Rakitic hopeful of Europa League glory
TURIN -- Sevilla captain Ivan Rakitic says he has not been dreaming about lifting the Europa League, but is optimistic he can get his hands on the trophy for real on Wednesday.
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Rakitic, 26, will lead out Sevilla in his first continental final against Benfica in Turin, and is likely to be key to his side's hopes of winning the competition for a third time.
The Croatia playmaker has arguably been Sevilla's outstanding player this season, scoring three goals in 17 Europa League games -- including one in the quarterfinal victory over Porto -- and his performances are believed to have attracted the attention of some of Europe's elite clubs, including Manchester United.
But Rakitic is focused only on the Europa League final for now, as Unai Emery's side look to overcome their Portuguese opponents.
When asked if he had dreamed about winning the trophy, Rakitic told Sevilla's prematch news conference: "No, I don't want to dream about it, I want to experience it. I'm not putting myself under pressure, I want to enjoy the game. God willing, we will win tomorrow and I will be more than ready, more than willing to lift the trophy. We shouldn't dream, we should have it in real life."
Rakitic and his teammates have come under some criticism of late as Sevilla's long season -- which has seen them play 58 games since Aug. 1 -- has appeared to take its toll, but the club captain said he was unworried by such comments, before defending his colleagues.
"We have to learn from criticism, to use it to improve," Rakitic said. "I'm not more important than the team. I don't care if everyone says I'm really bad but the team is what is important. I hope my teammates know that I always give my best... It's not about a single player, a single hero -- all of us play a really important role. We are going to do our best to play a perfect match and do our best to.
"The media says we are not physically fit but we are, we are physically fit, and we are psychologically fit. We've worked very hard all year to be fit and give 100 percent in every match. Like everywhere there are good and bad games. I can assure that tomorrow we will play a very good game. We are ready, willing and want to play the best match of our lives."
Rakitic's teammate Federico Fazio was playing for Sevilla's B-team when the club won the Europa League's predecessor, the UEFA Cup, in 2007, and he urged his fellow players to savour the occasion.
"The most important thing is to enjoy not only the game, but every single minute. This is what allows us to reach success," Fazio said.
"None of us are thinking about failure, we are not considering the possibility of not winning. In August we started playing in this competition and we have been able to win many matches to be here today. We have also won in the Spanish league as well, every Sunday we have fought to be where we are now.
"We know this and we will take any opportunity we have to win. We came back against Betis, Valencia and but we have won other games. We fight every match. We are going to enjoy it."