Sevilla's young stars confident of UEFA Cup glory

May 8, 2006

Sevilla's young guns are confident they can can shoot down Middlesbrough's own Academy starlets when the teams meet in Wednesday's UEFA Cup final in Eindhoven.

The success of the Middlesbrough Academy has been one of the reasons why last week manager Steve McClaren was appointed as the next England head coach.

However, in the likes of homegrown pair Jesus Navas and Antonio Puerta, Sevilla have the youngsters who could deny McClaren a winning send-off as Boro boss.

Navas, speaking after Saturday's 2-0 Primera Liga victory over fellow Andalusians Malaga, insisted the club was now solely focused on the UEFA Cup.

The Malaga win has ensured that Sevilla will qualify for the UEFA Cup through their league position even if they lose in Eindhoven on Wednesday but Navas is not considering that possibility.

The 20-year-old told the club's official website, www.sevillafc.es: 'The team has proved itself capable of keeping the euphoria of reaching the final out of their minds these last days.

'But now the big game is coming and we will be battling for victory. I am delighted we have already qualified for the UEFA Cup as we have still two games to come against some very strong teams (Real Madrid and Barcelona).'

Puerta, a 21-year-old who like Navas is playing for his hometown club and is a youth-team product, scored the extra-time goal against Schalke secured a 1-0 aggregate win in the semi-finals.

Speaking after that match, Puerta said: 'Sevilla are getting bigger and so are my dreams along with the team. Without everyone else's support Antonio Puerta is a nobody.

'Up in heaven is my grandfather, who was a big Sevilla fan, and this goal was for him. I am a youth-team player and have been a Sevilla fan since I was little and it's hard work that has got me this far.

'I need to carry on doing that if I am to win things with Sevilla.'

Sevilla coach Juande Ramos will be able to welcome back uncompromising defender Javi Navarro, who missed the semi-final second-leg match because of suspension.

However, there are doubts over what role - if any - the club's France-born Mali international striker Frederic Kanoute will play against Boro.

Kanoute, well acquainted with Boro after playing for West Ham and Tottenham in the Premiership, returned from an injury lay-off as a substitute against Malaga but Ramos admitted he was not convinced that the 28-year-old was fit.

'He's far from the level of fitness he showed earlier in the season because he had a relapse three weeks ago and has been unable to train normally,' said Ramos.

'In the next few days we will see if we can improve his fitness because his aerial power could be very useful to see if we can use him as an extra option or in an emergency.'