Los Che have fallen off the pace at the top of the table but will back themselves to earn maximum points against los Manos...
Five wins in their opening six Primera Division matches had Valencia being talked about as potential title rivals to Barcelona and Real Madrid. A 2-1 reverse against la Blaugrana at Camp Nou rather dampened spirits at the Mestalla, especially when that was followed up by a similar result at home to Mallorca. Now facing Real Zaragoza, it’s time for los Che to get their league campaign back on track.
Sandwiched between Liga losses was a draw against Rangers in the Champions League, which even coach Unai Emery conceded was somewhat fortunate. With the Gers to come in a crucial clash next Tuesday, Valencia are trying desperately to gather some positive momentum.
The beginnings of that occurred on Wednesday evening, when a fairly strong squad met Logrones in the Copa del Rey. Goalless at half-time, los Che showed their class thereafter, with goals arriving from Aritz Aduriz, who grabbed two, and Vicente.
“The players showed good ambition, and the result will allow us to gain confidence ahead of our upcoming matches,” the coach told the media after the game. “They were able to counteract the intensity that Logrones had shown, and the victory has a special value because now we can focus on the next two games.”
Los Manos, sitting bottom of the league without a win all season, should on paper provide easy pickings but it’s unlikely to be so simple in practise.
After finishing last season well away from the relegation zone, there were genuine hopes that Zaragoza could enjoy a relatively comfortable season towards the middle of the Primera Division table this time around. Having lost primary goal scorer Humberto Suazo, they’ve also lost their momentum and already find themselves at the bottom of the pile after eight fixtures.
Jose Aurelio Gay’s side are one of two teams not to have picked up a win yet this term, and they’ve only once managed to avoid defeat on the road in the early weeks of this league campaign, drawing 0-0 with Deportivo La Coruna – the other side yet to taste victory this season – on the opening day of action.
Wednesday night brought something of a boost for the ailing Aragon side. Pitted against a Real Betis outfit going superbly well in the Segunda Division, they earned a 1-0 victory in Sevilla, though they did require their goal to come by way of a Gabi penalty just after the hour mark.
Having gone winless since defeating Espanyol in early May – a run of 10 competitive matches – a great pressure will have been lifted from their shoulders thanks to the midweek success, but there is a massive gulf between los Beticos and Valencia, who will expect to overcome Zaragoza on Saturday.
Cesar Sanchez has started training with his team-mates once again, but his participation at the weekend still has a big question mark hanging over it. Sofiane Feghouli, on the other hand, is certainly out as he continues to battle with a hamstring problem.
Against Barcelona, Zaragoza switched away from their regular 4-2-3-1 formation to play 3-5-2, and it’s not clear whether they will maintain that system for Saturday’s encounter.
Florent Sinama Pongolle has a slight muscular problem that kept him out of the starting XI against Barcelona last weekend. Leo Franco, Victor Laguardia and Ikechukwu Uche still have injury issues, though the goalkeeper is soon expected to return.
Leonardo Ponzio is banned.