By Chris Myson
The Europa League was Valencia's last hope to salvage a desperately disappointing season.
Now, unless they can launch a miraculous comeback at the Mestalla to overturn the 3-0 first-leg deficit in their quarter-final tie against Basel, los Che's worst season in recent memory will be sealed.
If they can recover from three goals down in a two-legged tie it would mark the first time such an accomplishment has ever been achieved in the Europa League. The damage, it seems, has already been done.
"I am ashamed of the way we played," said coach Juan Antonio Pizzi after his side's crushing defeat in front of an empty stadium in Switzerland.
"We are aware how difficult qualification will now be. I do not want to be represented by this form of playing football.
"We must hold on to the fact of playing at home, although it is now very difficult to reverse this result."
The end of the Europa League campaign will kill any hope of salvaging a dreadful year. Despite beating Barcelona at Camp Nou earlier in the campaign, Valencia sit eighth in the Primera Division, a massive 38 points behind leaders Atletico Madrid having won just 11 of their 32 Liga matches to date.
The catastrophic 2013-14 season has been a disaster waiting to happen – a gradual fall from grace that has, after years of downward spiralling caused by financial pressure, started to accelerate more dramatically.
Valencia's bank debt remains at over €270 million, despite earning fortunes in recent years by selling a stunning array of talent including Jordi Alba, Juan Mata, David Silva, Roberto Soldado and David Villa.
But even with so many big names being sold on a regular basis and Valencia's obvious woe off the pitch, things were never this bad. As recently as 2012, under Unai Emery, they sealed a third consecutive third-placed finish behind Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Of course, that was not celebrated with the same verve as reaching back-to-back Champions League finals (2000 & 2001), winning two league titles in the space of three years (2002 & 2004) or triumphing in the Uefa Cup (2004) but Valencia had at least remained a competitive force and continued to be regulars at Europe's top table.
The sacking of current Sevilla boss Emery, coincidentally or not, marked the start of their dramatic downward spiral. The failure to reach the Champions League on the final day of the 2012-13 season caused further damage to the club's monetary position and global appeal and that decline reached catastrophic levels in the first leg against Basel.
Pizzi is Valencia's fifth coach since the start of 2012. Until there is any fresh news on a takeover – with Peter Lim's approach that was supposed to be finalised months ago one of a number still on the table - players will continue to be sold to pay off that massive debt, partly caused by the disastrous process of building a new stadium.
Even though results have not been good, there is some young talent at Pizzi's disposal – notably Paco Alcacer and Fede Cartabia – but, like the stars who have preceded them, the club are unlikely to resist the poachers for any prolonged period of time if their development continues.
"We immediately have to think about the second leg," said midfielder Dani Parejo in the immediate aftermath of the first-leg defeat.
"We will go with everything we have got and the fans will have an important role to play too. It is complicated, but when we are at home with our fans, we believe we can turn it all around.
"The home supporters will see a Valencia side who wants to be in the semi-finals of the Europa League."
On the evidence of the recent months and years at Valencia, those players clinging to the hope of an unprecedented comeback appear to be clutching at straws.
It would take a recovery of epic proportions to save the club's season and halt what is a continuing downward spiral.