Valencia's Aduriz happy to avoid La Liga rivals in Europa League despite 'tough' AZ draw

The Basque hitman spoke of his relief at his side not being paired with Atletico Madrid or Athletic Bilbao, but nonetheless was aware of the threat the Eredivisie leaders pose
Valencia striker Aritz Aduriz admits he is glad his team were not pitted against a Primera Division rival, after being drawn against AZ in the Europa League quarter-finals on Friday.

Despite avoiding a Spanish opponent, the forward insists the Dutch league leaders will still prove to be a difficult obstacle; and he also praised the other teams that remain in the competition.

"We wanted to avoid both Athletic Bilbao and Atletico Madrid," Aduriz said at a press conference.

"We know that Schalke are strong, too, Hannover as well. We can't underestimate any team, they all deserve to be here.

"We knew there were strong teams in the draw. We are going to have to fight. AZ are a tough rival and we can't take anything for granted because they are are first in their league."

"Our objective is to get to the final, but we'll take it step by step. We have a good chance to go far in the tournament, we have total respect for AZ, but they are the team we have drawn and we have to be happy about that."

Aduriz also reserved words of praise for his former employers Athletic Bilbao, who received widespread acclaim for their superb elimination of Premier League champions Manchester United over two legs.

"Athletic have a great team, lots of quality, with a great mix of youth and experience. They are doing things really well and are playing special football. I take my hat off to them," he concluded.

Valencia travel to the AFAS Stadion in Alkmaar on April 19.