) – Beto – Figueiras – N. Pareja – Fazio – F.Navarro – Carriço – Mbia – Rakitic – Reyes – Vitolo – Bacca
Venue: Juventus Stadium
Capacity: 41 000
Referee: Felix Brych
TV Schedule: Fox Sports 1 USA