By Carlos Urrutia and Paul Nixon
Valencia CF coach Rafael Benítez only has eyes for three points ahead of his side's UEFA Champions League Group B home match against FC Basel on Wednesday night.
'In my head'
A victory over their Swiss opponents would all but confirm Valencia's progress to the second group stage after collecting six points from their opening two fixtures, and Benítez is keen to claim another win. "We will have to be patient during the match," he said. "Basel are also playing to try to qualify. I don't want to think about the second phase at the moment, I've only got it in my head to win three points."
Benítez's opposite number Christian Gross is something of a hero in Switzerland's second city after guiding Basel to the group stages for the first time in their history. Having disposed of Celtic FC in the third qualifying round, Gross's men opened their group stage account with a memorable 2-0 victory over FC Spartak Moskva, before a 1-1 draw with Liverpool FC at Anfield on Matchday Two.
The Valencia coach is certainly wary of the threat posed by a Basel side visibly growing in confidence. "We know Basel quite well," Benítez said. "Their coach, Christian Gross, was interested in our training system a few years ago. They are going to be a hard team to beat after their victory over Celtic."
'20 per cent better'
Gross is under no illusions that his side faces a massive test of character. "Valencia CF are one of the strongest teams in the Champions League," he said. "They have more experience than Liverpool, and they also are very ordered and efficient. They do not need to shoot on goal many times to score and for us it will be very difficult to win or even draw because they are 20 per cent better than us."
Valencia, who top of the Primera División, will be without the injured Kily González, still suffering with a knee problem, and Benítez has decided to include forward Salva in his plans. The coach must also decide whether to maintain his faith in John Carew, or opt to give Mista, a goalscorer in the win against Spartak last week, a chance to impress from the start.
Basel, the reigning Swiss champions, are currently second in the Nationalliga A following a 2-1 comeback victory against BSC Young Boys, but they will be without midfield players Scott Chipperfield and Benjamin Huggel.
History is certainly on Valencia's side and Basel will be hoping to do better than their 5-1 defeat at the Mestalla in the sides' only previous meeting in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup 37 years ago. Indeed, Valencia have never lost to a Swiss side, winning four and drawing the other of their previous five matches. How Basel would love to redress the balance.
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