El Centrocampista

Valencia toil as Emery begins the long goodbye

As Sergio Canales turned on the edge of Thibaut Courtois penalty area things took a turn for the worse for his team.

Nearly all of Valencia’s eight chances, including a series of crosses that just needed a finishing touch cut out by Atletico players, came before Canales’ injury in the 59th minute. Moments after the Spaniard left the field on a stretcher his under 21 team mate Adrian Lopez chested down a cross-field pass from Diego and hit a wonderful swerving shot across Alves and into the top left corner of the net. And with that, Valencia’s season all but ended.

Atletico Madrid deservedly went on to win the Europa League game 1-0, and the tie 5-2 taking them to the final where they will play Athletic Club, Valencia went on to disappear out of the game only showing fight, in a quite literal sense, in the 79th minute when Jordi Alba and Roberto Soldado were booked during in a fray in Atleti’s penalty area that also saw Tiago red carded.

The second half performance was similar to the one shown in the first leg, and also in the league against Espanyol, and unsurprisingly for a team so low on morale it carried on into their Champions League defining game against Malaga at the Rosaleda.

Some say ‘the league table doesn’t lie’ on this occasion it does. Valencia sit third after to the loss to Malaga but on 2012 form, are far from the third best team in Spain and are only above Malaga due to a superior head to head record. The performance was one that has become worryingly regular for Valencianistas where the team displayed a complete lack of cohesion with no link between defence, midfield and attack.

Valencia now have three games left to ensure Champions League qualification; starting with the visit of Osasuna tonight, and it is preferable they achieve a top three finish to ensure direct entry into competition, the other narrative which has a great deal of importance is that these three games are also likely to be Unai Emery’s last.

It’s becoming increasingly likely that the Basque manager will return north after holding meetings with officials of Real Sociedad, a move that will suit both sides nicely.

What happens at Valencia remains to be seen, local sports paper Superdeporte claim it is between one of their ex-players who now manages Real Valladolid, Miroslav Djukic and Mallorca manager Joaquin Caparros, two pretty uninspiring options in comparison to the names the paper previously listed including Mauricio Pochettino and Luis Milla, the name of La Liga and UEFA Cup winner Rafael Benitez has also been touted on a regular basis.

The turning point in Valencia’s season in Sergio Canales’ ligament damage means he will be out for at least another six months. Emery, however, will be out indefinitely.

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