If you believe in spooky tales, ghost stories, hexes or jazz like we love to call it in Nigeria and all those sorts, then this story will definitely be right up your alley. Some half a century ago, legendary Benfica coach Bela Guttman the man who signed legendary player Eusebio placed a curse on his employers after he left Benfica due to a pay dispute. This after he led the club to back to back European cups in 1961 and 1962. His famours words were that Benfica won’t win a European trophy for the next 100 years. Since he made that statement, it has been 7 European finals for Benfica with no win. 1963, 1965, 1968, 1983, 1988, 1990 and more recently last season’s Europa League final where they lost to a last gasp Branislav Ivanovic header to lose 2-1 to Chelsea. Last season was all the more painful as Benfica were in the hunt for a treble. They lost the League to Porto and the Portuguese cup final to Vitoria Guimaraes. This season, they have bounced back in style. After suffering ‘relegation’ from the group stages of the Champions league, they’ve been simply unstoppable. They’ve already wrapped up the league and are the only side to get to the final of the Europa League without losing a single match with 6 wins and 2 draws from their 8 games in the competition. Next weekend, they take on Rio Ave in the Portuguese cup. It could well be a very rosy season for Benfica if they can break the Guttman curse as they take on Sevilla in the final of the Europa League tonight in Turin.
- Sevilla have surprised their staunchest of critics this season. After sanctioning sales of key personell Jesus Navas, Alvaro Negredo and Gary Medel during the summer, many people wrote off Unai Emery’s men. In their absence, others have stepped up to the plate. Kevin Gameiro has replaced Alvaro Negredo’s goals with 21 to his name this term. Ivan Rakitic and Carlos Bacca have also had stellar seasons. They currently lie 5th in the Spanish La Liga 9 points behind 4th place Athletico Bilbao and are already guaranteed European football for next season. Sevilla will head to today’s Europa League final feeling luck must be on their side after Stephane Mbia’s very late header saw his side prevail over Valencia in the semi finals when many thought they were already dead and buried. They will be hoping Bela Guttman’s ‘curse’ will still be in full effect tonight as they file out in Turin.
Quick Stat: Benfica are winless against Iberian opposition in 32 years. A run that stretches 14 games. Footynyx