Chances are Valencia and Monaco representatives were far from happy when they learned the name of their opponents in the Champions League play-offs, but the two European powerhouses will now battle each other for a place in the group stages. Both sides have some important missings ahead of the first leg, so read on to learn what to expect from the clash at Mestalla.
Buoyed by the heavy investment in the club by new owner Peter Lim, Valencia are slowly returning to old glory days, although they can only hope the wealthy businessman will not lose interest in the Mestalla outfit any time soon. Given the number of changes to the playing squad and the arrival of new coach Nuno Espirito Santo, los Che did really well to clinch a top 4 finish in La Liga last term, but they have since experienced all sorts of problems. First starting keeper Diego Alves suffered a serious injury and then Andre Gomes also moved to the infirmary, while Valencia were pretty disappointing in most pre-season games. New signings Matt Ryan, Santi Mina, Zakaria Bakkali and Danilo Barbosa all lack the experience of playing at this level and they will probably need time to start performing to their potential. And with Nicolas Otamendi making himself unavailable for selection as his transfer to Manchester City draws closer, los Che could find it hard to justify the favourites’ tag against in-form Monaco. It is believed that inexperienced Ruben Vezo will deputize for the Argentine defender, while Javi Fuego should come in for Andre Gomes.
Monaco, too, have the owner who is probably just as wealthy as his Valencia counterpart, but after investing considerable funds into the playing squad, Dmitry Rybolovlev decided enough was enough and instructed the club officials to change their transfer strategy. This is proving a very good move as the club are now selling star players for profit, while replacing them with very talented, yet not too experienced footballers. Leonardo Jardim is in charge of keeping the results respectable and he was one of the reasons why Monaco were one of the surprise packages in both France and Europe last term. The Principality club in turn recruited a plethora of quality footballers in the summer transfer window, including El Shaarawy, Cavaleiro, Pasalic and Carrillo, and they were still able to hit the ground running early on. While failing to break rock-solid Lille last weekend, Monaco won the remaining three matches in style, and they will fancy their chances of upsetting out-of-sorts Valencia at Mestalla. The reality is that the likes of Joao Moutinho, Layvin Kurzawa and Aymen Abdennour will be sorely missed, but, for the first time in a while, the Principality club have a big squad of quality players to select from.
Valencia have been pretty unconvincing in pre-season and they appear to have been destabilized by the uncertainty surrounding Nicolas Otamendi. Meanwhile, Monaco are already playing at a very high level and we can see them avoiding defeat in the first leg at Mestalla.
Verdict: Monaco not to lose
Best Odds: 19/20
Bookmaker: William Hill