Nedved: Benfica worst draw for Juve
Pavel Nedved said Juventus had been given the toughest draw possible in the semifinals of the Europa League, but he remains optimistic that the Bianconeri will overcome Benfica.
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Nedved, representing the Serie A club at the draw in UEFA's headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, said Juve have "great motivation" to reach the final, which takes place in their own Juventus Stadium on May 14, and that while he had hoped to meet one of the Spanish sides remaining in the competition -- Sevilla or Valencia -- meeting last year's beaten finalists represents a difficult but not impossible challenge.
"I think it's going to be very difficult because Benfica lost the final last year and showed that they are favourites, but we have great motivation," Nedved said in La Gazzetta dello Sport. "The final is in Turin and we want to be there, even if we know it won't be easy.
"We're honouring this adventure fully. We have the slight advantage that the final will be at our home. What worries me most about Benfica is their quality and their eagerness for revenge after losing the final last year. It's going to be decided by minor things. It's a match-up of the two strongest sides left in the competition."
Nedved hopes the whole of Italy will get behind Juve, who can gain some important co-efficiency points for Serie A against their nearest rivals in UEFA's five-year rankings, Portugal.
"It's been years since there was an Italian side in the semifinals so we're going to give it our best shot, but I think the whole of Italy should be supporting us," said the 41-year-old.
Juve will play the first leg away from home before hosting Benfica on May 1 in Turin. Victory would set up a final against Spanish opponents, much to the taste of former Athletic Bilbao forward Fernando Llorente.
"I've just seen the draw," he wrote on Twitter. "I would have liked to have played in Spain, but we're going to play a Spanish side in the final! Forza juve!!"
Appena visto il sorteggio, mi sarebbe piaciuto giocare in Spagna, ma giocheremo la finale contro una squadra spagnola!forza juve!!— fernando llorente (@llorentefer19) April 11, 2014
Sevilla and Valencia both say they would prefer not to have been drawn together in the all-Spanish semifinal.
Both sides came from behind to win thrilling quarterfinal return ties on Thursday night, with Valencia beating Basel 5-0 to progress 5-3 on aggregate, and Sevilla winning 4-1 at home to Porto to eliminate the Portuguese side 4-2 over the two legs.
Friday’s draw then paired the two La Liga rivals together -- and the first leg has been scheduled for Sevilla’s Estadio Sanchez Pizjuan on Thursday April 24, with the return game at Valencia’s Mestalla on Thursday May 1.
Sevilla representative Francisco Lopez Alfaro said from the podium in Nyon that he had been hoping the two sides could have been kept apart to meet in the final instead.
"The three rivals were very difficult, I would have preferred another draw so to play them in the final," Francisco said. "We have made a great effort to get here, especially in last two ties, and we hope to get back to another final."
Valencia sporting director Francisco Rufete told Superdeporte that he also would have liked a different draw, but was nevertheless excited about the upcoming tie.
"It would have been nice for the two Spanish teams to meet in the final, but we cannot choose," Rufete said. "It is difficult. The Europa League is a great competition and these four teams could be in the Champions League. I am looking forward to a great tie and hoping to make the final."