Spanish flair should light up UEFA Cup final

GLASGOW (Reuters) - Hampden Park is set to stage a Spanish fiesta on Wednesday as UEFA Cup holders Sevilla defend their trophy against Primera Liga rivals Espanyol.

Nineteen points separate title-chasing Sevilla and mid-table Espanyol in the Primera Liga but the Catalans have been in imperious form in Europe, reaching their first continental final since 1988 by winning 11 and drawing three of their 14 games en route to Glasgow.

Should his side triumph, Sevilla coach Juande Ramos will follow in the footsteps of Luis Molowny and win UEFA Cups in successive seasons. Molowny guided Real to back-to-back UEFA Cup victories in 1985 and 1986.

“We are quietly confident. Espanyol will have to play well and play hard to beat us,” Ramos told reporters.

“The element of surprise will not be there of course. But I don’t think we will settle for 0-0 or go out to play for 120 minutes or a penalty shootout. We will go for an early goal and if there is one the game will open up, and it could be a spectacular match.”

Ramos said his side’s chase for glory on three fronts -- they have also reached the King’s Cup final and are third in the Primera Liga, two points behind leaders Real Madrid -- was spurring a tired squad on.

“It’s a long but very attractive season for us, the players are tired but the chance of winning three competitions gives them that extra motivation to do the best they can.”


Espanyol coach Ernesto Valverde has exuded quiet confidence in the build-up and promised his free-scoring side, who have hit 32 goals, would not change their swift counter-attacking style.

“We must be able to handle the tension and rise above any difficulties in the match. We believe we can handle the pressure. Eleven wins and three draws out of 14 speaks for itself,” he said.

“We have to play just as we have played in getting to the final. We will have to try and impose out style on the game.”

Both sides have sold their full allocation of 13,500 tickets and a near-capacity crowd of 63,000 is expected.

Whichever team wins, Spain will establish a new record with a 29th European club title in the European Cup/Champions League, Cup Winners Cup or UEFA/Fairs Cup.

Spain currently shares the lead with England on 28. Spain will also set a record of 11 victories in the UEFA/Fairs Cup.

Probable teams:

Espanyol: 1-Gorka Iraizoz; 8-Pablo Zabaleta, 21-Daniel Jarque, 19-Marc Torrejon, 3-David Garcia; 18-Franciso Rufete, 9-Ivan de la Pena, 22-Moises Hurtado, 11-Albert Riera; 23-Raul Tamudo, 7-Walter Pandiani.

Sevilla: 1-Andres Palop; 4-Daniel Alves, 2-Javi Navarro, 19-Ivica Dragutinovic, 3-David Castedo; 15-Jesus Navas, 8-Christian Poulsen, 11-Renato, 16-Antonio Puerta or 6-Adriano Correia; 10-Luis Fabiano, 12-Frederic Kanoute.

Referee: Massimo Busacca (Switzerland)