Unai Emery has urged his Valencia CF side to eradicate the mistakes that have blighted them in recent weeks as they seek to overturn a 2-1 deficit to AZ Alkmaar and advance to the UEFA Europa League semi-finals.
The Liga outfit have managed just six wins in their last 18 outings, and none in their past four, as their campaign, so promising at the turn of the year, threatens to go into meltdown. "We are concerned about this run of ours; we need to halt it as soon as possible," said Emery, whose side drew 1-1 with Levante UD on Sunday "We're aware of our responsibilities and we know what mistakes need correcting."
Anything but a return to winning ways against AZ will spell the end of their European adventure, after Maarten Martens' late goal earned the Dutch side a 2-1 first-leg win last Thursday. "Our most important task, in addition to scoring, is keeping a clean sheet," added Emery. "We must focus on the task at hand and take our chances. We have to play with style and passion, to inspire our fans."
Those supporters will be lifted by Adil Rami's return from suspension, though the game comes too early for Miguel on his comeback from injury. AZ have their own concerns, as Roy Beerens is struggling with a rib problem. Their coach, Gertjan Verbeek, is not being lured by talk of his opponents' troubles. "Valencia are a great team who play good football, which is why they are third in the Liga. They have had their problems but make no mistake: we're up against a great team full of great players."
The Spanish side's eight-match unbeaten run at home in Europe is testament to that, winning six and drawing two since losing to Manchester United FC in the 2010/11 UEFA Champions League group stage. "The players change, but Valencia's style and philosophy does not," said Verbeek. "I believe they will start strongly, attack and demonstrate why they are among the favorites to win the Europa League.
"The match will not be determined by luck. Whoever goes through to the semi-finals will do so because they played better."
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