There are big teams struggling across Europe’s big leagues right now, but few more than Valencia. Los Che are toiling down in the bottom half of La Liga, but retain designs on maintaining their place at the top table of Champions League football.
This season, Els Taronges competed on the European game’s grandest stage for the first time since the 2015/16 campaign, when they went out in the group stages behind Zenit St Petersburg and Gent. Having lurched their way through four managers that year, including Nuno Santo, Gary Neville and Pako Ayestaran, Valencia finished 12th in La Liga.
They finished in exactly the same position the following season, before qualifying for the Champions League by coming fourth in 2017/18. Reaching the same heights this term is looking increasingly unlikely. They managed to beat Manchester United in their final group game in December, but were eliminated as the Premier League side advanced to the knockouts along with Juventus.
Saturday’s defeat to Alaves sees Valencia nine points behind Los Babazorros, who rose to fourth place above Real Madrid with their victory, if only temporarily. Sevilla are flying high this season in third, while Atletico Madrid and Barcelona look uncatchable for Valencia.
Surely Real Madrid’s malaise can’t continue all season, which leaves Sevilla as the team Valencia must overhaul. Los Hispalenses are having a great campaign though, and are looking very good for a significant improvement on last season’s seventh-placed finish. Wissam Ben Yedder and Andre Silva have both been firing in the goals, and they each have double the tally of Valencia’s top scorer, Dani Parejo.
After failing to win any of their first six matches, and winning just one of their opening 11 La Liga fixtures this term, it’s a minor miracle to consider Valencia as contenders for the top four at all. They’d only lost one in six before Saturday though, which brought them back into the reckoning. However, the 2-1 defeat at the Mendizorroza was a hammer blow to their chances, and a real missed opportunity to close the gap.
It could open up an opportunity in the betting market though. Valencia’s current lowly position belies the quality in their squad, and they have the capacity to fly up the La Liga standings in the new year. The Europa League could be a spanner in the works though, with a round of 32 tie with Celtic coming up and the drain of playing Thursday and Sunday if they progress to the latter stages.
Yet even with that, Los Che boss Marcelino will demand a much better second half of the season from his players. If they can put a run together, then their current odds of 10/1 to finish in the top four and qualify for next season’s Champions League could turn out to be a bargain.
If you think they have what it takes, now would be the time to back them, as that price will only shorten if they start racking up the wins.