Liga Match Preview & Team News
Ninth placed Valencia host Sixth placed Sevilla at the Mestalla on Saturday in a match that typifies the idea that there are no grey areas in Spanish football: according to the Spanish press anyway. Turning every drama in to a crisis while heralding every win as the dawn of a golden age is all part of life in La Liga, just ask the fans of these two clubs…
Take Valencia. Just a month ago they had apparently 'turned the corner' after a disastrous start to Koeman's managerial tenure at the Mestalla that saw them go nine La Liga games without a win: Valencia then collected seven points from three games and found themselves in ninth place in La Liga, just two points behind Sevilla.
However, four weeks without a win, a court battle with David Albelda, a fans revolt over ticket prices and a Presidential resignation means, according to the Spanish press, that it's all over for Valencia and Koeman.
The reality is that Valencia are still in ninth place, now six points behind Sevilla in the La Liga table. Admittedly they have gone four Spanish league games without a win, but they neither any better nor any worse than they were a month ago when many claimed that Valencia were ready to mount an assault on fourth place and Champions league qualification.
They are still an absolute circus off the pitch and they are still a mess financially, with or without Soler at the helm; but they are still Valencia and still capable of being very hard to beat, as Barcelona found out in the Copa Del Rey a fortnight ago - and Sevilla will find out on Saturday.
A sense of perspective is required and the Spanish sports press are best ignored when assessing this match because the gap between the two side's isn't the gaping chasm that the headlines would have us believe.
A win for Valencia would put them just three points behind Sevilla, whilst a win for Sevilla could push them up in to fourth and the Champions League.
Sevilla weren't exactly inspirational in their hard fought 2-1 over bottom side Levante last week and
were shambolic at times in their Champions League defeat to Fenerbahce. A win for Sevilla at Valencia on Saturday would have the Spanish press claiming that Sevilla are back with a vengeance.
However, lets not forget that Sevilla have also been labelled a crisis club by the media. In the previous two seasons under Juande Ramos Sevilla won five trophies, but their flirtation with mid-table obscurity in this current campaign has had the hacks claiming that Sevilla are also a disaster.
Yet, for a club of Sevilla's modest finances and in a season that has seen them lose their manager, and the death of Antonio Puerta, sixth place is nothing to be ashamed of: with a Champions League placing still within their grasp.
Unfortunately many are calling for Sevilla coach Manolo Jimenez to lose his job and that has prompted Daniel Alves to come out and talk some sense for a change. The Sevilla defender said " I don't think the coach is to blame for us having lost some matches. If we are doing things well then we are all doing well, and if we are doing badly, we are all doing badly. We are a team, a group, a family. There is no need to look for people to blame. The time for reflection is at the end of the season and not now."
The Brazil international also pointed out that with Sevilla now out of the Champions League, out of the Copa Del Rey and 20 points behind Real Madrid at the top of La Liga, the club is aiming for Champions League qualification and that, starting with Valencia on Saturday, every game between now and the end of the Spanish league season is like a cup final.
Alves said "From this moment on all the matches are very important. We are well past the halfway stage now and any point that is dropped along the way is very difficult to claw back. We have to go into these final games as if they were all vital for what we want, which is to be in the top four."
Prediction: All of the above is a very, very long winded way of saying - Draw / Away Win.
Valencia striker Fernando Morientes is set for his first appearance in three months this weekend after being named in Koeman's 19 man squad. Marchena also returns, as do Emiliano Moretti, Hedwiges Maduro and Rubén Baraja who all missed out at Depor last week through suspension. Vicente Rodríguez and Éver Banega are both injured.
Valencia Squad: Hildebrand, Mora, Miguel, Caneira, Marchena, Albiol, Helguera, Sunny, Moretti, Edu, Maduro, Joaquín, Mata, Baraja, Morientes, Arizmendi, Zigic, Villa y Silva.
Sevilla are sweating on the results of late fitness tests on Julien Escudé, Renato and Ernesto Javier Chevantón.
Sevilla squad to follow...