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Valencia CF midfielder David Albelda reaches a landmark 75th UEFA Champions League appearance on Wednesday but the only figure that concerns him is the scoreline at the conclusion of the match against FC Schalke 04 at Mestalla. Everyone associated with the Spanish side is acutely aware that anything less than a victory will cause them to take no further part in Europe's élite competition when the group stage draws to an end.
The news that Albelda, 30, was three quarters of the way to reaching his century was a surprise to the Valencia captain who, unlike many players and supporters, does not put great emphasis on statistics. "I did not know I was up to 75," said the Spanish international. "It's a good number, a nice number, but the most important thing is we win. That's important because I am fed up with losing." Having started with a victory on Matchday 1 against their German opponents at the Arena AufSchalke, thanks to David Villa's second-half strike, Valencia's prospects then plummeted with three successive defeats in Group B.
Those results left them bottom of the section with three points, five behind leaders Chelsea FC, four short of Rosenborg BK and one adrift of Schalke. So only a win will give them a chance of reaching the knockout rounds, with a difficult away game in London to come. Coach Quique Sánchez Flores paid the price for the reverse at Rosenborg BK on 24 October, which also followed poor domestic form, and the reign of Ronald Koeman began in the same desultory fashion when the Norwegian side repeated their 2-0 success in the return fixture three weeks ago.
Although Los Che lost for the fifth time in the Primera División at the weekend, 1-0 at Real Racing Club Santander, Albelda says the team are starting to understand what Koeman wants from them. "We are working hard and trying to assimilate the ideas of the new coach," he said. "In time I am sure we will go forward with this team. The defeat by Rosenborg last time means we are in a delicate situation in the Champions League. We are working very hard to improve the situation and can only take it one match at a time. We know this will be a difficult game, and it is up to all of us – not just the experienced players – to take responsibility. If we can beat Schalke then any result in the other game [Rosenborg v Chelsea] will be good for us."
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