David Albelda says hard work will help Valencia CF rediscover their winning form against FC Porto.
By Simon Hart in Monaco
When you hear David Albelda discuss the team he captains, Valencia CF, a word that comes up often is "bloque", meaning block or unit. What the Spain midfield player is saying is that the key to the Mestalla club's success is their teamwork and togetherness.
The Spanish champions may not have the star names and swagger of Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona but they have challenged consistently at home and in Europe for a number of seasons now, culminating in last term's memorable double of a second Spanish title in three seasons and the UEFA Cup.
Back to 1980
That was their first European trophy since 1980 when they won the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup and then went on to beat Nottingham Forest FC to lift the UEFA Super Cup. Now they will aim to do the same against FC Porto.
Praise for Porto
Ask Albelda about the European champions and that word "bloque" appears again. Speaking at the pre-match press conference in the Stade Louis II, he said: "Porto are a hard-working team, a strong unit like ourselves and they did a great job in the Champions League last season, which they deservedly won. I think it'll be quite an even match."
Albelda admits that Valencia are "not at 100 per cent" yet. They begin the defence of their Primera División title on Monday with a home game against neighbours Villarreal CF but suffered a setback earlier this week when losing the Spanish Super Cup against Real Zaragoza, going down 3-1 in the second leg at the Mestalla.
Albelda's positive spin on the defeat was that "the important thing is we're there playing for trophies, which makes us stronger both as a club and as players". But tonight he will be desperate to put Tuesday night's upset behind him.
"We've had some good seasons winning trophies and when you lose, it hurts even more," said the 26-year-old. "We're hurt by the defeat but this should help us go into the match fully concentrated and go all out to win."
Albelda had just broken into Valencia's first team when coach Claudio Ranieri reached the end of his first spell with Valencia in 1999. The Italian returned this summer to replace the departed Rafael Benítez and the impression so far is that the transition has been smooth.
Six new players have arrived at the club this week, four of them Italian, but only one will start tonight - striker Marco Di Vaio. Ranieri said he had chosen those players not because of their nationality but of their desire to "fight and win and give more than they have in every match".
Message is clear
These, Ranieri enthused, were the precise qualities he had found in the dressing room on returning to the club. Asked about the new coach, Albelda said: "He has not really changed the system so much. In the Spanish league, competing with Barcelona and Madrid, we have to work as a team and function as a unit." The captain's message is clear: teamwork is everything.