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Soccer-Benfica and Juventus meet after 21-year wait

Reuters

April 22 (Reuters) - Benfica and Juventus, two great clubs hoping to end long waits for a European trophy, meet for the first time in more than 20 years in their Europa League semi-final first leg on Thursday.

Hosts Benfica, who have just won their domestic league, have not lifted a continental trophy since winning the old European Cup in 1962. Juventus, on course for a third successive Serie A title, have not added any major European silverware to their trophy cabinet since the Champions League in 1996.

Despite their long traditions in European football, the teams have met only twice before, in the 1968 European Cup semi-finals and the 1992/93 UEFA Cup quarter-finals, when the current Juventus coach Antonio Conte played in both legs of a 4-2 aggregate win for the Italians.

Both teams are unbeaten in the Europa League since they parachuted into the competition after finishing third in their respective Champions League groups.

Benfica, beaten in last season's final by Chelsea, have barely had time to celebrate the Portuguese league title which they won for only the fourth time in 20 years on Sunday by beating Olhanense 2-0.

The Eagles will be without Argentine midfielder Eduardo Salvio, who broke his arm during the first half of the Olhanense game and is out for the rest of the season.

Juventus striker Carlos Tevez may be fit after missing his side's last two games with a minor thigh injury and midfielder Arturo Vidal may also be back after a knee problem.

The Juventus stadium will host the final on May 14 in Turin and, as the only reigning domestic champions still standing, they are obvious favourites to win the competition.

"Many players in this team have never won a European competition and Juventus haven't won a trophy in Europe for so many years," Juventus midfielder Claudio Marchisio told UEFA.com.

"Even if we're coming to the end of the season and our legs are beginning to feel heavy, the trophy can give you that energy to give that bit extra."

"When we didn't qualify and moved into the knockout phase of the Europa League, the fact that the final would be at home clearly gave us an added boost." (Reporting By Brian Homewood, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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