Madrid, Nov 23 (IANS) Valencia travel to Russia to face Zenit St Petersburg on Tuesday in a game which could well decide the fate of the football club in Europe and of coach Nuno Espiritu Santo. It is a difficult season for Valencia after finishing fourth last campaign with Nuno under pressure from the fans as his side struggles to deal with the added pressure of juggling the Champions League with domestic commitments, reports Xinhua.
Fruit of that was very visible in their 1-1 draw against Las Palmas on Saturday night when Valencia were outplayed in front of their home support by a side which kicked off the weekend in the relegation zone. The result was doubly frustrating as it came on the back of Valencia’s best display of the season to date: a 5-1 triumph away against Celta Vigo.
That win a fortnight ago had seemed to signal a return to the good times and was a powerful reaction to the painful 0-1 defeat against Gent the previous week. The defeat to Gent has complicated Valencia’s passage to the last 16 of the Champions League, because although they remain second in their qualifying group, defeat to group leaders Zenit would leave qualification hanging on their last game, where they entertain an improving Olympique Lyon.
Nuno needs his players to recover the confidence and the pressure which saw them win in Vigo, although he will have to do so without injured central defender Mustafi and defensive midfielder Javi Fuego, who has travelled, but is a major doubt for the match. Meanwhile youngsters ‘Tropi’ and Rafa Mir have been added to the Valencia squad as cover. Zenit won a thrilling game 3-2 in Valencia’s Mestalla Stadium to start this season’s group stage and the side coached by Andre Vilas Boas have the European experience that is lacking in several Valencia players. Add to that the freezing temperatures in which the game will be played and Nuno’s side faces a test of character, whether or not they are able to pass it could decide the coach’s future.