Chelsea travel to Spain to take on an in-form Valencia this evening, will they struggle? That all depends on which Roberto Soldado turns up.
An in-form opposition
Valencia had started the new la Liga campaign at a heck of a pace, picking up three wins from three. That run was halted by Barcelona, but only just in a marvelous 2-2 draw in Mestalla where Valencia were a Roberto Soldado miss away from taking all three points. Although Valencia lost against Sevilla at the weekend, the side was very much a changed one and somewhat hampered by Ever Banega missing a second-half penalty. A goalless draw in Genk in the club’s first Champions League game sees Valencia with no other choice than to pull out all their attacking stops against Chelsea.
An obsessed Unai Emery
Expect the Valencia boss to know more about Chelsea’s tactical master plan than Andrés Villas-Boas. The 39-year-old is a tactical nerd who endlessly attempts to gather his squad together and brainwash the brainless with flip charts, chalk boards and homework loaded onto USBs of the lowdown of the opposition and what his players need to do in response to them.
Judging by the 90 minutes of pointing, shouting, flapping and frenzied direction-giving regularly performed by Emery, most of this pre-match advice is largely ignored with confused players no doubt mistaking their USBs as some kind of crunchy-coated snack.
Two Roberto Soldados up front.
Like Alvaro Negredo, Fernando Llorente and Juan Mata, the Valencia striker is another contender for Fernando Torres’s increasingly precarious role as back-up for David Villa in the Spain squad. Since joining Valencia from Getafe in 2010 to replace Villa, Soldado has scored 23 league goals for the east coast club including five this season from four starts. Indeed, the former Real Madrid man banged in six strikes in last year’s Champions League campaign which ended at the last 16 stages against Schalke.
The problem though is that Soldado tends to struggle against the world’s big cheeses and can get a little anxious in front of goal, as the forward showed against Barcelona in the 2-2 draw. Until this issue is tackled, many pundits in Spain view the Soldado as perfectly fine for his club, but not his country.
A Moaning Mestalla
Valencia fans are incredibly hard to please. A solid 45 minutes from Chelsea and some missed opportunities for the home-side on Wednesday night could see handkerchieves waved at crest-fallen Valencia players at the end of the first half at a ground where it’s very hard to win the fans back in the second.
Juan Mata not to celebrate
Following the tradition of footballers returning to their old clubs, Juan Mata has promised that if he should score against his only just former club then he will merely be looking for a handshake from his colleagues who will no doubt ignore his wishes and launch an 11-men pile-on and fist pump to the Valencia stands.
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