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On Saturday at 4.00pm CET, it’s back to La Liga and a trip to eighth placed Valencia, managed by a former Barça star and with a familiar face between the nets. Here’s our lowdown on the club they call Los Che.
Where are they from?
Valencia is the third largest city in Spain, the fifth largest port in the Mediterranean and the capital of the region of the same name, where many people speak Valencian, a sister-language of Catalan. It’s huge historic centre is crammed with buildings to admire, and it’s also the home of Spain’s most famous dish, paella, and of the spectacular fallas festival in March.
The club was founded in 1919, but was not among the founder members of La Liga in 1928. Valencia started in the second division, but won promotion three years later and have stayed there ever since apart one season, 1986/87, when they dropped down to the second.
Despite being one of Europe’s biggest and richest clubs, Valencia have generally played a supporting role to Barça and Real Madrid in La Liga, but have won the title six times, most recently in 2004, and last year beat Barça to claim and eighth Copa del Rey trophy.
They’ve also won all of the big continental trophies apart from the Champions League, in which they were beaten finalists twice in a row in 2000 and 2001.
The 55,000 capacity Mestalla takes its name from a canal that used to run alongside the field. For several years it was known instead as the Luis Casanova after one of the club’s most esteemed presidents, but in 1994 the man himself asked for it to take back its former name.
The seventh largest stadium in the country is one of the favourite homes for the Spanish national team, who based their games here for both the 1982 World Cup and the 1992 Olympic Games (which were of course, held in Barcelona).
Built in 1923, it is the oldest of the twenty La Liga grounds, but its days are numbered. Work on a new stadium began in 2007 but the process has been interrupted by financial difficulties and it’s still unclear when the venue will be complete.
Did you know?
- Valencia is the third-most supported football club in Spain. No prizes for guessing who the top two are.
- Valencia’s first European trophy was the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1962. They beat Barça in the final.
- The bat on the Valencia logo dates back to the arms of the 13th century King James I of Aragon, but that didn’t stop DC Comics voicing an objection (but not an official lawsuit) against the club in 2013, claiming that it was too similar to the Batman logo
- Two of the biggest stars of the 1978 World Cup, Johnny Rep of the Netherlands and top scorer Mario Kempes of Argentina, were both Valencia players.
- One of the most dramatic games ever played between the clubs came on the final day of the 2002/03 season. Both Valencia (finalists in the previous two editions) and Barça were in danger of missing out on the next season’s Champions League and they met on the final day at Camp Nou. Valencia only needed a draw, and the game was about to end 2-2 when Rivaldo changed everything with a stunning overhead kick in injury time.
Valencia have been having a rather erratic season, but things have picked up since November and a run of six wins in nine games saw them rise to seventh. But a heavy 4-1 defeat at Mallorca last week was a step in the wrong direction. It’s away form in particular that has let them down – they are still unbeaten at Mestalla.
They also edged Chelsea and Ajax to finish top of a tight Champions League group to earn a last sixteen clash with Atalanta, and are also in the last sixteen of the cup after seeing of Logroñés 1-0 this week.
LAST FIVE GAMES
(COPA) Logroñés 0 Valencia 1
(LIGA) Mallorca 4 Valencia 1
(SUPER COPA) Valencia 1 Real Madrid 3
(LIGA) Valencia 1 Eibar 0
(LIGA) Valladolid 1 Valencia 1
Head to head
Barça are on a seven-match unbeaten run against Valencia in the league, but did lose to them in last season’s Copa del Rey Final.
Incredibly, we have to go all the way back to 2007 to find the last time Barça got beaten at Mestalla. In twelve meetings since then, Barça have won five and the other seven have all been draws.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
14/09/19 (LIGA) Barça 5 (Fati, De Jong, Piqué, Suárez 2) Valencia 2
25/05/19 (COPA) Valencia 2 Barça 1 (Messi)
02/02/19 (LIGA) Barça 2 (Messi 2) Valencia 2
07/10/18 (LIGA) Valencia 1 Barça 1 (Messi)
14/04/18 (LIGA) Barça 2 (Suárez, Umtiti) Valencia 1
Most international caps
Jasper Cillessen (Holland, 56), Ezequiel Garay (Argentina, 32), Denis Cheryshev (Russia, 25), Gonçalo Guedes (Portugal, 21), Rodrigo Moreno (Spain, 21), Maxi Gómez (Uruguay, 17), Daniel Wass (Denmark, 16), Kevin Gameiro (France, 13)
Dutch international goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen was at Barça for three season, mainly as second choice behind Ter Stegen, and left for Valencia in the summer.
Top scorers 2019/20 (all competitions)
Dani Parejo (8), Maxi Gomez (7)
Barcelona born Albert Celades was a product of La Masia and despite making 72 appearances for the first team, even earning international caps for Spain, the defensive midfielder never managed to hold onto a regular place. He left for Celta, and later Real Madrid, Bordeaux and Real Zaragoza before heading stateside to join the New York Red Bulls.
As a coach, he was in charge of the Spanish national team at various youth levels, eventually becoming assistant to Julen Lopetegui at the helm of the senior side- who he later followed to Real Madrid.
This September he accepted the Valencia job following the sacking of Marcelino, and his first game in charge was the 5-2 defeat to Barça at Camp Nou.
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