Levante UD may not have much European pedigree, but the Spanish UEFA Europa League debutants are determined to 'continue the dream' to enhance their continental credentials.
Article top media content
Levante UD are unlikely to spring to mind when thinking of Spain's most prestigious sides. The club were in the second division only three seasons ago, and have long been in the shadow of neighbours Valencia CF. However, after winning promotion to the Liga in 2010, Levante are finally making a name for themselves.
"The truth is that the people here have suffered a lot in this place," said defender Pedro López, who helped his side qualify for European competition for the first time with a sixth-placed finish last season. "They've always supported the team in the second division. When the club was in the first division, they weren't able to be consistent.
"So all of a sudden to see the team perform well in the first division for two or three years, and on top of that be in a European competition, for the people that's a privilege. It makes us proud that the fans can enjoy Levante in the Europa League every Thursday."
It is true that, so far at least, the supporters' stoicism has been rewarded by their team's largely successful forays into the previously uncharted waters of continental competition. After coming through the play-offs, the club secured a historic first group stage win through local-born former Spanish international Juanfran, whose matchday one goal was enough to beat Helsingborgs IF.
"I was super happy," said the defender, who is in his second spell at the club he used to watch as a boy alongside his grandfather. "It was not only the first goal I'd scored in three years, but I also became part of the history of the club. It also gave us three points in the Europa League, which for a club like ours and a team like ours meant a lot."
Though beaten by Hannover 96 on their next outing, a subsequent victory and draw with FC Twente have left Juan Ignacio Martínez's men handily placed in Group L. A further win at Helsingborg on Thursday would ensure they accompany Hannover in the hat for the round of 32.
"The only thing we're trying to do is to continue with this dream and give that to all the fans, who deserve it," said López. "Hopefully, we will keep on moving forward so that they can keep on enjoying it."