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Alaves' Jordi Cruyff
"The satisfaction would be to do something big with a team like Alaves"
 real 56k

banner Tuesday, 15 May, 2001, 15:30 GMT 16:30 UK
Cruyff: Dismiss us at your peril
Alaves midfielder Jordi Cruyff
Cruyff has sent out a warning to Liverpool
By BBC Sport Online's Stuart Roach in Dortmund

Live audio webcast on BBC Sport Online and live coverage on BBC TV and Radio Five Live. Match kick-off 1945BST

Liverpool fans should take heed - Uefa Cup minnows Alaves are being dubbed the Wimbledon of Spain.

The tiny side from the Basque region have confounded the critics by reaching Wednesday's final in their first season of European competition.

Now, just as Wimbledon did in the FA Cup final of 1988, Alaves are looking to write the final chapter in the fairytale by humbling the mighty Reds.

Jordi Cruyff, once a humbled Red himself courtesy of a disastrous spell at Manchester United, knows what an Alaves victory would mean to both clubs.

I must say I have a positive feeling about this game... After all, if we have got this far then there must be a reason for it
  Jordi Cruyff

Jose Manuel Esnal's side are heroes whatever the result of the final in Dortmund's Westfalenstadion.

Should they return to their home town Vitoria-Gasteiz with a trophy under their arms on Thursday, it would signal carnival time in Alava, the largest of the Basque provinces.

Cruyff, though, remains reluctant to compare his side to anyone else, in England or otherwise.

No comparison

It's a fair point, seeing as Mane's men are making a name for themselves in their own right.

"I wouldn't know who to compare us to in England.

"I have thought about it, and this is not the first time I have been asked about it, but I have not found the answer yet," he says.

Jordi Cruyff
Cruyff was frustrated at Manchester United

"When you talk about Alaves you have to know about the region it is from.

"For the Basque people, it is way of expressing through sport the kind of people they are."

Pride would be an understatement, yet the population of Alava is holding a collective breath that their heroes can complete one of the great rises in the history of European football.

As recently as 1990, Alaves were still struggling in one of Spain's 17 regional third divisions, where they languished for four years following relegation for failure to pay their playing staff.

But promotion has followed promotion and, last season, Alaves finished sixth in the top flight.

Against the odds

Little wonder they have been compared with Wimbledon - and little wonder they are so confident of beating the odds just one more time when they face Liverpool.

"I don't think it is a question of being confident. It is a question of being realistic," says Cruyff, with an air of what really does whiff of confidence.

"It is 11 against 11 and we are both going to have our chances.

"I must say I have a positive feeling about this game. After all, if we have got this far then there must be a reason for it."

Alaves are also unruffled by the proud history that Liverpool bring into the game. That, Cruyff points out, will not put the ball in the back of the Spanish net.

We have had a tremendous season in Europe but we are going to have to finish it off on Wednesday
  Jordi Cruyff

"In a game like this the history doesn't count.

"The fact that, 10 or 15 years ago, Liverpool were one of the best teams in Europe doesn't mean anything to me.

"People are expecting them to win but sometimes football doesn't work the way they you think it will.

"In every single round we have never been favourites but, so far, everyone has gone home except for us."

Another warning shot towards any over-confident Liverpool fans is the fact that Alaves can only qualify for a second European season by winning on Wednesday night.

Currently ninth in Spain's Primera Liga, they are not going to qualify any other way.

They have a taste for Europe and are clearly hungry for more.

Cruyff feels it is his duty to warn Liverpool and says: "We have had a tremendous season in Europe but we are going to have to finish it off on Wednesday."

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