Valencia will be aiming to revive their bid for Europa League positions when they host high-flying Athletic Club, with the hosts hoping to make amends for the narrow defeat to Rayo Vallecano. Los Leones moved six points clear in the race for the final Champions League berth as they hammered Granada at home, but the visitors are aware the match at Mestalla will be anything but a walk in the park.
Bright run comes to an end
Having established themselves as the best of the rest in Spanish La Liga, Valencia have been on a major downtrend of late, and they eventually missed out on a top 4 finish last term. With the club in serious financial problems, things have been even more difficult this season, given that los Che currently sit in ninth position in the standings. Following some early struggles under Juan Antonio Pizzi, the team have shown considerable improvement of late, having eliminated Dynamo Kiev from Europa League, while taking 12 points from six league fixtures. The good run finally came to an end last weekend as Valencia were beaten by Rayo Vallecano, and the hosts will be very motivated to make things right against Athletic. That will be no easy task considering their opponents are on top of their game at the moment, but los Che are aware they need to win this clash if they are to remain in contention for European positions. Valencia are unbeaten in last six matches in all competitions at Mestalla, and they will certainly be hoping to extend that run beyond the Athletic game.
Ricardo Costa has been added to the injury list with an ankle problem, whereas Javi Fuego, Pablo Piatti and Oriol Romeu remain sidelined. Antonio Barragan is banned, but Dani Parejo returns from suspension.
Athletic close on Champions League qualification
Not even the most optimistic of fans could have predicted Athletic would be vying for Champions League positions so soon after being involved in the relegation tussle. Nevertheless, former Valencia boss Ernesto Valverde has got this team playing to their potential, turning los Leones into main candidates for the fourth-place finish. While becoming even ore ruthless at their New San Mames, Athletic have seriously improved their away performances, winning 17 points from 12 fixtures on the road so far. And with no European distractions to worry about, los Leones are widely tipped to hold off challenge from Real Sociedad and Villarreal and achieve Champions League qualification. Athletic ended a run of four matches without a win as they defeated rock bottom Real Betis on the road, before hammering Almeria 4-0 last Friday. And while there is plenty of reason for optimism ahead of the trip to Mestalla, it may be important to note that Ernesto Valverde’s charges haven’t done too well when facing top table sides on the road, having lost to Real, Espanyol, Atletico and Real Sociedad, while only sharing spoils with Sevilla.
Mikel San Jose is doubtful with a hand injury, whereas Kike Sola, Ibai Gomez and Inigo Ruiz de Galarreta are also sidelined.
Valencia seem to have suffered a small dip in form of late and having failed to score in three of last five matches, they could face problems against very good Athletic side. Meanwhile, los Leones are impressive on home soil, but they struggle when facing top sides on the road, which is enough to suggest we are going to see a very tight game between two evenly matched sides.
Top pick: Under 2.5 goals 2.10 (11/10) @ Paddy Power
Alternative pick 1: Half-time Draw 2.30 (13/10) @ Stan James
Alternative pick 2: Draw 3.50 (5/2) @ 888sport