Sky sports : 21:00 Kick off
The opening game of the Spanish football season and the only game of the day has been given added spice by the ongoing transfer saga of Joaquin from Betis to Valencia as a fascinating, if slightly bizarre backdrop.
The highly talented winger had been expected to leave his hometown club and join Valencia for a club record 25 million euros earlier this week. However, the transfer has inexplicably failed to materialize, leading to a rather curious chain of events.
On Thursday Quique Sanchez Flores assured anxious Valencia fans that the delayed arrival of their star signing was no cause for concern and that Joaquin would be a Valencia player by the weekend, although he may not have been available to play against his former club this weekend. On Friday, with the matter unresolved , Javier Irureta included the player in his squad to travel to Valencia, only to remove him a few hours later after admitting that he too had been confused by the situation.
It seems that late on Friday, the Betis President decided to send Joaquin to Albacete, in the second division, on a year long loan. Joaquin, upon his arrival at Albacete’s headquarters at 9pm, as he had been instructed to do by Lopera, found the gates locked. In order to prove that he had been there he persuaded a workman to photograph him outside the ground to demonstrate to Lopera that he had done as instructed.
Consequently, Irureta travels to Valencia today without Joaquin and admits “it’s the strangest thing I have ever been involved in”. He will also be without Ricardo Oliveira who, after going missing in pre-season has yet to train with the club.
Betis will want to put last season’s 14th placed finish behind them but added to the chaos of the last few days the club has suffered a chaotic summer in which coach Serra Ferrer left to be replaced by Javier Irureta. Without Oliveira or Joaquin, Betis are sure to struggle again this season and go into tonight’s game with further injury concerns.
Valencia’s preparation for tonight’s opening encounter has also been less than ideal given the off field bickering between coach Quique Sanchez Flores and sporting Director Amadeo Carboni.
Valencia go into tonight’s game without long term absentees Jorge López, Rubén Baraja, Asier del Horno and Miguel Brito; Ayala has not been listed in the squad after his recent outburst in which he has made clear his desire to leave the club.
Neither side has been particularly impressive in pre-season but Valencia will be boosted by their midweek qualification to the Champions league after defeating Salzburg 3-0 in the second leg of the qualifying round.
It’s the first game of the season and always a tough game to call, but Valencia should win in front of a hostile Mestalla crowd that will be hoping David Villa carries on last season’s excellent goal scoring form. The exciting David Silva should start this evening and will be one to watch throughout the season and many observers have tipped the talented youngster to ably fill the gap left by Pablo Aimar, sold to Zaragoza in the summer.