Tuesday, 27 September 2011

UCL: Valencia v Chelsea preview

One of the week’s top UEFA Champions League matches will take place at the Mestalla tomorrow in the highly anticipated encounter between Valencia and Chelsea. Both clubs are expected to advance, but this fixture could very well determine the eventual top seed. Valencia lost at the weekend and the Blues come off a convincing league win over Swansea. Chelsea are unbeaten in their four encounters with their Spanish opponenets: meeting in the Champions League quarter-finals in April 2007 and in the group stages in 2007/08. Chelsea have won both of their trips to the Mestalla, each time thanks to a 2-1 scoreline.

Unai Emery will again go with one striker as Robert Soldado leads the attack, with five goals in five league games this season, backed up by Jordi Alba, Sergio Canales and Pablo Hernandez. In defense, Victor Ruiz and Adil Rami will start. Long-serving midfielder David Albelda is a doubt after being substituted with a back injury in a 2-2 draw against Barcelona last Wednesday and Mehmet Topal has been sidelined with a shoulder injury.

One of the main focal points of the Valencia clash is Juan Mata's return who, after four seasons at the Mestalla, will face his former team-mates for the first time since leaving them for London in the summer. In addition for Chelsea, Frank Lampard could once again miss out after being benched for the weekend win over Swansea. Fernando Torres will return to Spain and is likely to start, given the domestic ban he faces following his sending off on Saturday, despite Didier Drogba's return in the same game. Michael Essien is the only long-term absentee and Daniel Sturridge is a doubt with a knee problem.

Andre Villas-Boas says of Juan Mata: "He is a player of magnificent talent. He has been magnificent in the Champions League for Valencia and is showing his potential in the Premier League now as well."

Facts and stats
Chelsea have lost none of their last six Champions League away games in Spain (two wins, four draws)

Chelsea had the most shots on target on matchday one: 12 against Bayer Leverkusen

Fernando Torres already leads the assists chart: he set up both Chelsea goals against Leverkusen on matchday one

Valencia have won only two of their last nine Champions League games at the Mestalla

They’ve lost all of their last three home Champions League games against English opposition (twice against Chelsea, once against Man Utd)

Unai Emery (39 years old) and Andre Villas-Boas (33) are part of a group of three managers who are under 40 in this season's Champions League, alongside BATE Borisov's Viktor Gontcharenko (34)

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