Coach Manuel Pellegrini says "there isn't a better team" in the UEFA Champions League than his Villarreal CF side as they await the quarter-final draw.
As Villarreal CF take their place in the UEFA Champions League quarter-final draw for the first time, the overriding emotions are pride and excitement that this industrial town of less than 50,000 inhabitants has achieved such a feat.
However, the feeling in the immediate aftermath of the 1-1 draw against Rangers FC which propelled the 'Yellow Submarine' into the last eight was less euphoric. As Alessio Tacchinardi, already a UEFA Champions League winner with Juventus, sank to his knees after the whistle, the relief was all-consuming.
"We knew Rangers were going to be difficult opponents, but we didn't anticipate how difficult we were going to make things for ourselves," admitted Rodolfo Arruabarrena. "We played pretty poorly in the first half, making mistakes and conceding possession. We gave ourselves a good old fright."
The Argentinian full-back's goal at the start of the second half cancelled out Peter Løvenkrands's early opener for Rangers and, ultimately, sent Villarreal into today's draw in Paris along with FC Barcelona, Arsenal FC, Juventus, AC Milan, Olympique Lyonnais, SL Benfica, FC Internazionale Milano and AFC Ajax.
"Without doubt, it was the most important goal of my career," said Arruabarrena. "I once scored for [CA] Boca Juniors in the final of the Copa Libertadores, but this goal saved us and made history for the club and the town. In retrospect, it doesn't really matter that we didn't play well. The fact we went through is enough for all of us."
Coach Manuel Pellegrini has steered this small but ambitious Primera División outfit beyond most people's expectations. "So far we haven't been beaten in the UEFA Champions League, so until somebody proves otherwise, my view is that there isn't a better team in the competition," Pellegrini said.
Uruguayan goalkeeper Sebastián Viera, whose first-half save from Løvenkrands kept Villarreal in Tuesday's tie, is hoping the draw will send his side to London, having been poised to move to Arsenal FC last summer. "I'd like to be paired with Arsenal - that would be the biggest moment of my life," he said. "From now on every game in this competition will be like a final - that's how big it is for us."