Next Wednesday, 16th of September 2015, Valencia will measure forces with the Russian champions FC Zenit at the Mestalla Stadium for the opening day of the UEFA Champions League group stage.
It wasn’t by any means an easy match, the one Valencia played at El Molinon last Saturday. Their opponents, Real Sporting de Gijon, offered them a fantastic resistance and have only succumbed in the last minutes of the match when Paco Alcacer headed home a cross from Zakaria Bakkali. It was Valencia’s first win at La Liga after two consecutive draws against Rayo Vallecano and Deportivo La Coruña, but Los Che had to dig really deep in order to achieve it.
This season marks the return of Valencia to the UEFA Champions League after missing the two previous editions. It will most surely be a special match for their manager Nuno Espirito Santo, who is by the way doing an excellent job with the team, since it will be his first match as head coach at the UEFA Champions League. Nuno Espirito Santo was the backup goalkeeper for the legendary Vitor Baia in the 2003-04 Champions League final when FC Porto beat AS Monaco by 3-0 thus winning the second trophy of their history.
Valencia’s goalkeepers, Diego Alves and Mathew Ryan, are currently sidelined due to injury and for that reason, they will miss next Wednesday’s match against FC Zenit.
On the other side of the barricade will be FC Zenit. The Russian champions have been particularly inconsistent so far this season and are in a way drowned into a managerial crisis after André Villas-Boas have announced last week that he will be leaving the club at the end of the season. The Portuguese manager is on a six-match ban at the Russian Premier League after allegedly pushing a fourth official in his team’s home defeat against Krylya Sovetov before the international break.
Last Saturday, FC Zenit travelled to Moscow and granted a last minute draw against their title contenders, CSKA Moscow. After being down by 2-0, the Saint Petersburg team bounced back and snatched a valuable 2-2 draw during a particularly complicated period for both the players and the entire managerial structure.
Stats: W-2 L-1 D-2
Recent Form - WDLDW
Stats: W-2 L-2 D-1
Recent Form - DLWLW
Valencia (4-3-3) – Domenech - Barragan - Mustafi - Abdennour - Gaya - Javi Fuego - Enzo Perez - Dani Parejo - Feghouli - Rodrigo - Negredo
FC Zenit (4-2-3-1) - Lodygin - Smolnikov - Neto - Garay - Criscito - Javi Garcia - Witsel - Shatov - Danny - Hulk - Dzyuba
Injury List / Suspended Players
Valencia - Diego Alves (inj) - Mathew Ryan (inj)
FC Zenit - Malafeev (inj)
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