Villarreal CF must wait to find out whether their remarkable European adventure will next take in a meeting with FC Internazionale Milano or AFC Ajax. The second leg of the first knockout round tie will be held in Milan next Tuesday, the sides having drawn 2-2 in Amsterdam in the first game.
The Spanish team's first-ever UEFA Champions League campaign progressed further in midweek when they overcame Rangers FC on away goals, and the newcomers expressed satisfaction with their quarter-final draw.
Fernando Roig, Villarreal president, said: "Obviously we don't know who we are playing yet, but my first impressions are good. The other thing is that the possibility of an all-Spanish final is still open, which is good."
'Nothing to lose'
Midfielder Alessio Tacchinardi said: "I would rather play Ajax because Inter are a great team. I have faced Inter many times and they are a side packed with internationals and a club with a lot of history in European competition. So between the two, I'd hope to get Ajax. They play football, they have young players and maybe less experience. But Villarreal don't have anything to lose in this tie and can look forward to it and enjoy the contest. The pressure is definitely with the other two."
Whoever makes it through to the last eight, Villarreal know they will be facing former winners of the European Champion Clubs' Cup. Inter collected the trophy in successive years in the 1960s while Ajax are four-time champions. The 'Yellow Submarine' must travel for the first match on 29 March with the return at El Madrigal on 4 April.
Ajax is the focus
Inter president Giacinto Facchetti said: "At the moment we're focused on Ajax. That's an obstacle we've got to overcome before we think any further ahead. Even if the draw in Amsterdam was a good result, we have to play to win at San Siro. We cannot underestimate Ajax or, hopefully, Villarreal. At least the draw means we won't meet Milan. We have played them twice in the last few seasons and lost twice, so that was a game we wanted to avoid."
Ajax coach Danny Blind said: "I watched the draw. We know what we have to do before we can meet Villarreal. The chance is there, but after the 2-2 in Amsterdam we need a win. In a knockout competition you always stand a chance."
Villarreal have an impressive record against Italian opposition, unbeaten in three encounters with Serie A teams in home-and-away combat. In the 2002 UEFA Intertoto Cup third round, they overcame Torino Calcio 4-3 on penalties after each leg finished 2-0 to the home side. Aggregate victories followed over Brescia Calcio in the 2003 Intertoto Cup third round and against AS Roma in the UEFA Cup fourth round. There was also a game with S.S. Lazio in the 2004/05 UEFA Cup group stage, which ended 1-1.
Win and loss
They have only faced Dutch clubs twice, beating SC Heerenveen 2-1 on aggregate in the 2003 Intertoto Cup final and losing 3-2 on aggregate to AZ Alkmaar in the 2004/05 UEFA Cup quarter-finals.
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