FC Porto's Dmitri Alenichev is determined to enjoy his unexpected night in Gelsenkirchen.
By Ben Lyttleton
FC Porto midfield player Dmitri Alenichev did not expect to have the chance to repeat last season's UEFA Cup Final success in the UEFA Champions League final this season, but now the Russian is dead set on victory.
Porto face fellow underdogs AS Monaco FC in Wednesday's final at the Aufschalke Arena in Gelsenkirchen, and the 32-year-old forward is keen to make it a night to remember, especially as getting to the final seemed such an impossible dream at the start of José Mourinho's side's European campaign.
"I'd be a liar if I said I believed all along that we would get here," he told uefa.com. "
Who would have predicted a final between Monaco and Porto before the season began? Nobody. But there is a Russian proverb which says: 'You get an appetite as the meal goes on'. Now, we are only thinking about victory."
Alenichev was a scorer last season as Porto beat Celtic FC 3-2 in the UEFA Cup final in Seville - a game they went into on the back of a win in the Portuguese Cup final. This season, they lost the Portuguese Cup final to SL Benfica in their final game before Gelsenkirchen, but the Russian is sure that it is not an omen.
"There was no disgrace in losing to Benfica," said Alenichev. "It was our last competitive match but ever since we have focused entirely on the Monaco game. We have not dwelt on the Benfica defeat. We just want to beat Monaco now. Everyone at the club has a burning desire to lift this famous trophy."
Alenichev has played in four Champions League games this season, with results away at Manchester United FC and Olympique Lyonnais proving the most satisfying. "When we played away at United and at Lyon they were the most difficult matches by far," he remembered. "The United game was tricky and we scored right at the end, but the 2-2 draw at Lyon was our best performance."
Indeed, Porto have made a habit of getting their best results away from the Estádio do Dragão. "That's definitely true," said Alenichev. "When we won the UEFA Cup, we played most of our first legs at home. That worked well for us. The same has been happening this season and we got past Manchester United, Lyon and [RC] Deportivo [La Coruña] after playing away in the second leg. And now we're in the final."
However, in order to seal their second European trophy in as many seasons, Porto must first break down Didier Deschamps' Monaco; no small task according to Alenichev. "Monaco are a strong side, and Fernando Morientes is in great form and scores a lot of goals," he said. "We also need to be aware of their captain Ludovic Giuly and the winger Jérôme Rothen. He is great from dead-ball situations."
Alenichev looks likely to start the game on the bench but the former AC Perugia and AS Roma player, who played for both FC Spartak Moskva and FC Lokomotiv Moskva back in Russia, knows that all the players and coaches, whether they are on the pitch or not, will share one feeling on Wednesday night. "We all want to win this competition," said Alenichev. "
There are no favourites at the moment but we are desperate to come out on top."