Roberto Soldado's love affair with the UEFA Champions League could not be any more passionate.
His barnstorming hat-trick in Valencia CF's 7-0 demolition of KRC Genk marked him down as a striker on world-class form and took his competition tally to 12 goals in 15 outings. Chelsea FC – who face a winner-takes-all shoot-out with Unai Emery's men in London on 6 December – will need to patrol Soldado with extreme caution.
The 26-year-old told UEFA.com: "If we stay in this form there's a good chance we can win at Chelsea.
It was not only one of my best games, it was a complete performance by the team on a win-or-bust night which we all treated like a cup final. Our objective was always getting to the last game with an opportunity of qualifying and that's the way it is going to be. We go to Stamford Bridge believing we have to win but our good work means a score draw works for us too.
"Right now I'm on a great run," added skipper Soldado, whose treble against the Belgian champions came in just 26 first-half minutes. "The goals are going in and that's important for me. The UEFA Champions League suited my style last season and I really want to continue scoring goals and give the team important victories. I just hope we come through the test in London with flying colours."
Not that Soldado can be regarded as Emery's solitary marksman. Wednesday's magnificent Group E scoreline – Valencia's first seven-goal haul in UEFA competition – featured sharp shooting from Jonas, Pablo Hernández, Tino Costa and substitute Aritz Aduriz. On a night of such consummate power and confidence from Soldado, who sent another message of intent to Spain coach Vicente del Bosque ahead of UEFA EURO 2012, there were at least two more candidates for man of the match.
Brazil inside forward Jonas was one. His tenth-minute header opened the floodgates and he supplied three clever assists to complete his best display for Valencia. He said. "I felt I really needed a performance like that with goals and assists because they characterise my style of play. Now we have to beat Chelsea. They are a great club and we have to avoid a defeat or scoreless draw which would put us out. We are in terrific form so it's a case of conserving energy for the big test in December – and then putting ourselves in the last 16."
Only the heartless could have left the Mestalla without sympathy for the excellent László Köteles. Genk's Hungarian keeper prevented the score reaching double figures, yet his terrific saves from Costa, Pablo Piatti, Dani Parejo and Aduriz were scant consolation with his side now out of Europe. "I did my job the best I could but we were lucky not to have conceded more," Köteles said. "I cannot rate my performance too highly when we conceded seven goals, but OK, I made some nice saves."
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