Deportivo Alaves: Step out of the dark

Despite its central location in Vitoria-Gasteiz, the capital and administrative center of the Autonomous Basque Country, Deportivo Alaves never won the same success and status as its two neighbors, Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad.
Alaves’ home ground, Mendizorrotza, has a capacity of only 20,000, 2/3 of Anoeta and 2/5 of San Mames. It is also rarely filled. Season-ending statistics for the La Liga BTC show that the average attendance at Alaves is usually only 50%. Yet this small club is flying higher than ever. 2016-17 will be remembered forever as one of the most memorable season in team history.
They ranked ninth in La Liga, behind only the top seven, which is Spain’s biggest 7/8 club, and Eibar, the phenomenon of the league. With that, for the first time in their history, they went to the Copa del Rey final match. Founded in 1921, for nearly 100 years, the only good record they have ever made is the semi-final of the 1997-97 and 2003-04 seasons. Who are the opponents of Alaves in the finals held in Madrid? FC Barcelona, Catalonia giants, the second most La Liga championship team, the Copa del Rey first and also the defending champion.
A real opponent is ahead, but are Alaves scared? Not at all, if they look at their recent performance. Barcelona are strong, they only lost eight games in all competitions this season, including only once at the Camp Nou. But guess who the fierce gaurds are fighting on the territory? No one else but Alaves. Not impress enough? The same score across the Basque club this season. Out 46 times, both La Liga and the Copa del Rey, Mauricio Pellegrino’s men conceded just over two goals in just four games. Twice before the break when Real Madrid, Marcos Llorente, the defender of the squad, forced him to sit out. Another match, a 0-6 defeat at Barcelona, took place less than 48 hours after 97 minutes of physical strength before Celta Vigo in the match of the crown to win tickets to the King’s Cup final.
So, it is no coincidence that Alaves owns the fifth best defense this season in La Liga, having just scored 43 goals in 38 games. The achievements are beyond imagination, especially they just returned to the national high in the beginning of the season, the first time in 10 years long. Alaves’ stadium, as said, small and humble, has the capacity to rank 18th out of 20 competing clubs. Their budget is not at all, ranked No. 19, just slightly better than Leganes, the team is new promotion. Their two most outstanding players this season, Theo Hernandez and Marcos Llorente, came on loan.
The success of the home team will certainly make Alaves fans remember the glorious moments in club history. Copa del Rey 2017 is not the first big finale in team history, it took place in 2001, in Westfalenstadion, in Dortmund, with Liverpool. Then, the Alaves phenomenon, like now, no one expected their presence in the final match. However, with the fiery Latin attack, Alaves after 12 games, to hit the field of six opponents, scored 31 goals, the performance of nearly 3 goals per game. Announced at their hands that year, there were anonymous (Gaziantepspor, Lilleström), to midrange (Rosenborg, Kaiserslautern), and well known (Inter Milan).
That fairy tale almost came true. Alaves’ fairy dream extended to 116 minutes of extra time. It only killed after the painful situation of defender Delfi Geli defender, the goal of gold finishes all hope. Anyway, the Alaves fought bravely in both the previous and the final stages, when they drew 3-3 and 4-4 respectively. They leave inspiration for the fans, for the next generation to complete the unfinished dream. Alaves 2017 is looking forward to another scenario, where the trophy carved their names.
Copa del Rey will be the greatest in Deportivo Alaves history. Sure. It will be their first big title. It will help them get back to the Europa League, the last time they entered the final. It could also open a whole new chapter in the way the team develops. The prospect seemed distant, but very close to reach. Just as focused and engaging as every game over this season, Alaves will certainly not be easy to swallow for Barcelona as everyone thinks. An earthquake was created at Camp Nou, why is it not possible to repeat at Vicente Calderon?

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