Facing the virtually-impossible mission of reversing a seven-goal deficit against Barcelona in the second leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals, coach Gary Neville hopes a decent result against the Spanish giant will help start turning things around for Valencia.
In addition to restoring some dignity, a home win against red-hot Barcelona on Wednesday could help steer the team back in the right direction after a dismal run under Neville’s command.
A victory at Mestalla Stadium would also put Valencia in the history books as the team that kept Barcelona from breaking its club record of 28 games without a loss.
Although no-one denies there is little chance of overturning the humiliating 7-0 first-leg loss, the return match means Valencia can regain some confidence and prove it’s better than recent results have been showing.
“We obviously put ourselves in a ridiculous position in that match,” Neville said. “It was unacceptable. But what I can see is that last Wednesday was a massive accident. That was a freak match.”
In his first head-coaching job, Neville is under increased pressure because of a series of poor results. The team hasn’t won in nine Spanish league games since he took over less than two months ago.
Valencia is 14th in the Spanish league with five victories in 23 games.
With a spot all but secured in the Copa del Rey final for the third straight season, Barcelona’s main goal will be to keep its unbeaten streak alive and break the club’s record. Luis Enrique’s team can be the first to reach 29 consecutive games without a loss in all competitions.
Barcelona on Sunday tied the record of 28 unbeaten match set by Pep Guardiola’s squad in 2011, and now it’s a draw away from surpassing it. Enrique’s team hasn’t lost since a 2-1 defeat at Sevilla in the seventh round of the Spanish league in October.
It will also be trying to win its 11th game in a row in all competitions.
Half strength Barca
Sitting on a 7-0 lead, Barcelona coach Luis Enrique is expected to rest some of the team’s top players in the return match against Valencia. Lionel Messi is one of the players likely to miss action as he underwent tests this week after a recurrence of kidney problems he had in December. Messi missed the Club World Cup semifinal at the time because of renal colic, an abdominal ailment often related to the presence of kidney stones within renal ducts.