Playing his first competitive match for Valencia is Fernando Morientes. Morientes will be needed to provide an alternative goal scoring threat and support the outstanding David Villa in attack.
Villa scored 25 of Valencia’s 58 league goals last season, the only Valencia player to reach double figures. Valencia will hope that Morientes, the former Real Madrid striker, signed after a disappointing time at Liverpool, will take on some of the goal scoring responsibility. Valencia were over dependant upon Villa last season.
Unfortunately for Valencia, their other major summer signing, Asier Del Horno, will miss the match as he struggles to overcome long term ligament damage.
Perhaps the most exciting debutante in the match this evening, and certainly the one grabbing the headlines is Salzburg’s artificial pitch. Morientes has already commented that “I’ve only ever played on an artificial pitch once before and it wasn’t a good experience, not the best” He adds “In this case they have told us that the pitch is one of the best there is”
The pitch should be good considering that UEFA have given Salzburg a 195,000 Euros subsidy to experiment with the artificial surface. It is said that it reduces the risk of injury and plays a lot quicker than a grass surface.
Valencia will have to adapt to the new surface quickly. Salzburg are a mediocre side in spite of having Trapattoni and Lothar Matthaus giving the orders from the bench. However, since installing the artificial surface the team has won 18 of the 19 games that they have played on it already.
The most notable absentee this evening is the Argentine centre back Roberto Ayala. The player has only just joined up with the squad after ‘missing’ his flight back from Argentina. This has only added to the speculation that the player is engineering a move away from the Mestalla with Villarreal said to be his preferred destination.
Juan Bautista Soler, the President of Valencia, said this evening “Ayala joining us two days late is of no importance. It’s one of those things that happens when travelling long distances”
He added “The subject of Ayala is no hot potato. He is a Valencia player until the 30th June and as we shall honour that contract, so should the player. He will only leave if the right offer comes along”
It would seem that Valencia have been unable to ‘make the right offer’ for Simao Sabrosa. The winger remains a Benfica player and the Portuguese club have deemed Valencia’s offer to be “ridiculous”
Valencia will be frustrated that they have been unable to secure the services of an attacking player in time for this evening’s qualifier. The club have already sold Pablo Aimar to Zaragoza and the form of Vicente is under scrutiny.
Valencia have also been linked with a move for Obafemi Martins of Inter Milan. The Nigerian forward's agent said yesterday that “The player has offers from Tottenham, Newcastle, Portsmouth and Valencia”.
Valencia are also reported to be looking to strengthen their attack with the addition of Luis Garcia from Espanyol. However, the Catalan club are not about to let the player leave without a fight and are said to be considering making a report to FIFA over an alleged illegal approach by Valencia.