Weblog: The football punter
Don't expect a classic as United head to Valencia
Champions League Group H
BT Sport 3, 8pm Wednesday
Valencia and Manchester United meet in the Mestalla this evening with their European fates sealed, a situation which doesn’t encourage any great sense that we’re in for a belter.
The Spanish side will finish third in Group H and head off to the Europa League in the spring. United will escort Juventus into the last 16 of the Champions League.
There is a possibility that United can still win the group – they need to win this evening and hope Juve don’t win at bottom side Young Boys.
But the squad Jose Mourinho escorted out of Manchester on Tuesday afternoon showed that his sights are set squarely on Sunday’s dust-up with Liverpool in the Premier League.
The draw looks a big runner given the relatively low stakes, although a bet on not many goals looks perhaps more inviting. There were none when these two met at Old Trafford in October and a repeat of that can’t be out of the question.
Valencia’s under-pressure boss Marcelino needs a win but in his press conference yesterday he said: “Seeing our situation in the league, the priority this week is the league match.”
The situation he refers to is 15th place in La Liga, just four points above the bottom three, and the league game he is focused on is Saturday’s trip to Eibar.
Valencia have lost only three of their last 17 in all competitions – two of which were at Real Madrid and Juventus – but they draw far too many games. The latest of those draws was 1-1 against high-flying Sevilla. Indeed, they may be at the wrong end of the table but they’ve lost fewer games than Real.
Marcelino has several injuries to contend with and like Mourinho will draft in some youngsters with 17-year-old South Korean midfielder Kang In-Lee among the more eye-catching promotions.
Fans have been venting their anger at the team’s form in the direction of the board rather than at Marcelino, although he knows performances must improve and someone finding the net would help. Michy Batshuayi hasn’t been the answer – striker Santi Mina is one of three players sharing top-scorer honours in the league with just two goals to his name.
So if United wanted to come and play they would fancy their chances but a big game at the weekend is also on Mourinho’s mind.
He’s also got a few walking wounded who won’t be involved and while their last two performances – the 2-2 draw against Arsenal and 4-1 defeat of Fulham – have been mightily encouraging, this is still a set-up that looks hard to trust.
Under 1.5 goals