Tue, May 20, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Glasgow Celtic, FC Porto to meet in UEFA Cup final

AP , SEVILLE, SPAIN

FC Porto and Glasgow Celtic, both former Champions Cup winners, will be hoping to lift a new European trophy tomorrow when they meet in the UEFA Cup final at the Olympic Stadium.

Porto won the Champions Cup in 1987 by beating Bayern Munich 2-1 in Vienna. It won the European Super Cup the same year.

Celtic celebrated its only European triumph 36 years ago when it defeated Inter Milan 2-1 in Lisbon to become the first British club to win the Champions Cup. The Scottish side's only other final came in 1970 when it lost 2-1 to Feyenoord in the same competition.

On Wednesday, Porto is a slight favorite thanks to a memorable season which could bring it three trophies.

The Dragons have already clinched the Portuguese league title and play Leiria in the Portuguese Cup final on June 15.

Much of the credit for the success is owed to coach Jose Mourinho, who took charge in January 2002.

"I'm not claiming that we're unbeatable, but on a given day we have the quality to win anywhere," said Mourinho, who prior to his arrival at Porto lasted just three months at Benfica.

On the field, Porto's inspiration comes from midfielder Deco, a Brazilian who has taken Portuguese nationality and now plays for his adopted country's national team.

"Deco is a truly world class player. Not only does he produce great individual brilliance; he offers so much to the team. He is a superb passer and has a competitive personality," Mourinho said.

Celtic has also been revitalized by its coach, Belfast-born Martin O'Neill, who took charge in 2000 when the club languished in the shadows of crosstown rival Rangers.

O'Neill guided Celtic to a treble of Scotland's league, cup and league cup in his first season and followed up with another league title last year. Celtic could make it three titles in a row if it emerges triumphant from a tense title run-in with Rangers this season.

The Northern Irishman, whose success has made him a contender to succeed Manchester United's Alex Ferguson, described Porto as "a top-class side."

"We will treat Porto with all the respect that it deserves. But we have got players who can play and are strong mentally and who have ability. We are far from the finished article, but that's what we will strive to be," O'Neill said.

Mourinho's faith in his team led him recently to state that he is already planning for the European Super Cup, which pits the winner of the UEFA Cup with the Champions Cup titlist.

"We will take Celtic on in every department and our superiority will shine through," the coach said.

O'Neill said he had grown used to his team's chances being written off.

"We've had that every single time we've played a fixture, none more recently than Boavista (in the semifinals), who said they would come and take us apart. But we are in the final and they're out. If he thinks all those things then good luck to him -- I can't do anything about it," the Celtic coach said.

Porto reached the final by overcoming Polonia Warsaw, Austria Vienna, Lens, Denizlispor, Panathinaikos and Lazio.

Celtic, which entered the UEFA Cup after being eliminated by FC Basel in the Champions League qualifying round, has knocked out Suduva, Blackburn, Celta de Vigo, VfB Stuttgart, Liverpool and Boavista.

The finalists boast the top scorers in this season's competition. Porto's Brazilian forward Derlei has scored 10, while Celtic's Swedish striker Henrik Larsson has one less, level with Wisla Krakow's Maciej Zurawski.

This story has been viewed 2546 times.
TOP top