Having ended a drab domestic run at the weekend, Daniel Alves believes Sevilla FC can step up another gear against Group H rivals FC Steaua Bucureşti.
In what has already been an extraordinarily testing season for everyone involved with Sevilla FC, the UEFA Champions League carries special resonance for Daniel Alves.
The Brazil right-back was reportedly so determined to leave for pastures new in late August that he had to be left out of Sevilla's squad for a third qualifying round tie against AEK Athens FC. Yet once the transfer window closed, he publicly made his peace with club president Jose María del Nido and returned to the team with gusto: having created the first goal in Athens which effectively ended AEK's hopes, he has played all 180 minutes of Sevilla's Group H campaign. Now short-listed for the Ballon D'Or, Alves provided a key assist in the 2-0 success at Levante UD which has set up Sevilla nicely for Tuesday's visit of FC Steaua Bucureşti.
The 24-year-old said: "Victory against Steaua is vital for so many reasons, but mainly because it's imperative to win every home match if you want to get out of the group. The weekend win was the first we've had for a while, so the confidence is flowing again and I think we are ready to play at a higher level. I'm hoping we can get wins in the next two Matchdays so that when we play Arsenal [FC] here, we have it in our own hands to win the group."
Alves, like so many players based in Spain, made the 16,000km round trip to join the Brazil squad over the last fortnight and he admits it is a particular burden for footballers such as himself, Ronaldinho, Robinho, Kaká and Lionel Messi to fly so far, play international football and then return in top condition for club tests. "It is a huge mental and physical challenge to return after such long flights and long, boring waits in airports to play at your strongest and freshest," he said.
"I was both lucky and unlucky in that I'm fresher than some of my Brazil team-mates because I didn't play for the national team. But though I would like to have played, I'm here and much more ready to contribute for Sevilla as a result." The Andalusian club can only benefit from the Ballon D'Or nominee's contribution. "It gives me great pride and satisfaction to be nominated," he added, "although I'm afraid to say I don't think I'll be the winner this year." Perhaps Sevilla will be instead.