With Real Sociedad de Fútbol set for their UEFA Champions League group stage return after a ten-year absence, forward Carlos Vela said the Basque side have enough quality to make them tough opponents.
La Real kick off their first European campaign in a decade with a home fixture against Ukrainian giants FC Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday night, with meetings with Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Manchester United FC to follow – a reward for coming through a play-off against Olympique Lyonnais last month. Vela's double in the home leg of that tie – the second a memorable solo run and finish – helped Jagoba Arrasate's team to a 4-0 aggregate victory. Now the Mexican international is hoping to improve on the two goals in 17 tournament appearances he collected at Arsenal FC.
"Playing in the UEFA Champions League is not something that happens every day so we must take advantage and give it our all," the 24-year-old said. "The Champions League is really important for what it represents to the fans and to the club. Now that we are there we know we are facing three very difficult rivals. We have to believe in our chances and I feel we are good enough to get through to the next round."
The man who guided the side from San Sebastián to fourth place in Liga last season, Phillip Montanier, has since moved on to Stade Rennais FC while a key member of that 2012/13 squad, Asier Illarramendi, is now a Real Madrid CF player. However, with many of those who took La Real to Liga promotion in 2010 still at the club, and with recently appointed coach Jagoba Arrasate, 35, a former La Real youth-team product, Vela believes the 1983 European Cup semi-finalists have found the right formula.
"The club were right to continue to believe in people who were formed here while looking to maintain the same playing style as last season," said the attacker – who counted the club's 3,000th Liga goal among the 14 he registered last term. "We are not starting from scratch. We have a consistency and are playing in a way we are used to; it just makes everything all that much easier. We played some great games against quality teams last season and I think we will do the same this time around."
As well as making more than 60 appearances in all competitions for Arsenal, the 2005 FIFA U-17 World Cup winner had loan spells at West Bromwich Albion FC, UD Salamanca and CA Osasuna but finally feels at home since making his loan move to La Real permanent in 2012.
"There are always doubts when you go to a new club and move to a new city as you never know what to expect," he said. "Here I have found my place – somewhere where I am happy. The club have allowed me to show my qualities which is a really great feeling."
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