Valencia v AZ Alkmaar, Thurs 20:05
With Athletic Bilbao and Atletico Madrid already holding advantages over their quarter-final opponents, Valencia will be striving to make it so that Spain accounts for three of the four Europa League semi-finalists this season when they welcome AZ Alkmaar to the Estadio Mestalla tonight, as Ladbrokes offer long odds against on the Dutch side for victory.
Los Che are currently on the wrong end of a 2-1 deficit heading into the second leg of this quarter-final fixture but will be confident that they can overturn that advantage and move past their Dutch opposition and on to a semi-final encounter with either Atletico Madrid or Hannover 96.
Unai Emery’s side continue to fight for their European future on multiple fronts and currently sit third in the La Liga table.
However, with the race for a top four finish as tight as ever, Valencia will be hoping to further their chances of Champions League football next season any way they can, and Europa League triumph is an almost as viable route.
The Spanish outfit have failed to net in just 7% of their home fixtures this season but after winning just once in their last seven outings, won’t be taking anything for granted before full time is signalled on Thursday.
A tough fixture against Real Madrid awaits Valencia this weekend, making Europa League progression more pertinent than ever as Los Merengues surely have the capability to take points away from The Orange.
AZ remain in contention to win the Eredivisie title, making their Champions League chances all the more assured but that doesn’t belittle the importance of the Europa League anymore when compared with Valencia’s priority.
The Cheese Farmers hold a lead thanks to scores from Aston Villa-bound Brett Holman and Maarten Martens but won’t be as confident of scoring in Spain.
The Dutch outfit have scored an average of 1.64 goals per game when playing on unfamiliar soil this season, conceding an average of 1.43 goals.
Gertjan Verbeek’s side edge ahead of their midweek opposition at the moment and will be looking to further the recent woes Valencia have been experiencing by booting them out of European competition.
Ever Banega and Sergio Canales are both still out with injury while Roy Beerens is the only possible concern for the visitors, who have a near clean bill of health.