Vicente Rodríguez has warned his Valencia CF team-mates to be wary of Villarreal CF on Thursday.
By Alex Eeles
Vicente Rodríguez is hoping Valencia CF's failure to make the most of their first-leg dominance does not come back to haunt them against Villarreal CF in their UEFA Cup semi-final second leg.
Despite having a host of opportunities at the Madrigal stadium two weeks ago, the Primera División leaders failed to convert a single one, leaving the tie delicately poised at 0-0. And the 22-year-old Vicente told uefa.com that now was the time to deliver if Valencia were to fulfil their ambitions for the season.
"We are at an extremely important moment of the season," said the Spanish international. "We are very close to winning the Primera División title and also very close to reaching the final of the UEFA Cup. But we can't get carried away because you don't win anything until the final whistle.
No looking back
"It was frustrating not to score in the first leg but football is like that. Sometimes you play very well and the ball just doesn't go in and other times you play less well and end up winning the game. But there's no point in us thinking about that game because it is in the past. Now we have to concentrate on the second leg."
Valencia were 4-2 winners when the teams met at the Mestalla earlier this year and will go into the match as clear favourites, but Vicente warns it would be foolish to underestimate the threat of a Villarreal team who have already knocked out both Celtic FC and AS Roma in the UEFA Cup this season.
"Villarreal are a hard team and it will not be easy to beat them," insisted the midfield player. "Their main threat is the way they work together but they have integrated stars like [Sonny] Anderson, [Juan] Riquelme and [José] Reina into their side. These are all big names who can decide a game on their own."
Valencia need five points from their remaining three matches in order to clinch the Primera División title but Vicente is adamant that triumphing in the UEFA Cup final at the Nya Ullevi stadium in Gothenburg on 19 May ranks just as high on the team's list of priorities.
The memory of defeat in consecutive UEFA Champions League finals in 2000 and 2001 still burns brightly for Rafael Benítez's men and the Spanish international says he and his team-mates are determined to bring some long overdue European success to the Mestalla.
"The players want to win both titles and we're fighting hard for it," he said. "Every player is fully focused on playing the best we can against Villarreal and helping the team reach the UEFA Cup final. I'm sure the supporters want the same thing.
"We could never forget the two lost Champions League finals. We had in our hands the chance of making history for the club and the city, but we couldn't. Now, we have another great opportunity to achieve something special because the UEFA Cup is an important title and we don't want to pass it up.
No second chance
"But remember first we have to beat Villarreal. We know that we have to take control of the game, but we will play the same way we have for the last few months. We will use our intelligence, keep the ball and give nothing away. We have to make sure that we take our opportunities because if we don't, this time there will be no second chance."