5 things to know about the Europa League final

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 13, 2014 at 1:49 pm •  Published: May 13, 2014
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TURIN, Italy (AP) — Looking for its first European club title in 52 years, Benfica will play Sevilla on Wednesday in the Europa League final.

The Portuguese club, which won back-to-back European Cup titles in 1961-62, has lost seven straight finals, including last year's Europa League final.

Sevilla will be aiming to win UEFA's second-tier competition for the third time in nine seasons, and complete Spain's sweep of the major continental titles.

The winner of Wednesday's match will also be rewarded with playing the Champions League winner — either Real Madrid or Atletico Madrid — in the season-opening UEFA Super Cup in August in Cardiff, Wales.

Here are five things to know about the Europa League final:

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THREE-TIME CHAMPION

Both clubs are seeking to win a third major European title, though from very different histories.

Benfica won its European Cup trophies in the early 60s when, inspired by forward Eusebio, it was a finalist five times in eight seasons.

Now, the Portuguese club has a streak of seven straight losses in continental finals stretching back to the 1963 European Cup.

"It's folklore, we're going to have to break that curse," Benfica coach Jorge Jesus said of the losing run. "We came close last year and now we again have a chance to this year.

"It motivates us further, gives us strength, so we can lay to rest that ghost. It's going to have to be broken sometime, let's hope tomorrow will be that time."

Sevilla is relatively new on the big stage, never having reached a European final until the 2006 UEFA Cup. The Spanish club also started with back-to-back titles, retaining the second-tier trophy which was rebranded as the Europa League two years later.

Wednesday's match is the first between the teams since both made UEFA competition debuts in a September 1957 preliminary round of the European Cup. Sevilla won 3-1 at home and advanced after a 0-0 draw in Lisbon.

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ROADS TO TURIN

Both clubs took roundabout routes to the final, and neither was even entered in the Europa League at the end of last season.

Financial problems at two other Spanish clubs let in Sevilla, which had finished ninth in the league, two places and six points behind city rival Real Betis. Sixth-place Malaga and eighth-place Rayo Vallecano were denied entry licenses and failed with offseason appeals.

Sevilla stepped up and on Aug. 1 beat Mladost Podgorica of Montenegro in the third qualifying round to begin a 19-match trek that ends in Turin.

"The path to this final has been really long but it has been wonderful too," Sevilla coach Unai Emery said. "It has been a success just being here ... Tomorrow we can grow a little bit more, but we have grown over the whole path."

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