x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Not all Spanish clubs in Champions League have same ambition

Two of Primera Liga's Champions League entrants - Villarreal and Valencia - have modest targets.

Spain's four teams in the 2011/12 Champions League, the group stages of which began last night, have mightily different objectives.

For Barcelona, it is about winning the competition for the third time in four years, the fourth in seven. Only then will they be comfortable with the tag as the best team in football, ever.

"We need to keep on winning the league and the Champions League before anyone can say that," Xavi Hernandez said.

No Barca player would risk accusations of arrogance by describing themselves as the best ever while they are still playing, but this is unquestionably their greatest ever spell.

The only surprise is that a club of their stature did not win the competition until 1992 - and not again until 2006. Since then they have dominated and twice seen off the challenge of Manchester United, the 2008 winners, in the final.

Real Madrid fans claim that Barca have a long way to go before they can call themselves the greatest club side ever. They point to their legendary side containing Ferenc Puskas and Alfredo di Stefano which won the first five European Cups in the 1950s.

The competition was much smaller then and arguably easier to win - not that you will hear such comments in the Spanish capital.

Given their former success which once established them as the greatest team in the world, the European Cup has always been the one trophy with which Real fans have most identified.

They have won Europe's greatest competition a record nine times and had chalked up seven of those victories before Barca's first.

Winning a 10th has become an obsession which Real have not come close to realising.

They came unstuck at the last 16 stage for six consecutive years before they reached the semi-finals last season.

They do not need reminding who knocked them out, they just hope one of the English giants can do them a favour and knock Barca out this season. Either that or beat Barca in the Munich final next May.

Spain's other entrants are Villarreal and Valencia, the neighbours from Spain's eastern coast. For all that Unai Emery, the Valencia coach, says: "It's my dream to win the Champions League", success for either team will be qualifying from tough groups. Villarreal are with Manchester City, Bayern Munich and Napoli, while Valencia are with Chelsea, Bayer Leverkusen and Genk.

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