MISSION TO THE MESTALLA

By Rowan Farnham-Long
Oct 3rd, 2007

Just one goal. Please. The ball in the back of the net. Simple as that. Something to cheer about after the disappointments and debacles we have witnessed recently. We all know the stats which point to our impotent strike-force, they are scarred into all of our minds, but they have to change sometime. Considering those stats, it’s not the greatest time to visit the Mestalla, but could this be our turning point? Will we leave Spain with our heads held high? Will Salomon Kalou get a shot on target? Wednesday is a big night for our club.

Valencia come into this match on the back of a 1-0 win over Recreativo de Huelva, with fans’ favourite David Villa scoring the only goal of the game to keep his side flying high in La Liga in third place. Valencia have only lost one game this season, an opening day 0-3 defeat at home to the impressive Villarreal after seeing two men sent off. Los Che’s David Albelda said ahead of this game, “Now is a good time to play Chelsea. They have injuries and we are in a good run of form, especially in terms of results. Last year we were very tired and not physically up for the challenge, but now things are very different.” Valencia have injury problems of their own, with goalkeeper Santiago Canizares and creative midfielder Manuel Fernandes struggling to reach full fitness in time for the game.

Last year of course saw a dramatic last-gasp win deep into Chelsea time for us, with Michael Essien steaming up the right-side and powering home the ball to send Valencia out of the Champions League. Essien could return to the side following his absence from the weekend visit of Fulham. John Terry is also set to play with a protective mask following his broken cheekbone which was injured in the same game. The two players serving suspensions in the Premier League, Didier Drogba and John Obi Mikel, can also return, as they can still play in European competition but Shaun Wright-Phillips is out with a calf injury. Following below-par performances on Saturday, Andriy Shevchenko’s and Tal Ben Haim’s places in the starting XI should be under threat, but don’t bank on it for obvious reasons.

Whereas in the last few years we would be setting out our stall to perhaps grind out a 1-0 win which we seemed to be able to do fairly comfortably, nowadays we are just hoping to get out of games alive! It will be interesting to see the 11 chosen to combat Valencia, and if we are still following a policy of so-called entertaining football in a “must-not-lose” game. The smart thing to do is play our old style and try and frustrate Valencia rather than throw caution to the wind and end up conceding silly goals. But then, what do I know? I’m sure Avram has his own ideas, and if not, Roman will be more than happy to lend a hand.

Please lads, don’t lose!

Prediction: After a soul-destroying 0-0 with Fulham at the weekend, that scoreline may actually be welcome come Wednesday night. It’s perhaps wishful thinking for us to nick a 1-0, but I don’t want to predict a goalless draw. So 1-1 it is then. I hope.

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