Valencia slight favourite in final

Associated Press

Goteborg, May 18:

Valencia and Marseille are both hoping to win their first UEFA Cup trophy as the two teams clash at Ullevi stadium on Wednesday. Valencia, which recently won the Spanish championship, is the favourite heading into the game in Goteborg, Sweden’s second largest city, but the French side is boosted by the return from injury of striker Didier Drogba. “We know this team (Valencia) is stronger than us on paper,” Marseille coach Jose Anigo said at a news conference. “We know we will really have to fight if we want to win.” Drogba, with 11 goals in the Champions League and UEFA Cup this season, has recovered from a hip injury and is fit to play, Anigo said.

“He’s a great player,” Valencia captain David Albelda said of the Ivory Coast striker. “Marseille has a very dangerous weapon in him, but I think we’re prepared for that. The French players studied their rivals in videotape recordings Tuesday morning. “We found some weak spots which we’ll try to take advantage of. But it’s not for nothing that they are Spanish champions,” Anigo said. Valencia midfielder Ruben Baraja said he hoped the team wouldn’t be affected by its failure in its last two European finals — the Champions League of 2000 and 2001 when it lost to Real Madrid and Bayern Munich respectively.

“I hope the two previous finals don’t take their toll,” Baraja was quoted as saying by leading Spanish sports daily Marca on Tuesday. “After winning the league we haven’t got the pressure we’d have if it was just a one-off.” Valencia’s veteran Italian left back Amedeo Carboni, 39, who missed the 2000 final through suspension but played a year later, said he was sure Valencia would win. “They say third time lucky and let’s hope it’s true. I’m excited and enthusiastic and I’ve got good vibrations about this final,” Carboni was quoted as saying by daily As.

The Italian defender is set to make his 100th appearance in UEFA club competitions. If Valencia wins, Carboni, 38, would become the oldest player to win a European cup final.

Valencia has no injury worries other than the long-term absences of Brazilian wing back Fabio Aurelio and reserve goalie Andres Palop. Three players are in the running for two of the team’s three attacking midfield slots — Argentine international Pablo Aimar, Miguel Angel Angulo and former Spanish international Francisco Perez Rufete. Vicente Rodriguez is an automatic choice. Marseille won the Champions League final in 1993 but has never won the UEFA Cup. Valencia won the Inter Cities Fairs Cup, the UEFA Cup’s predecessor, in 1962 and 1963.