Having failed to get out of their UEFA Champions League group last season, Valencia CF emphatically put that right this term. The Spanish club's points total of 13 was bettered by only two teams – Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain FC – as they negotiated a section containing 2012 runners-up FC Bayern München, FC BATE Borisov and LOSC Lille. What is more, this came amid a run of erratic Liga form which cost coach Mauricio Pellegrino his job prior to matchday six.
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What drama. Pellegrino immediately settled into work in a group featuring the club against whom, in 2001, he lost his second final as a player in this competition: Bayern. Yet, despite the presence of the 2012 runners-up, LOSC and the initially powerful surprise package BATE, Valencia played with confidence and verve.
Sadly, that contrasted with their domestic inconsistency and although his side registered Valencia's best points haul since the 2006 group stage – and reached the knockout phase for just the third time in six attempts – Pellegrino departed before the final Group F match. Ernesto Valverde, a 2007 UEFA Cup finalist as coach of RCD Espanyol, will steer the Blanquinegros into the last 16.
BATE 0-3 Valencia. The Belarusian team had shocked Europe with a pulsating 3-1 victory against Bayern in their previous outing. Valencia arrived at Minsk's Dinamo Stadion having lost in Munich on matchday one and in shaky form in the Liga. However, a hat-trick from Roberto Soldado stamped the Spaniards' authority all over their double-header with Viktor Goncharenko's men; the return fixture at Mestalla finished 4-2 to the hosts.
Jonas. It was hard to choose between the 28-year-old Brazilian, Soldado and Sofiane Feghouli, but perhaps Jonas, with four goals and two man-of-the-match displays, edges it. His technical ability, pace and intelligent movement behind the central striker not only damages opponents but also brings so much more out of No9 Soldado's game.
Daniel Parejo. Now 23, the midfielder scored the winning goal for Spain in the 2007 UEFA European Under-19 Championship final, yet it has been a difficult road for him since. However, the maturity, creativity and goal threat he is beginning to show is exciting for those who have backed his talent in testing times.
Only Bayern, PSG and Juventus had a better goal difference than Valencia's +7.
"If the boss asks me to adapt and play right-back, as he did tonight after the red card, I'll not only do it but I'll give absolutely everything I have." Attacking midfielder Feghouli after not only deputising out of position, but also scoring to help ten-man Valencia get a point against Bayern on matchday five.
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