Midfielder David Albelda feels Valencia CF are ripe for a major UEFA Champions League final as he harked back to the days when his "humble side" reached the 2000 and 2001 finals.
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Midfielder David Albelda feels Valencia CF are capable of repeating their UEFA Champions League feats of the past, saying: "Not long ago, when nobody believed in us, we reached successive finals."
Ahead of Tuesday's Group C opener against tournament debutants Bursaspor at the Atatürk Stadyumu, Unai Emery's players will take the achievements of 2000 and 2001 – when Valencia were denied at the last by Real Madrid CF and FC Bayern München respectively – as a source of inspiration.
"They were the first years of a very good Valencia side and it was a pleasure to be involved," Albelda explained. "We were a humble side with a good balance of young and old players and the first final was something very new for us. I was young at the time and couldn't believe it was happening; I was carried along by the euphoria of it all and I will never forget it."
Los Blanquinegros succumbed 3-0 to their Liga rivals at the Stade de France before losing out on penalties to Bayern at the San Siro a year later. "We thought it would be almost impossible to reach another final but it took us no time to do it again," the 33-year-old remembered.
Not long afterwards, during a golden period for the club, European success came to the Mestalla in the form of the 2004 UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup. Although recent financial strain has seen players like David Villa and David Silva sold on, Albelda believes a return to previous glories is possible.
"We have sold great players in the past and gone on to win titles," he explained. "We've been going through a few difficult years which have obviously had repercussions but fortunately we've managed to return to the UEFA Champions League. Playing in the tournament is the pinnacle of your career. We will try to do better this term and I know everyone at the club is pulling in the same direction."
Along with Bursaspor, Valencia will also face Manchester United FC and Rangers FC in the group stage and although he predicts some tough challenges ahead, Albelda is confident his side can progress. "United are the favourites and even though they didn't sign many new players they have a very solid team," he said. "Although it's never easy playing in Scotland we believe we are stronger than Rangers but we have to prove that on the pitch.
"Meanwhile, Bursaspor are going to be very difficult opponents as they have been getting some great results lately and top the Turkish table ahead of the likes of Fenerbahçe, Beşiktaş and Galatasaray. We know if we qualify we will continue to play against very prestigious opponents and that's our goal."