They are on different sides but the message from Club Atlético de Madrid's Filipe Luis and Valencia CF veteran David Albelda was eerily similar – their sides must achieve perfection if they are to reach the UEFA Europa League final.
Atlético are in pole position in the tie after an effervescent 4-2 victory in last week's first leg, though Ricardo Costa's late reply discoloured affairs, reviving Valencia's flat-lining aspirations. "They have hope; so do we," said Felipe. "They are focused on winning, but so are we. We need to produce a perfect performance to reach the final."
Albelda echoed the sentiment as he relayed the view from the Valencia camp. "There is a bit of tension but that is to be expected – we are playing in the semi-finals of the Europa League and even if the scoreline is not so good we have real hope. The perfect match would be any that took us into the final. The tie is uphill but we think we can do it."
Now in his 15th season in the Valencia first team, Albelda is the one remaining survivor of the side that shone when they last met Spanish opposition in the last four of UEFA competition. That came in the 2003/04 UEFA Cup, a 1-0 aggregate victory against Villarreal CF, while four years earlier he came on as a substitute as Los Blanquinegros beat FC Barcelona 4-1 at home to set up victory in the 1999/2000 UEFA Champions League semi-finals.
A repeat of that brilliant performance would do the job again this time around, and Albelda does not need telling the effort it requires. "We must give our all – if not more! We must throw everything at them on Thursday and try to reach the final. Obviously we were unsuccessful in Madrid but we can still change the direction of this tie."
Felipe, who signed for Atlético a month after they won this competition in 2010, is just as sure about the task awaiting his own side. "It is an important match, but since I joined Atlético they have all been important matches – expectations are so high. We know just what to expect of Valencia, a very big club with a great squad and a great coach, with particular potency in attack. But we are more than ready."
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