As strange as it sounds, I can’t remember a more anticipated second leg in a Copa Del Rey game with a team being 7–0 down, with most of the interest due to more off the field issues than what happens in the game.
A couple of reasons for the heightened anticipation in this instance are, on one hand if Barcelona win they have the chance to smash the Pep Guardiola’s 28 game unbeaten run and could potentially put an end to the huge debate raging with football lovers at the moment about which team was better. Well, at least if it doesn’t put a halt to the debate, it will certainly boost the armory in the case for Luis Enrique’s side being slightly better.
With many of the first team players being given a rest or even being left in Barcelona, whether this happens achievement or not is more of a sub plot to the bigger story. The more important aspect to tonight’s fascinating game is just how Gary Neville will approach it. Being quite bullish in his press conference, he flat out refused to answer questions on his future and would only talk about footballing matters.
Interestingly enough, he also gave his “word of honour” that the team would not be relegated. I find this quite amusing considering he took over when when Valencia were 5 points off a Champions League place and are now just four points off relegation, currently boasting the longest winless run of any La Liga team (nine games), and also his side have not been in a leading position in any of these games.
In recent press conferences, he has been talking a lot about what his team must do before games. For example, saying he his team needs to take a competitive score back to Mestalla (prior to the 7–0 humiliation) and saying what his side must do in last weekend’s must win game against Betis, subsequently losing 1–0. So for him to give the people of Valencia his “word of honour” they will not go down, I’m sure will be taken with a pinch of salt from all those associated with the club.
He also eluded to resting players for this evening’s game with a massive game against Espanyol coming up this Saturday at home, which is totally understandable. The surprising thing for me in this, is that if Valencia fail to win tonight’s game then Gary Neville will have the record of Valencia’s longest ever winless run on his C.V, and for a very proud man, this will undoubtedly hurt.