Ahead of West Ham United's UEFA Europa Conference League play-off round clash against Danish side Viborg FF, Alphonse Areola is relishing the imminent return of European football to east London.
A run of impressive performances between the sticks made the French goalkeeper a vital part of David Moyes' squad during their run to the UEFA Europa League semi-final last season.
And, as West Ham's Europa Conference League journey begins on Thursday evening, Areola is once again excited about the prospect of European nights at the London Stadium.
“I think we have done something great [in last year’s Europa League]," Areola said. “We hope to do something even better [this time around].
“I think we showed lots of good things last season, and we are here now to compete."
West Ham fell narrowly short of the Europa League final following a tense two-legged defeat by Eintracht Frankfurt last season, but the French stopper more than held his own against a host of top European strikers.
In particular, Areola’s defiant save in the Europa League round of 16 was possibly the best of a memorable campaign. The 29-year-old sprung to his right to improbably deny Sevilla attacker Youssef En-Nesyri, with the visitors then ahead on aggregate. Arguably that moment gave weight to West Ham's comeback in the second leg of the tie, with the then-tournament favourites sent packing after a Tomáš Souček header and an extra-time winner from super-sub Andriy Yarmolenko secured a stunning victory.
Such moments will live long in the memory of fans and players alike, although Areola is convinced there are plenty more to come this season.
“It’s a good opportunity for everyone to play in Europe again,” he enthused. “We will do our best to get to the final and win the competition. I am here to give my best to help the team. Any opportunity to do that: I’ll be ready.”
West Ham’s clash with Viborg might see a debut for new signing, and Areola’s former Paris Saint-Germain teammate, Thilo Kehrer, who became the Hammers’ sixth summer signing of a busy transfer window on Wednesday.
The 25-year-old defender joined West Ham from the French champions on a four-year contract, with the option of a further two years.
And, like Areola, the German international has played in the Champions League. His arrival then adds further experience to Moyes’ squad, something Areola believes will be crucial if West Ham are to reach the Europa Conference League final in Prague next June.
“He’s a calm person, but on the pitch he is competitive," Areola said of Kehrer. “He will bring experience and quality. We went through lots of games together [at PSG]. It’s always good to have someone you know on the pitch, you have that confidence. I think it will be easy for him to adapt – there’s a good atmosphere in the locker room.”
Areola also claimed that such signings show the Club is moving in a positive direction after Moyes’ side secured consecutive top-seven finishes for the first time in the Premier League era last campaign.
“It shows that the Club has the ambition to move forward and play in Europe every year,” he added. “Now [we are here], it is all about good results. It’s a European competition, and we want to win it.”