Sevilla striker Fernando Llorente will continue his quest for European glory after two near misses when he faces boyhood club Athletic Bilbao on Thursday.
The all-Spanish first-leg tie at San Mames is Sevilla’s latest stop in their bid to win an unprecedented third consecutive Europa League title.
But Llorente’s experiences in showpiece finals are somewhat different to those of his team-mates, having played in the Athletic side that fell short against Atletico Madrid in the 2012 Europa League final before becoming a Champions League runner-up for Juventus against Barcelona last season.
“I really want [to win the Europa League],” the 31-year-old told UEFA.com. “Both the Europa League and the Champions League finals were good experiences but had a bad outcome.
“It’s like a thorn in your side that you want to remove but you never know when you might have the chance. I hope it happens this season.
“Sevilla have a real desire to win this competition. It would be unique and quite incredible, because I don’t think any team have done it three years in a row.
“I’m really enjoying this competition – it brings back wonderful memories of my Athletic days – as are my team-mates who have had such success in the Europa League.”
Llorente has not featured since Seville overcame Basel in the round of 16, sitting out Liga defeats to Real Madrid and Real Sociedad as an unused substitute.
But he will push for inclusion alongside playmaker Yevhen Konoplyanka and midfielder Steven N’Zonzi after the duo returned from respective hamstring and calf problems against Sociedad.
Llorente’s departure to Juventus cemented Aritz Aduriz’s place as Athletic’s premier striker and the veteran is revelling in the role this season, with his exploits in becoming the Europa League’s top scorer contributing to a recall to the Spanish national team.
Athletic and Sevilla are currently level on points in La Liga and the historical head-to-head leaves little to choose between the pair, with Sevilla edging the victory count by 64-63, with 31 games drawn.
“It was a surprise having to face the club where I started playing but it will be nice,” Llorente added.
“It will be strange as well, though, because I spent 17 wonderful years of my life in Bilbao. I am proud to have come through a big club like Athletic. It was always an honour to play for them.”
Athletic will be without Aymeric Laporte after the France Under-21 centre-back suffered a broken leg and dislocated ankle on international duty that will sideline him for four months.
Key Opta stats:
– Athletic won the last cup tie between the two teams, 4-2 on aggregate in the 2009 Copa del Rey semi-final.
– Sevilla are without an away win in La Liga this season (D9 L6) and also in European competition (D1 L4).
– Fernando Llorente is the all-time European top scorer for Athletic Bilbao with 16 goals.
– Athletic are unbeaten in their last seven European ties at San Mames, winning five.
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