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Main » 2013 » March » 1 » Valverde ready for derby

Valverde ready for derby

la ligaValencia coach Ernesto Valverde is steeling himself for a typically emotional derby encounter against Levante as Los Che aim to further boost their Champions League qualification prospects.

They go into the match at the Mestalla in fifth, which as it stands would be good enough to qualify for the 2013-14 Champions League owing to Malaga's ineligibility on financial grounds.

Standing in their way are city rivals Levante, who come into the game in unconvincing form having lost three and drawn one of their last four games and sit 10th in the Primera Division.

However, Valverde is putting little store in statistics as he told his club's official website: "The game will be a difficult one, because it is a derby. One has to bear in mind the atmosphere. I believe in the players that we have though.

"From the outside looking in, it always seems like the team highest up in the league or the home team are the favourites, but the game is all about emotion and derbies are always even affairs and little things make the difference.

"Levante come into this game off a loss to Osasuna, but they are in the Europa League spots and in good form."

Valverde hailed the work done by his Levante counterpart Juan Ignacio Martinez since his appointment in June 2011, and held a joint press conference with him to preview the match.

He said: "I rate his work, because Levante have achieved the most difficult thing - everyone is convinced that what they do is the best. He is a normal guy, with whom you can talk normally. That's something that you appreciate in football."

Levante could be without two of their African stars for the short trip to the Mestalla. Nigerian forward Obafemi Martins, who has scored seven league goals since arriving at the club in September, is close to tying up a move to Major League Soccer side the Seattle Sounders, while Senegalese midfielder Pape Diop suffered a head injury in the defeat to Osasuna last time out and may not be risked.

Valverde has tested out a central-defensive partnership of left-back Jeremy Mathieu and midfielder David Albelda in training this week. Centre-backs Adil Rami and Ricardo Costa are both unavailable, with Victor Ruiz the only player fully fit in that position. Brazilian forward Jonas, who will be out of contract at the end of the season, is expected to feature after a brace against Real Zaragoza last weekend.
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