Atletico Madrid Valencia, Thurs 20:05
Atletico Madrid can become the first side to win ten consecutive Europa League fixtures on Thursday if they prove victorious over league rivals Valencia as Ladbrokes offer evens odds on Diego Simeone’s capital outfit to come out smiling in this first-leg fixture, and with Radamel Falcao in the line up, anything could happen at the Estadio Vicente Calderón.
Atleti have had an indifferent time as far as recent league performances are concerned, winning three and losing three of their last six matches in La Liga.
The meeting between the two Spanish sides shows the growth in sides from the top tiers in Portugal and Spain, with all eight of the semi-finalists in the last two Europa League tournaments coming from the Iberian Peninsula.
Both parties in question will be hoping to do the same next year also, and are both competing for a top four finish in the Primera Division, however Valencia sit in a more comfortable third than Atletico’s precarious position of seventh.
That being said, summer transfer Radamel Falcao will be looking to improve upon an already staggering scoring record in the European tournament after scoring 25 times in the 26 Europa League games that he has featured in.
Hoping to keep the Colombian will be a Valencia side under the guidance of Unai Emery, who walks a path on thin ice in this end of season run-in.
The manager may have led his side into the top three of the Spanish elite but is some 29 points off the pace set by Real Madrid and Barcelona and risks losing his Champions League qualification spot.
Los Che won just one league fixture in their last six attempts and are giving hope to the likes of Malaga, Levante and Osasuna who sit ready to pounce should they continue to stutter.
Both clubs may have fallen short of their usual standards but the duo can look upon the Europa League title as this campaign’s holy grail and a brightening light in an otherwise dim season.