Thanks to an impressive home record Valencia CF have reached their first European semi-final since winning the UEFA Cup in 2003/04. Unai Emery's side have won their last three UEFA Europa League games at Mestalla, scoring four against PSV Eindhoven and AZ Alkmaar in the round 16 and quarter-finals respectively. Jordi Alba has demonstrated the class that earned him his debut for Spain, while defender Adil Rami has not only been a rock at the back but displayed predatory instincts with three goals in as many knockout games.
Story of the season
Valencia began the campaign in UEFA Champions League Group E, where a third-place finish behind Chelsea FC and Bayer 04 Leverkusen ensured qualification for the UEFA Europa League. The Liga side eliminated Stoke City FC 2-0 on aggregate in the round of 32 before an impressive opening 60 minutes against PSV in the last 16 gave them a two-goal lead to take to Eindhoven.
Rami's strike in the second leg eased Valencia's nerves and they secured a 1-1 draw to progress 5-3 on aggregate. A 2-1 defeat at AZ meant that the 2004 UEFA Cup winners had to be at their best in the return and they did not disappoint. An excellent performance earned the Blanquinegros a 4-0 win and a semi-final tie with Club Atlético de Madrid.
Semi-final pedigree (UEFA Europa League / UEFA Cup)
P1 W1 L0
Record against semi-final opponents
Atlético denied Valencia a place in the last four two years ago, but it could hardly have been tighter as the capital outfit hung on to win on away goals after two draws. The sides are obviously very familiar with each other from domestic competition, with Valencia holding a slight edge in terms of Liga results: winning 55 of the clubs' contests to Atlético's 51.
2009/10 UEFA Europa League quarter-finals
Valencia 2-2 Atlético
Atlético 0-0 Valencia (agg: 2-2, Atlético win on away goals)
Valencia have been inconsistent in Europe and in the league this season but a defining moment of their campaign came in the second leg against AZ. Emery's charges came into the game off the back of two defeats and a draw in the league but they pulled together and produced one of their finest performances of the season to eliminate the Eredivisie outfit and silence their critics.
Unai Emery, Valencia coach
"The upcoming tie against Atlético is giving off wonderful overtones and it represents a chance to reach the Europa League final. For that reason, all of our efforts up until now have been well worth it."
It may come as a surprise to learn that Valencia's top scorer after six UEFA Europa League outings is France defender Adil Rami, whose three goals have played an important part in the side reaching the semi-finals. Should the UEFA Champions League group stage be taken into account, Roberto Soldado leads the way with five goals in Europe's premier club competition and one in the UEFA Europa League. "I was thrilled to score twice against AZ but it is all down to the work put in by the entire squad during our training sessions," said Rami.
Although Rami's praises have been sung on the east coast of Spain, it is Turkish international Mehmet Topal who has become something of a local hero at Valencia. The central midfiedler scored a spectacular goal in the round of 32 first leg at Stoke and was on target again at AZ with a header which helped keep the Spanish side in touch going into the return fixture.
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