LYON (Reuters) - Olympique de Marseille are the only French team to have won the Champions League and are now hoping to do the same in the less glamorous Europa League to continue what coach Rudi Garcia described as a “long-lasting love story” in Europe.
Garcia’s side will be outsiders as they face Atletico Madrid in Wednesday’s Europa League final in Lyon, a quarter of a century after the club’s 1-0 win over AC Milan in the 1993 Champions League final.
“This is the 25th anniversary of the only win of a French team in the Champions League,” Garcia told reporters.
“We have a long-lasting love story with the European cups which goes back to the nineties. We all want to imitate what our famous predecessors did although we know it’s going to be very difficult and quite a mission, but that would make it even more of a sensation if we win tomorrow.”
French teams have lost four times in the Europa League and its predecessor the UEFA Cup — Marseille themselves on two occasions, Corsican side Bastia once and Girondins Bordeaux once. The only other French team to have won a European trophy are Paris St Germain, in the extinct Cup Winners Cup.
Garcia accepted that his side were outsiders.
“We know they have a lot of experience, they have played three European finals in six years, two in the Champions League,” he said.
“They came into this tournament from the Champions League while we had to go through qualifying,” added Garcia, whose side began the road to the final in the third qualifying round against Oostende.
“They have more experience than us, but it feels like anything is possible when it’s just one game.”
Garcia said that he was sad that Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone would not be prowling the touchline as the Argentine serves the second game of a four-match touchline ban.
“It’s always hard for a coach to be kept away from your players, it would be an idea to find another solution that doesn’t isolate the coaches on match day,” Garcia said.
“It’s a shame he is suspended, and it will be very difficult for them. I am very disappointed, it would have been a great moment to be together.
“It doesn’t take anything away from the tremendous coach he is,” added Garcia. “He has done a great job for Atletico Madrid, which has been a major actor for years now.”
Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Christian Radnedge