El Centrocampista

IN IT TO WIN IT – Valencia keep their Champions League hopes alive

By Archie Buck

It’s too early in the season for must win games isn’t it?

Yet, last night as the Valencia team walked out onto the pitch, they knew anything but a win would leave them with a massively uphill battle to qualify to the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League.

The game against Bayer Leverkusen took on ever-more importance as the German side are there main rivals for qualification behind Chelsea in Group E.

The first game in Germany had been a tense encounter and atlhough Valencia led for much of the first half after a relatively early Jonas goal, the Germans eventually rallied and turned it around in the second half with goals from Schurle and Sam.

It was vital Valencia started well last night, however even the most optimistic of supporter could have predicted Jonas’ opener with just 10 seconds on the clock.

A bad mistake from the Leverkusen goalkeeper gave the Brazilian the chance, and his finish was exceptional.

Valencia had looked impressive until the loss of Ever Banega in the 20th minute and the site of the Argentine leaving the field was a huge blow for Unai Emery.

We will learn the full extent of his injury today.

That their misery was compounded as the visitors levelled ten minutes later was rather predictable in the scheme of things.

It is credit to Emery however, a man who seldom seems to do right for many people, that he got his players back into the game after losing one of their stand-out players of the season so far.

The true  sign of a good team is when they have more than one player who can to come to the plate and carry the team, and Valencia seem to be blessed in that department.

Roberto Soldado, continued his amazing goalscoring exploits when he grabbed the second and, yet another of their most impressive players so far this season, Adil Rami secured the game for los che.

The former Lille man has been a great success this season and is arguably their most important player.

Valencia are still in the competition, but Emery knows there is work to be done.

A home win against Genk is vital; anything other than three points would be disastrous. A 3-1 win over Leverkusen means they edge the head to head.

Chelsea’s draw with Genk also throws up another possibility. Last night’s results means they have not yet automatically qualified and face a tricky trip to Leverkusen next. It is possible that Valencia could top the group, something which seemed impossible before last night.

It gives the team the perfect springboard for the short trip to high flying neighbours Levante on the weekend. Never has the derby been contested with the combatants so high up the table.

Valencia will be looking for their third on the bounce; Levante trying to make sure defeat to Osasuna isn’t the start of a slide down the table.

If Valencia can reach the knockout stage then they can be very pleased with their start to the season. Domestically a win over Levante would see them move to third in the table, still clinging onto the coat tails of Real Madrid and Barcelona.

It is unlikely that Levante will hang around the top four for too long and there is a comfortable gap of four points to next closest rivals Sevilla. In a month we could be talking about a club looking towards the knockout stages and looking comfortable in La Liga, however there is still work to be done.


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