16 years have passed since D. Alaves last competed in European competition, but the club that mesmerised the world with a memorable performance in the 2001 UEFA Cup final is now dreaming of representing Vitoria across Europe once again, thanks to what is proving to be a season to remember.
Alaves deservedly reached the halfway point of the 2018/19 LaLiga Santander campaign in fifth place, a position that they have earnt through hard work and belief.
Instilling belief in the squad may well be the most important feat that Abelardo has achieved since taking over the reins at Alaves in December 2017 with the club bottom of the table. The coach transformed the Basque team and lifted them out of the relegation zone up to an impressive 14th-placed finish.
Things have gone even better this season under Abelardo's stewardship and despite a 3-0 loss at the hands of FC Barcelona in the opening game, Alaves once again bounced back and went on a brilliant run which saw the club reach the summit of the table and establish itself in the European qualifying positions. One of the reasons behind the success is that the team have made Mendizorroza a real fortress. No visiting side have left Alaves with all three points so far this campaign, a record only shared by Atletico Madrid.
The Vitoria-based club's magnificent season is not purely down to Abelardo's fine work in the dugout, but also the players' serious approach within what has been a united squad. Jony has rediscovered his best form since his arrival at Mendizorroza and has been providing countless assists for his teammates, Ibai Gomez was a leader on the pitch and scored key goals before leaving for Athletic Club, Victor Laguardia has been the lynchpin at the heart of a very solid defence, captainManu Garcia has brought his character and goals to the table andFernando Pacheco's saves have earnt the Basque side plenty of crucial points.
The goalkeeper has played a major role in Alaves having one of the best defensive records in the division. Only three sides conceded fewer goals in the first half of the campaign than the Basque outfit whose defence has been breached fewer times than Barcelona and Real Madrid's.
Only time will tell just how far this Alaves side can go, but the mood in Vitoria is certainly extremely positive and the Mendizorroza faithful have earnt the right to dream big.