Tuesday's UEFA Champions League encounter between Valencia CF and Rangers FC will "be like a final" for the Spanish Liga side, according to winger Joaquín.
Although they are separated by just one point in Group C, the teams go into the game in contrasting form. With 12 wins and three draws, Rangers are unbeaten this season while Valencia – defeated at home by Manchester United FC on Matchday 2 – have won just twice in their last six games, including Saturday's 1-1 home draw with Real Zaragoza.
It was only a few weeks ago, however, that Valencia topped the Liga table, so the 29-year-old Joaquín is calling on his team-mates "to get back to how we were playing and to get the joy back in our game". It should help that the No7 is available again after spending most of October sidelined with an ankle injury, missing the last two UEFA Champions League fixtures.
The former Real Betis Balompié and Spain winger said: "We must show maturity as a team and start doing the things we know we can. You could say we've lost a little bit of bite from our game – we've got a lot of young players and maybe we're committing too many errors right now."
Another concern for Unai Emery's side are the visitors from Scotland – who will be accompanied by 3,000 supporters – especially given the threat they faced in the clubs' meeting in Glasgow on 20 October. "We have to be careful in every aspect of the game," Joaquín warned. "At Ibrox they showed that they are a hard-working team who are well-organised defensively yet also very dangerous on the break. This game is exceptionally important for us and we really cannot afford any slip-ups."
Ominously, Valencia have failed to win their last three home matches in European competition – against Manchester United this season and twice in the UEFA Europa League last term. Hence the need to get the Mestalla crowd back on side with a clinical display against the Scottish titleholders. "We're only thinking about winning, that's the only mentality we have at the moment," Joaquín said. "We know that by getting all three points our fans will leave the stadium happy."
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