"There's nothing better than starting a season by winning a trophy," goalkeeper Rulli tells UEFA.com as Villarreal look forward to the UEFA Super Cup.
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Defender Raúl Albiol and goalkeeper Gerónimo Rulli both played their part in Villarreal’s 2021 UEFA Europa League final shoot-out success against Manchester United; both converted from the spot, with Rulli producing the save that stopped the penalties at 11-10.
The pair now return to continental action with the UEFA Super Cup game against Chelsea. They spoke to UEFA.com about that curtain-raiser in Belfast and the prospect of UEFA Champions League comebacks with the Yellow Submarine.
On the UEFA Super Cup
Gerónimo Rulli: I know that if I've got to take the [penalty] kick for us to win it, I've got no problem with that. Competing against Chelsea in another European final: it's something to be proud of. We have earned the right to be doing this. Winning this game could bring us another trophy, and there's nothing better than starting a season by winning a trophy. Not to mention the prestige of beating the Champions League holders. We know that it'll be a real challenge, it'll be a game where we have to be at 300% in order to try to get a result, and we're really excited.
From the moment we won the Europa League, the first thing we thought about was how we had the chance to play in this final, and then the fact we'd also be in the Champions League.
Do the European champions usually win?
UEFA Champions League winners Bayern lifted the trophy in 2020, but this pattern is certainly not always the case. Indeed the UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League holders have won 20 of the 45 editions.
On Villarreal's return to the UEFA Champions League
Raúl Albiol: We have to enjoy it. We have to give it our all, because if you don't battle hard in the Champions League, you'll be completely overrun. Beyond that, I think it will be about making progress, little by little.
In Champions League matches, you need to go in fully committed, fully focused, with lots of respect for your opponents, because if you don't play at your very best in the Champions League, you haven't got a chance.
Gerónimo Rulli: Our plan is to keep doing what we've been doing, to keep progressing. Last season, we'd set ourselves a target of finishing as high up the league as possible, and going as far as possible in the Copa del Rey and the Europa League, and we ended up with a European trophy. As for the Champions League, it's the same. We know that it'll be really tough, but we won a trophy a month ago so we can definitely compete with [the best teams in Europe].
I've never played in the Champions League before. After living in Spain for so long, with the finals featuring Real Madrid and Atlético, you feel a huge desire to join in with the anthem.
On what makes Villarreal special
Raúl Albiol: Everyone who plays here says the same thing about the club: it's a great club in that you have everything at your disposal to enjoy your work and have fun. It's a very family-oriented club, where you know everybody and you're made to feel as if you've been here for years.
And beyond that, it's the philosophy of the club's president [Fernando Roig] to play football, to have good players, good coaches, and to always play attractive football. I think Villarreal was always a club that I had a soft spot for, looking from the outside, and even more so now.
I think lots of people were delighted with our Europa League victory. I've been here two seasons, but it feels like I've been here longer, thanks to everyone who works here – my team-mates, everyone – and makes you feel at home. You work with a smile on your face, and when you're happier at work, success is easier to come by.