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Alkmaar braving El Madrigal

Tuesday, 29 March 2005

[1] Villarreal CF go into their 45th UEFA club competition match in three seasons - and their 19th of this campaign - on course for UEFA Champions League qualification in the Primera División. But in the 44 ties that have preceded their meeting with AZ Alkmaar, themselves flying high in the Eredivisie, Villarreal have never faced Dutch opposition.Villarreal are a club who have made full use of the UEFA Intertoto Cup. They have played 22 times in the competition with eleven wins, nine draws and just two defeats, scoring 30 goals to 13. Last season they progressed as far as the UEFA Cup semi-finals, where they were beaten by neighbours and eventual winners Valencia CF, and the club are bidding to follow in their footsteps this May. Villarreal's UEFA Cup record makes equally impressive reading, with eleven wins, eight draws and three defeats from 22 games and a goals tally of 33-12.Alkmaar's dream of reaching the UEFA Cup final for the first time since 1981 might be made more likely if they become the first European side to avoid defeat at El Madrigal this season - all eight previous visitors, including Round of 16 opponents FC Steaua Bucuresti, have lost. Coincidentally, it was Steaua who FC Barcelona overcame immediately prior to their 1977/78 UEFA Cup tie with Alkmaar, the Dutch club's only previous meeting with Spanish opposition.That tie was settled on penalties, with Dutch players striking key blows against the Dutch club. The teams drew 1-1 in the Netherlands with Kristen Nygaard's opener cancelled out by Barça's Netherlands' player Johan Neeskens. The return leg at Camp Nou also finished 1-1, with Kees Kist's 69th-minute strike following a 32nd-minute penalty by Carlos Rexach. Nygaard missed early on in the ensuing shoot-out, with the most famous Dutch footballer of all - Johan Cruyff - scoring the decisive spot-kick for the Catalan club.

Juan Pablo Sorín and Villareal overcame Steaua in the Round of 16