Stoke v Valencia 20:05 Thurs
Although Stoke City could have hoped for an easier Round of 32 tie, the Europa League debutants will nonetheless be looking for victory as Bet365 make them long odds against as Valencia travel to the Brittania Stadium in one of the biggest nights in Stoke City’s history.
Their tough mentality and style of play may have shone through at times but the Potters have also played some attractive football in their European run this season, contrary to what many predicted.
Tony Pulis’s side have already battled past Besiktas, Dynamo Kiev, Hadjuk Split, Thun and Maccabi Tel Aviv in previous rounds and they now find themselves up against a giant of Spanish football, Valencia, who currently lie third in La Liga.
The physical demands of balancing a European tournament with domestic affairs has however, impacted the Premier League outfit as some protracted and Tony Pulis’ side currently sit in 13th place.
This won’t play on their focus going into the fixture however, and will hold no fear when going up against the formidable Valencia.
Unai Emery’s side have coped better than their English opposition in regards to being able to compete successfully on shores both foreign and domestic and are looking likely to earn a Champions League spot once again as they currently in a comfortable third place position with an eight point gap over their nearest competition.
It is testament to the skills and respect of the manager, who has had to cope with the departing David Silva and Juan Mata, that Valencia are now one of the favourites to lift the Europa League.
Los Che Els taronja are coming off the back of a 4-0 win over Sporting Gijon and while travelling to Stoke City hasn’t been as scary a task as in recent seasons, the Spanish outfit will undoubtedly need to be wary in their first-leg trip.
Club star striker Roberto Soldado will be hoping to add to an already impressive goal tally for this campaign – which stands at 20 – but will need to be at his best to penetrate a stern Stoke backline.
Peter Crouch, who has been used sparingly throughout the competition is set to lead the line for Stoke, while Robert Huth is set to return at the back in the absence of Matthew Upson, who was sent off in the previous round against Besiktas, while Pulis may opt for Asmir Begovic in goal instead of veteran Thomas Sorensen.