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Albiol: “We’re ready to go through to the group stage”
Albiol: “We’re ready to go through to the group stage”

Albiol underlined that the match against the Croatian side is one of the most important of the season

Yellows defender Raúl Albiol, along with Unai Emery, spoke to the media at the press conference ahead of the first leg of the UEFA Europa Conference League play-off clash against Hajduk Split (Thursday, 8.45pm CEST) at the Ciutat de València.

He highlighted the team’s good form ahead of the game against the Croatian side: “We have had a good pre-season competing against top level opponents and we have managed to win the first game of LaLiga. However, we are still in August and tomorrow the whole team must be very attentive because we are playing on a different stage to usual and against a rival for whom getting into Europe could be a success and who, therefore, could surprise us.”

Albiol also warned of the danger of the Croatian side: “The coach has told us about the good players they have and the way they play. They will undoubtedly be a good team with great players like Livaja, otherwise they wouldn’t have finished runners-up in their league or qualified to play in the qualifying round of a European competition.”

The game, which will be Villarreal’s first home match at the Ciutat de València, is an important one for the Submarine: “It’s very important for us to qualify. To go through to the group stage would mean continuing last year’s work and that’s why we see the Conference League as a great opportunity to go as far as possible. We are very excited to be in three competitions and to do that we have to get through the knockout stages,” said Albiol.

The Yellows captain insisted that the team must not speculate and must get a positive result in the first leg: “We must be focused from the first minute. We hope to be able to dominate the game, continue with the same idea of the game and, from there, be able to win the game to go to Croatia with a certain advantage, where we will find a hostile atmosphere.”

Finally, Albiol called on the fans, who he encourages to come to the Ciutat de València: “It’s a complicated time because a lot of people are on holiday, but I encourage people to come to the game. We hope they will be alongside us and we, the players, will try to be at our best and win the game.”