Can Valencia mount credible Champions League challenge?
Valencia managed to see off Champions League play-off competitors Monaco over two legs, with the Spanish side’s home form vital as they squeezed through 4-3 on aggregate, following a fright at Stade Louis II, to cement a spot in the group stages.
It cannot be underestimated just how crucial Los Che’s qualification for the coveted continental competition will be for the club, who had come under scrutiny from FIFA Fair Play as they attempted to strengthen this summer.
Now, with a Champions League slot snaffled and defensive stalwart Nicolas Otamendi sold to Manchester City for a substantial fee, the Bats may be able to loosen the purse strings once again. The Orange Blossom Coast club, rank outsiders at 66/1 with Coral to lift La Liga, will undoubtedly need to if they are to keep moving forward.
— Manchester City FC (@MCFC) August 20, 2015
Making credible progress against Europe’s big-guns and remaining a thorn in the side of Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid, could keep coach Nuno Espirito Santo from seeking pastures new, as long as there is career progression.
Having conceded four in two games to Monaco, rearguard reinforcements should be top priority, with Nuno confirming that “after this match decisions must be made.”
“It’s time to talk, to sit down and calmly analyse the market, what is on offer, who you can sign while adhering to Financial Fair Play rules. Otamendi’s exit means we have to review the situation but if we do bring someone in they will have to contribute,” added the Portuguese.
Valencia have already snapped up nine new recruits this summer, including making loan deals for top performers Joao Cancelo, Andre Gomes, Rodrigo and Alavaro Negredo permanent. This transfer tactic seems to have worked well for the Bats recently, so should perhaps be employed again, if Chelsea steal mooted Argentine centre half target Ezequiel Garay from under their noses.
Garay, who of course has previous La Liga experience on his CV after a spell at Real Madrid, could be a perfect replacement for compatriot Otamendi, should Los Che be looking for a quick-fix. Otamendi’s bullish approach, pace and brute strength will surely be missed, yet the funds received could ensure a stupendous season for Valencia.
As for the Champions League, against the elite, the Bats can beat any on their day. Yet a top-draw goalscorer that rivals such as Atletico Madrid, who boast Jackson Martinez, possess remains elusive.
It was Negredo who bagged away against Monaco, but the striker still has question marks over his consistency and contribution to overall play, though he should offer enough goals to get Valencia out of the group stage, alongside poacher Paco Alcacer, who has previously shown he can be prolific in patches.
On the wing, Rodrigo and Sofiane Feghouli offer incisiveness and threat on opposite flanks, and will need to improve on their hauls if the Bats are not to bow out at the first few hurdles. Young-guns, Santi Mina and Zakaria Bakkali could also be wild cards, but Valencia need more than fledglings to truly challenge.
With Dani Parejo patrolling midfield and progressing as an influential force every season, Los Che perhaps just lack a finisher able to bomb forward from the centre of the park, yet holding on to highly-rated Gomes could be key.
At a 40/1 outsiders price to be surprise Champions League winners, Valencia’s path depends much upon the upcoming draw. Yet, the Iberian underdogs have the quality to cause some upsets along the way, despite not making the final since 2001.
Two victories and two draws against both Madrid clubs in La Liga last term, hint Los Che, supported by a passionate local fanbase, are a team with huge potential, perhaps still putting the last pieces together, and they should not be phased by facing any big team on the continent this season.