Valencia defender Jose Gaya has demanded perfection from his team-mates as they prepare for Thursday’s Europa League encounter with Athletic Bilbao at San Mames.
Gary Neville’s men hammered Rapid Vienna 10-0 on aggregate in the round of 32, but a tougher task awaits against fellow Liga opponents in the next round.
Gaya expects Athletic to cause Valencia plenty of problems and realises the visitors will have to be on top of their game if they are to get a positive result in the first leg in the Basque Country.
“It will be a great encounter, but also a very difficult one because Athletic are a great team, especially at home,” Gaya told the Valencia’s official website.
“We are going there to win. It is always our goal to win, but we are going to need a perfect performance in order to get a good result. The tie lasts 180 minutes and will be decided in the second leg at Mestalla. We will all give our all and battle hard in order to try to get the win.
“Athletic usually win a lot of second balls, so we have to stick together and limit space for them. We have to try to score an early goal, that would be hugely helpful.
“We have been doing well in the Europa League. We progressed in an encouraging way and are looking forward to the next test.”
The sides are meeting for the first time in European competition, but Athletic have recent history on their side, having completed a league double over Valencia this season with an aggregate scoreline of 6-1.
Athletic have further cause for optimism as they are unbeaten in six home matches in Europe this season. The Basque side are one of two clubs to have made it all the way from the third qualifying round to the last 16 this term, along with Borussia Dortmund.
The hosts’ Aritz Aduriz is the top scorer in this season’s Europa League with seven goals, but the attacker is doubtful for the match after picking up a knock at the weekend. Furthermore, Athletic coach Ernesto Valverde will also be without Ibai Gomez (foot) and Inaki Williams (ankle).
Valencia will have to make do without Real Madrid loanee Denis Cheryshev due to a thigh problem, while a calf issue could keep Enzo Perez sidelined.
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