Valencia v Barcelona: Watching brief for Gary Neville against in-form champions
New Valencia head coach Gary Neville will watch from the stands as his players take on Barcelona in a crucial La Liga clash at the Mestalla on Saturday.
Interim head coach Voro and Gary's brother Phil Neville will continue to hold the fort for the game against Luis Enrique's side after guiding Los Che to a 3-1 Copa del Rey win over Barakaldo on Wednesday.
After watching the clash against Barca, former Manchester United and England defender Gary Neville will take charge of the squad on Sunday ahead of his first game in the dugout against Lyon in the Champions League on December 9.
It will be a massive test for Valencia, who sit ninth after seeing previous coach Nuno Espirito Santo resign last week. They face a Barca side sitting top of the pile, four points clear of Atletico Madrid and a further two ahead of rivals Real Madrid, who they defeated 4-0 last month as part of a run that has seen them win their last seven matches in all competitions.
Those games have seen last season's treble winners score an astonishing 28 goals while conceding just two, form which does not bode well for a Valencia outfit who have only beaten their opponents once in their last 16 attempts in La Liga.
"We thought for this week it is best for me not to be on the bench against Barcelona," explained Gary Neville.
"On Sunday afternoon I received the first contact from [club owner] Peter Lim. It took about 24 hours to think, talk to family and then make the decision, which was given on Monday.
"Then you have to focus on the logistics. It took until Wednesday for the announcement to be made and this would have left only one training session – a new voice for this short period would not have been fair for professional players.
"They needed to prepare for such an important game consistently with those who were already there. Out of respect for the players it is best for me to start against Lyon.
"I had several meetings with players, coaches, doctors – but at this stage it is important not to give a message that can undermine their attention from the important match against Barcelona, so I will leave them to one side now.
"I will not deceive Valencia fans by saying we are going to come here and play like Manchester United. I am aware that the style of football depends on the opponent.
"On Saturday against Barcelona, the approach will be different from Lyon and in each match we must adapt. People want to see attacking football and I will look for a way to provide a suitable style."
Barca star Luis Suarez is the league's second top goalscorer on 12 – behind only team-mate Neymar on 14 – and he is keen for his in-form side not to rest on their laurels despite having breathing space at the top of the table.
"There is enough quality in this squad to win new titles," he said at an Adidas promotional event.
"It would be very nice to repeat the treble, but we now have some very important games and then the Club World Cup, which we all want to win.
"It is great to get a six-point gap to Madrid, but Atletico are within four and they are very strong opponents.
"It is still too early to say who the candidates are to win the league. Last year we also had a bad time and then we went on to win the treble."
Jeremy Mathieu (thigh) is likely to be missing for the visitors after injuring his thigh in the Copa win over Villanovense.
Key Opta stats:
- At the Mestalla, Valencia have gone eight league games without a win against Barcelona (D4 L4) and they kept just one clean sheet in that run.
- Barcelona have won six league games in a row. Should they defeat Valencia this will be their best winning streak since October 2013 (13).
- Neymar scores an average of one goal per 76 minutes, the best rate among players with more than 100 minutes played in La Lga this season.
- The Brazilian player has scored in his last four league appearances. Should he score against Valencia this will be his longest such run in the competition (5).
- Valencia is, behind Malaga (4), the side to have faced Neymar the most times without conceding a goal scored by him in La Liga (3).
- Messi, Suarez and Neymar have scored 30 out of the 33 Barcelona goals in La Liga so far this season.