Swansea – Valencia (Europa League)
Ten weeks ago Mestalla witnessed the shocking 0-3 Swansea’s triumph over Valencia. On Tuesday night, at the Liberty Stadium, the Welsh will be looking to replicate the positive result and extraordinary performance to secure qualification for the knock-out stages of the Europa League. If they do they’ll make history since it will be their first time ever to get there.
The South Wales men come from a reassuring 2-1 win over Fulham on Saturday and are 10th in the Premier League. With fifteen points in twelve games, as many as West Bromwich Albion and Aston Villa, they lead the bottom-half of the table. In the inaugural game of Europa League’s Group A the Welsh visited the Mestalla and came out with three goals without conceding. Wilfred Bony, Michu and Jonathan de Guzmán did the honors. At some point in that game the Spanish fans were cheering Swansea and booing the home team. In Valencia Laudrup started six Spaniards and they didn’t fail him. His team had possession of the ball and made three times as many shots as the opposition. The next European fixtures were not that brilliant. Sure, they defeated St. Gallen 1-0 at home. But then conceded two 1-1 draws to Kuban, both at Liberty Stadium and away. They sit 2nd at the table, with eight points in four matches, one behind the Spanish side. They head into this Europa League reverse fixture with Valencia hoping to seal the deal that allows them to go into the knock-out stages for the very first time in club history. A huge motivation for the Swans! They are in a good place, playing at home and depending solely on themselves to move forward. Michel Laudrup’s side may even have their feet into the next stage before the first kick tomorrow should St. Gallen reach a stalemate with Kuban Krasnodar early on. It is still to soon to Wayne Routledge to return but Pablo Hernandéz is a strong possibility to face his former team. Garry Monk (knee) is still a casualty. Michu continues to work on his ankle and knee injuries and won’t be able to give his contribution to the squad.
Probable lineup: Michel Vorm – Angel Rangel, Chico, Ashley Williams, Ben Davies – Jonathan Guzmán, José Cañas – Roland Lamah, Álex Pozuelo, Nathan Dyer – Wilfred Bony.
Valencia is one of the eight teams that already qualified for the Europa League last 32. They lead Group A with nine points gathered in four matches and ever since that first failing against Swansea they kept the eyes on the ball. Kuban (0-2) and St. Gallen (5-1 /2-3), twice, became obstacles they needed to remove from their path and so they did. On September 19th Miroslav Djukic’s men were under scrutiny due to the disappointing league performances. At that time they’ve had a three loss stretch and that pressure was visible in the way the players lost the ball in some compromising areas of the pitch. After that things changed somewhat and not just in the European front. Nevertheless, on Sunday they visited Martínez Valero and fell 2-1 to Elche, a loss that levelled them on points with their hosts. They are 10th in La Liga, seventeen points in fourteen games, with 5 wins, 2 draws and 7 losses. Éver Banega hurted himself him the knee during Wednesday’s training and only tomorrow will be clear if he travels with the team or not. Goalkeeper Vicente Guaita remains injured.
Probable lineup: Diego Alves – Joao Pereira, Ricardo Costa, V. Ruiz, Jeremy Mathieu – Oriol Romeu, Javi Fuego – Sergio Canales, Fede, Jonas, Helder Postiga.
To a club with Valencia FC’s statute this has not been the best of seasons. Now that qualification is a certainty, going far in the Europa League tournament would definitely be a way of saving face. And the players must be itching to return the humiliation Swansea putted them through in their homecourt.