Gary Neville believes a big-game atmosphere can spur Valencia on when they face Barcelona in a Copa del Rey semi-final fraught with danger on and off the field.
Valencia will visit Camp Nou for Wednesday’s first-leg encounter still without a league win under Neville, but boosted by the transfer deadline day signings of Guilherme Siqueira and Denis Cheryshev.
The Russian’s name is already notoriously synonymous with this year’s competition after his involvement for Real Madrid in their round-of-32 tie with Cadiz resulted in the Bernabeu side being kicked out of the competition.
Cheryshev has been tentatively included in Neville’s squad for the trip to Catalonia, with a surreal Valencia debut still in the offing.
Neville explained: “He’s on the list. I think we’re still waiting for confirmation from the federation what the situation is and we don’t want to make the same mistake!”
Neville has overseen Copa victories over Granada and Las Palmas since taking charge and he hopes that another triumph can finally spark life into Valencia’s Liga campaign.
“Our good fortune in my time here has been in Copa, we saw on Sunday in the league it does not follow us,” Neville said.
“We have had good results in Copa, I agree that the performance against Barca a few weeks ago [a 1-1 La Liga draw] was determined. We were competitive in the game and we have to take all those qualities tomorrow into the Nou Camp.
“Over two matches it’s important that we return to Mestalla with a great opportunity, that’s the intention.
“This type of game is made for our players, we’ve shown that in the game against Barcelona in the Mestalla and Real Madrid.
“They’ve thrived upon this challenge, risen to the challenge and I think in those two performances there’s enough evidence to suggest we will be competitive in the game tomorrow.”
Enzo Perez is out, having sustained a facial injury against Sporting Gijon at the weekend, while Paco Alcacer and Javi Fuego remain sidelined and Aymen Abdennour will be rested.
Neville’s counterpart Luis Enrique expects to have Lionel Messi fit despite the Argentina star being subjected to rough treatment by Atletico Madrid in Saturday’s 2-1 win.
The Barca boss is happy to be pegged as favourites for the encounter, despite praising Neville’s impact on the Mestalla side.
“Neville’s Valencia play differently to how they played under Nuno,” Luis Enrique said. “They are defending in another area of the pitch and they have dangerous players going forward, they get a lot of people in dangerous positions.
“It is only logical that we are the favourites. It is something we all accept.
“But the players are all well aware that they have to live up to the favourites tag on the pitch. That’s what really counts.
“Our goal is to successfully defend all our titles. We have a lot of games in February, but that only shows we are on the right track.”
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