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Cuenca taking on Miguel / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

Fourth meeting this season

Valencia and Barça are set to meet again on Sunday – for the fourth time this season following
the 2-0 Cup win for Guardiola’s men 10 days ago, the 1-1 draw in Mestalla in the first leg and
the 2-2 La Liga draw earlier this season. That Cup defeat for Unai Emery’s men left them with the
Europa League as the only title they can realistically challenge for – they are currently 18
points adrift of the La Liga leaders – but they are certainly on course for another Champions
League spot behind the big two, sitting 12 points ahead of fourth place Levant.

Form Guide

It’s not been a great 2012 for Valencia, with last weekend’s 4-0 thrashing of Sporting their
first La Liga win of the year, following four draws – away to Villarreal, Osasuna, Racing and
Atletico Madrid as well as a 0-1 home defeat to Real Sociedad, though they did see off Seville
and Levante in the Cup before coming up against Barça in the semi-final. On Thursday they
found themselves in the unlikely setting of the Britannia Stadium in Stoke where they beat the
Potters 0-1 to take a big step towards the last 16 of the Europa Cup – a competition they won
when it was still the UEFA Cup in 2004, when David Albeda captained the team in their 2-0 win
over Didier Drogba’s OM Marseille.

History

That UEFA Cup win marked the end of a Golden Era for the club, following Champions League
Final appearances in 2000 and 2001 and La Liga titles in 2002 and 2004. The club, which was
founded in 1919 and moved to Mestalla four years later, staked its claim as one of Spain’s
big teams in the immediate post-civil war years, taking three league titles in the 1940s. In the
60’s they took two Fairs Cups – including the 1961 edition when they beat Barça in the final –
and again won a league title in 1971, to kick start a decade which saw the signing of the great
Argentinean idol Mario Kempes. Disaster hit in 1985 when after a few seasons of narrowly
avoiding the drop amidst deep financial trouble, Valencia were relegated, putting an end to
55 years in the top flight. In recent years, the club has proved a rich source of top players who
have moved on to the continent’s biggest clubs, including David Villa, David Silva and Juan
Mata, whilst maintaining a secure place behind the big two.

The boss

Emery moved to Valencia in 2008 after success at Almeria and has won just over 50% of
his games in charge of the team over the last three and a half years. Nobody could say that
Emery is relaxed on the touchline and he is often to be seen gesticulating wildly at his players
and the officials, but he is a much admired young coach(40) who has guided the club through
what could have been a difficult period with the loss of players of the stature of Villa, Silva and
Mata.

Ones to watch

Jeremy Mathieu and Jordi Alba caused Barça plenty of problems in the 2-2 draw at the
Mestalla earlier this season, with the Frenchman providing the crosses for both Valencia’s goals
– something he repeated in the Cup game at Mestalla. Mathieu joined Valencia from Toulouse
in 2009 and his cavalier attacking style and his fine physique have made him an integral part
of Emery’s team. The pocket-sized Alba, who as a youngster was on Barça’s books, has made a
great impression over the last couple of seasons and was called up for his first full international
in 2011. He is equally at home as a left back, left midfielder or left winger.


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