Valencia CF coach Quique Sánchez Flores has opted to lay his cards out on the table ahead of Valencia’s Champions quarter-final second leg at the Mestalla tonight.
In fact, whilst his Chelsea counterpart Jose Mourinho seems to revel in the pre-match game of bluff that has become his trademark, the Valencia coach has avoided being drawn into a game of tactical espionage by making his blueprint for success very clear from the outset.
"I have already asked my players to perform as if the first leg didn't happen and we don't have the advantage of a 1-1 draw," said the 42-year-old walking advert for Zara, "I have demanded a night of very high intensity and I want us to push Chelsea back by playing very high up the pitch."
If he is successful then Sanchez Flores, the former Real Madrid , Valencia and Real Zaragoza midfielder , will put Valencia into the competition’s semi finals for the first time since going all the way to the final in 2001 and finally losing out to Bayern Munich.
Defeat at the weekend to Athletic Bilbao has served as a bit of a timely wake-up call to Valencia who in spite of dominating against Chelsea in the first leg 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge, always looked susceptible to Chelsea’s direct, ‘route one’ approach.
"When your opponents have footballers of the quality of Drogba or Andriy Shevchenko, then it's obviously key to keep them as far from your penalty area as possible, for as long as possible. But given how Chelsea played for some of the last game, I've told my players that I want them to close down the opposition defenders and never allow them the easy option of a long ball. Linked to that, if Chelsea do hit the ball long to, say, Drogba then we need to be super alert and win the second ball when it is knocked down." Said Sanchez Flores
Valencia struggled with an injury crisis in that first leg in London and again tonight they will be without the suspended Carlos Marchena and David Navarro . Vicente also misses out after picking up a thigh injury against Chelsea at a time when he was starting to show glimpses of his impressive best. The good news for Sánchez Flores is that he will be able to count on Fernando Morientes who completed a full and rigorous training session on Monday and appears to have fully recovered from his dislocated shoulder.
Valencia have played host to English sides eleven times at the Mestalla and have never been defeated. Chelsea know that an away goal is a minimum requirement and Mourinho has hinted that his side will have to adopt a more attack minded approach than he would prefer in the early stages of the game. The Portuguese suggested that . "We have scored goals late in games many times this season but perhaps in Valencia, it will be the case that we are defending a lead late in the game. The Mestalla will be a pressure environment but fans don't score goals – I want our positive European season to continue and we can do it."
Valencia: Santiago Cañizares; Luis Miguel, Roberto Ayala, Emiliano Moretti, Asier del Horno; Miguel Ángel Angulo,
Raúl Albiol, David Albelda, David Silva; Fernando Morientes, David Villa.
Chelsea: Petr Čech; Lassana Diarra, Ricardo Carvalho, John Terry, Ashley Cole; Michael Essien, John Obi Mikel,
Michael Ballack, Frank Lampard; Didier Drogba, Andriy Shevchenko.