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Valencia CF captain David Albelda believes the prospect of reaching the UEFA Europa League final in Hamburg is a much greater incentive than seeking revenge against Werder Bremen at the Mestalla on Thursday.
The round of 16 pits Valencia against German rivals who bring nothing but bad memories. The last time they met competitively, in the 2004/05 UEFA Champions League group stage, the Spanish side lost 2-1 away and 0-2 at home, the dismissals of Carlos Marchena and Miguel Ángel Angulo further darkening the mood. "Hearing the name Werder Bremen as our next rivals didn't exactly give us a good feeling because of how they knocked us out of the Champions League a few years back," said Albelda, although he missed those defeats through injury.
"But it's not going to be about revenge, partly because of the passage of time, but mostly because you learn to approach every knockout tie with the desire to win it and progress to the next round," the 32-year-old told UEFA.com. "The media like the concept of revenge and fans might feel the tie is more attractive because of what has gone before but, to us, revenge is not an important concept.
"We will play Bremen with the same sense of calm determination we had against Club Brugge in the last round [Los Blanquinegros overcame a 1-0 first-leg deficit with a 3-0 home win]. Valencia have footballing values and we'll try to impose them. This is an attacking, creative side and those qualities will be our way through this tie if we can impose them."
The word 'if' is significant. Valencia's record against German sides in Europe makes them historically vulnerable. Not only have the Mestalla outfit only won four of their 19 ties with Bundesliga opposition, their last five home games have brought four draws and a defeat. At 38 and with a UEFA Champions League winners' medal for Real Madrid CF under his belt, goalkeeper César Sánchez has seen it all before and finds cause for optimism.
"We played a tremendous friendly against Werder in Germany during pre-season, drawing 2-2 before winning on penalties – it was a tremendously difficult match," he told for UEFA.com. "The thing I'd say about Bremen is that they are not a typical Bundesliga side. They are more open, love to play football and I think you'd separate their playing style from sides like Bayern. Bremen are very dangerous at set-plays, but what dangers they bring are to be expected in the Europa League at this stage.
"This competition is characterised by big-name clubs facing each other and we've all got the same aim – not just to get through this round but to go all the way to the final in Hamburg and win it. Playing at home first is just part of the package. Obviously everyone likes having the second leg at home, but we'll focus on establishing a good enough result at home so we can travel to Germany and impose our style. We play well on the break and it's down to us to benefit from that."
Bremen, of course, carry the pain of having lost to FC Shakhtar Donetsk in last season's UEFA Cup final. Danish midfielder Daniel Jensen believes the side have a special cup-tie mentality, however. "There would have been a hangover from losing that last ever UEFA Cup final had we not gone out four or five days later and won the German Cup," he points out. "Everyone was a bit sad about losing but our showing in the domestic final and our fans' sympathy meant we didn't regard defeat by Shakhtar as a disaster. We have a great mentality for knockout football and I think we could go to the final again this year."
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