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Europa League Preview: Valencia - Werder Bremen

Kick Off: Thursday, March 11, 2010. 21:05 CET.
Mestalla, Valencia, Spain.
European Dreams

Valencia have done pretty well so far in the Europa League and after a fiercely tense summer are doing quite well in La Liga too. Unai Emery's side might have relinquished all ambition of catching Real Madrid and Barcelona at the top, but they are in the running for a Champions League finish in La Liga, which, if they do gain a spot at the end of the season, will be their first top four finish in three years.

However, Valencia have not been playing well in recent times. Los Che were held to a goalless draw by Racing Santander at the Mestalla on Monday and last weekend they were defeated 4-1 by Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon. At the moment the former Spanish champions are third in the table with 47 points from 25 games.

Valencia were pitted against Club Brugge in the last round of the Europa League and came through 3-1 on aggregate after extra time. Interestingly, Valencia have not lost at the Mestalla in the Europa League so far this campaign.


Repeating Last Year's Glory

Werder Bremen reached the final of the UEFA Cup in 2009 and narrowly lost to Shakhtar Donetsk after extra time. Their most influential player, Diego, who actually missed the final, signed for Juventus in the summer and there were doubts whether Werder could sustain themselves.

So far it's been good for Bremen. Thomas Schaaf's side are currently sixth in the Bundesliga, just three points off a Europa League place. Bremen are also going strong in the Europa League and marched to the last 16 stage in style, defeating Eredivisie leaders FC Twente 4-2 on aggregate.

The last time Bremen and Valencia squared off in a competitive fixture was in the 2004-05 Champions League in the group stage fixture. Veteran Tim Borowski is the only survivor from December 2004's victory over Valencia and the German midfielder will be looking to return with a win on Thursday evening.


FORM GUIDE


Valencia

March 8 v Racing Santander (H) - DREW 0-0 (La Liga)

February 28 v Atletico Madrid (A) - LOST 4-1 (La Liga)

February 25 v Club Brugge (H) - WON 3-0 (Europa League)

February 22 v Getafe (H) - WON 2-1 (La Liga)

February  18 v Club Brugge (A) - LOST 1-0 (Europa League)


Werder Bremen

March 6 v VfB Stuttgart (H) - DREW 2-2 (Bundesliga)

February 27 v Mainz (A) - WON 2-1 (Bundesliga)

February 25 v Twente (H) - WON 4-1 (Europa League)

February 21 v Bayer Leverkusen (H) - DREW 2-2 (Bundesliga)

February 18 v Twente (A) - LOST 1-0 (Europa League)


TEAM NEWS

Valencia

Cesar Sanchez, Miguel, Carlos Marchena and Ever Banega all missed Monday's Liga game against Racing because of suspensions. Jeremy Mathieu remains a long-term concern for the Spanish side while David Navarro is not expected back until the end of March.

Probable Line-up (4-2-3-1): Cesar, Miguel, Marchena, Ibanez, Alexis; Fernandes, Banega; Joaquin, Mata, Silva; Villa

Werder Bremen

Right-back Clemens Fritz resumed training on Tuesday and has been included in the squad for Valencia. Although Philipp Bargfrede missed the final training session in Bremen due to cold, the 21-year-old is part of the squad.

Probable Line-up (4-3-3):
Vander, Pasanen, Mertesacker, Naldo, Abdennour;  Ozil, Frings, Borowski; Marin, Pizarro, Almeida


PLAYERS TO WATCH


Ever Banega (Valencia)

The Argentine midfielder has been a revelation at Valencia this season and has been arguably their most creative player from the midfield. Banega returned from Atletico Madrid on loan in the summer and has given eight assists in the league. Much criticized for his off-pitch actions when he initially came to Spain, the 21-year-old has turned over a new leaf and will be Valencia's most threatening player from the midfield against Bremen on Thursday evening.

Claudio Pizarro (Werder Bremen)


The former Chelsea striker is currently the top scorer in the Europa League, having notched an impressive eight goals. Pizarro's time at Chelsea was not very good but he has rejuvenated himself at Bremen. Valencia's defense doesn't look very strong and the Peruvian will be looking to take advantage of this.


PREDICTION

It won't be easy for Werder Bremen to pick up a win at the Mestalla, especially as Valencia have been strong at home in the Europa League, but it does promise to be an engaging encounter. Both sides will be going for a win, but Valencia have more creativity in the midfield and should emerge with a narrow victory.

Valencia 2-1 Werder Bremen


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