Keita: Juve among favourites but anyone can win the Europa League

The Valencia veteran believes that Europe's secondary competition is there for the taking and is refusing to take Ludogorets lightly
By Adrian Boullosa

Valencia midfielder Seydou Keita believes that Juventus are among the front-runners for the Europa League, but believes that anyone can win the competition.

The Bianconeri were eliminated from the Champions League at the group stage but have made it to the last 16 of Europe's secondary tournament thanks to a win over Trabzonspor.

However, Keita believes a number of sides could emerge victorious as los Che prepare for their clash with Bulgarian champions Ludogorets.

"There are very strong teams like Juventus, but in a cup competition like this one, it's always very different to the regular league," he told Goal.

"Everything can be decided in two games, anyone can win. We must focus on the next game and try to get any advantage possible for the second leg at home.

"We have to be careful because we know they beat Lazio and this wasn't easy for them. We must be very well prepared, both physically and mentally, because European games are always difficult and they beat Lazio because they have quality.

"We don't know so much about their league but we're sure they're a great team."

Valencia coach Miroslav Djukic was replaced by Juan Antonio Pizzi halfway through the season and the former Barcelona man believes his side are faring better under their new boss.

"We're fine now. It's true that the team started the season badly, but the most important thing is the future. We must continue, keep our heads up and work, then positive results will come.

"Personally the change did not affect me, but perhaps it affected other players. But at the end of the day, the most important thing is to play well and win games."

Keita moved back to La Liga in January after a brief spell in China with Dalian Aerbin and, though he thoroughly enjoyed his team in the Far East, he is happy to back with his family in Spain.

"My experience in China was a very good one. It was hard to go back to Spain because the president did not want me to, but being with family is more important.

"I was training and playing games but my family didn't want to go there and it was very difficult for them. But I thought of my family and I wanted to go back to Europe to play at a high level because I love football."

The Mali international also feels that an African team will shine in this summer's World Cup, but is backing the big guns to claim the trophy.

"It's hard to pick a favourite, everything is possible in a game," he added. "But I'm sure that Spain will be there along with Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Italy. They're great teams, but it's hard to say who will win.

"I think there were also be an African country there. Winning would be very difficult, but anything is possible. Ghana has been very close to reaching the semi-final so I think they or another African country could reach the quarter- or semi-finals.

"It would be great for us. I am sure that all the countries who qualified will fight."