Valencia eye Champions League spot via the Europa League

Goncalo Guedes

Valencia could secure an alternative route into next season’s Champions League, as their La Liga top four continues to falter.

Back to back defeats against Atletico Madrid and Eibar, in league action, has pushed Marcelino’s side down to sixth place, three points behind Getafe and Sevilla, with three games to go.

However it is not over yet in terms of a second successive season in Europe’s premier competition for Los Che.

With a two legged semi final against Arsenal in the next ten days, they do have a real opportunity to seal a ‘back door’ route into next season’s competition - if they can triumph over Unai Emery’s side and then beat either Chelsea or Eintracht Frankfurt in the final.

They will be confident on two fronts against the North London side – their poor recent run of Premier League form and their last four capitulation in last season’s Europa League, to Atletico Madrid.

However, in Emery, they have the most successful manager in the history of the competition and he will not want his first season in England to end without silverware – particularly as their own domestic top four push is in danger of fizzling out.

After dropping out of the Champions League in the group stages, Valencia breezed past Celtic and local rivals Villarreal, either side of a tough assignment against FK Krasnodar.

They do have the players to hurt Arsenal, with Goncalo Guedes looking forward to facing former Valencia defender Shkodran Mustafi, after scoring six goals in his last eight appearances in all competitions.

Marcelino has favoured a variation of 3-5-2 this season, which will look to match Arsenal in terms of system, however there are concerns defensively with just one clean sheet in their last eight games.

Jose Gaya has moved inside, to play on the left hand side of a three man defence – which has curbed his attacking instincts - with former Arsenal man Gabriel Paulista and Ezequiel Garay operating in the other two spots.

This provides plenty of experience, but they will be tested by the pace and movement of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Valencia’s best bet looks to be to exploit Arsenal’s own defensive frailties, and simply out score their English opponents, through Guedes and Kevin Gameiro – with skipper Dani Parejo also a consistent threat from set pieces.

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