Will Valencia give troubled Chelsea any cheer?
2 October 2007, VALENCIA - Avram Grant faces his toughest test since taking over as the manager of Chelsea when last season's European Champions League semi-finalists travel to in-form Valencia on Wednesday.
2 October 2007
VALENCIA - Avram Grant faces his toughest test since taking over as the manager of Chelsea when last season's European Champions League semi-finalists travel to in-form Valencia on Wednesday.
The 52-year-old Israeli will make his European debut as 'The Blues' manager after succeeding Jose Mourinho 11 days ago.
However Grant has struggled to make his mark since the departure of the charismatic if controversial Portuguese coach.
Chelsea have produced two dismal Premiership performances under his guidance, results only tempered by a 4-0 League Cup win over Hull City, who are one division below the former Premiership champions.
Nevertheless, Grant is confident that he will not be further embarrassed in their Group B clash with the Spanish side, despite the fact that his team was jeered from the pitch at Stamford Bridge after their lacklustre 0-0 draw with Fulham on Saturday.
"The Champions League is something different, we always play a different way. We'll give all we can," said Grant, who also suffered plenty of personal abuse from Chelsea's own fans.
"First we need to score and then we need to win. I can't argue with that. We need to play better and I think the players want to do that. We need to improve a few things in the game but I think the team is in good shape," added Grant.
To help salvage his reputation, Chelsea will have to play like they did the last time they visited Valencia's Mestalla stadium when they pulled off a stunning 2-1 victory in last season's Champions League quarter-final, second leg.
On that occasion, second-half goals from Andrei Shevchenko and Michael Essien propelled Chelsea into the next round and both men are likely to start against Valencia despite Essien missing Saturday's game.
"Essien has a small tear in his calf, but should be fit for Wednesday," confirmed Grant.
One man about whom Grant has greater doubts is Chelsea captain and central defender John Terry. Terry suffered a broken cheekbone against Fulham and underwent surgery on Sunday.
"His (John Terry) availability for Valencia will be assessed over the next few days following the surgery," said a statement posted on the Chelsea web site on Monday.
Regardless of who is in the Chelsea team on Wednesday, Valencia players are licking their lips at the prospect of revenge over a team, that is now giving a good impression of being rudderless, that ended their Champions League dreams back in March.
"New coach Avram Grant is not in the same league as Jose Mourinho. I do not know Grant but I don't think he is in the same category," commented Valencia striker David Villa on Sunday.
"I watched some of the action of their 2-0 defeat at Manchester United last week and the team was totally unknown compared to the Chelsea we played last time," added the Spanish international.
The mood in the Valencia camp is also buoyant after five successive La Liga victories which has seen them rise to third place, just one point adrift of Spanish league leaders Real Madrid.
Valencia also had a useful 1-0 win away at German side Schalke 04 in their opening Champions League match while Chelsea were surprisingly held to 1-1 draw at home by Rosenburg, a result which heralded Mourinho's departure two days later.
The big question mark for Valencia coach Quique Flores is whether his experienced goalkeeper Santiago Canizares will be fit after suffering a muscle strain in his left leg last week.
Timo Hildebrand is ready to take over between the posts, just as he did for Valencia's 1-0 win in la Liga at Recreativo Huelva on Sunday.
Valencia's Spanish international defender Carlos Marchena is also facing a race against time to be fit to face Chelsea after the bruising and sometimes bizarre encounter at Huelva which saw 13 players booked and one sent off.
[Copyright AFP with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news