Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Valencia v Zenit: Hosts prepare for Champions League return

SoccerNews in La Liga 14 Sep 2015

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Valencia will contest their first Champions League group game since 2013 on Wednesday as Nuno Espirito Santo’s men host a Zenit side who traditionally struggle in Spain.

Since their run to the last 16 in 2013, Valencia were in Europa League action before missing out on European football altogether last term.

However, Santo will make his managerial debut in the competition against a familiar face in Andre Villas-Boas – the pair having worked together as part of Jose Mourinho’s backroom staff at Porto.

A 4-3 aggregate victory over Monaco in the qualification play-offs ensured Valencia of their return to the competition proper, with Russian Premier League opponents Zenit having lost their seven previous outings on Spanish soil.

Following back-to-back draws, a late Paco Alcacer goal ensured Valencia victory over Sporting Gijon in La Liga at the weekend, with Andre Gomes pushing for his first start of the season following a thigh problem.

Goalkeepers Diego Alves and Matthew Ryan will miss Tuesday’s clash with knee injuries, though.

“This [Gijon] result is very important for us, since the season started, the players have always had this working dynamic,” Santo said.

“My players should be congratulated because they fought and won. We saw our hard work reflected [against Gijon]. It’s a victory that gives us a boost but doesn’t come from a change in our work.

“We know we have a strong team, with dedicated players, and we are on the right track.

“On Wednesday we have another game that we approach with high motivation because it’s the Champions League – the best competition in the world.

“We have to approach it with a lot of excitement.”

Villas-Boas – who recently announced his intention to leave Zenit at the end of the season – has no fresh injury concerns, having seen his side battle back from two goals down to claim a draw against CSKA Moscow on Saturday.

Grouped alongside Lyon and Gent in Group H, both sides will fancy their chances of progression to the knockout rounds.

 

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