By Andy Hall in Gothenburg
Midfield player David Albelda is almost as symbolic to Rafael Benítez's Valencia CF squad as the black bat perched on top of the club crest.
As Valencia took the Spanish title for the second time in three seasons, the 26-year-old has been an ever-present. He has not shirked his responsibilities in the UEFA Cup either, starring in the semi-final win against Villarreal CF, where he spent two seasons on loan as a youngster.
An uncompromising player, Albelda thrives on hard work, and will need to be at his industrious best as his side face Olympique de Marseille in the UEFA Cup final tonight. He told uefa.com: "We must make a great effort against Marseille and make sure we are not over confident as we go into the game."
An arrogant display from Valencia in Gothenburg would certainly be enormously out of character. Benítez's men have put in a Herculean effort all year round and Albelda was happy to agree that the Mestalla men were no longer seen as totally dependent on the skills of Pablo Aimar.
"Absolutely," he said. "The players who have stepped into the side this season have done more than what was expected of them. They have really done an excellent job because we have spent the season rotating the squad, changing the team and it has worked."
That rotating cast of players has seen Valencia keep their freshness in the Primera División as well as in Europe, but they will need to be at their sharpest to take on José Anigo's Marseille, who have a similarly fearsome work ethic and no shortage of skill.
'He has everything'
"I've seen them playing in the last few rounds and how they have reached the final," said Albelda. "I know a fair bit about them. Didier Drogba is a very, very complete player; he has everything. He's quick, scores easily. He's a great player and has been brilliant for Marseille this season.
The midfield player added: "Marseille have good players up front and I am sure that they will attack us.
We have to try and stamp our own authority on the game and show our character and quality. That's the only way we can approach this game."
For Albelda, the fact that his side are up against such classy opposition in Sweden is evidence of the UEFA Cup's increasing rise in stature. "I think that the UEFA Cup has reached a point where the level of the game is more or less the same as in the [UEFA] Champions League," he said.
Certainly in the later stages, Albelda believes the competition has come into its own, with Valencia requiring a heroic level of effort to reach the final. "From the quarter-finals onwards we have seen a great standard in terms of the matches played and the teams taking part," he said.
'We want to win'
Albelda concluded: "Just to have got to this stage is a great achievement. But I suppose coming away empty-handed would be a great disappointment because we are very excited to be in the final and obviously we want to win."
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