By Andy Hall & Christian Châtelet
Valencia CF are confident of converting a 2-1 first-leg lead into a place in the UEFA Cup semi-finals as they face FC Girondins de Bordeaux at the Mestalla tonight.
The Primera División leaders won in France last Thursday and are favourites to progress to a meeting with either Villarreal CF, their fellow Spanish side, or Celtic FC in the last four. Chairman Jaime Ortí spoke confidently ahead of the arrival of the French challengers, saying: "The positive result from the first leg in Bordeaux gives us hope that we can qualify without too many problems."
Coach Rafael Benítez, however, adopted a more cautious approach. "Bordeaux are tricky opponents and just because the first-leg result and the fact we are at home favour us, we cannot afford to be complacent – we must be focused," he said.
The home team are again without Argentinian playmaker Pablo Aimar, who picked up a groin injury on international duty two weeks ago, while Malian midfield player Mohamed Sissoko faces a fitness test after spraining his left ankle during Sunday's 1-0 win against Real Zaragoza.
"We will be treating this game just the same as we would any other home game," Benítez continued. "However, this match is slightly different because Bordeaux know they must score more than us."
Against the odds
Late goals from Rubén Baraja and Francisco Rufete in France turned the tie in Valencia's favour after Albert Riera had put Bordeaux in front. Bordeaux coach Michel Pavon acknowledged that his side face a considerable task if they are to overturn the odds, yet hoped they could draw inspiration from last week's extraordinary UEFA Champions League quarter-final second-leg results.
With AS Monaco FC defeating Real Madrid CF after losing the first leg 4-2, and RC Deportivo La Coruña stunning holders AC Milan with a 4-0 victory having lost 4-1 away, Pavon does not have far to look for inspiration. "
You never know," he said. "We have seen other achievements in football. We can push this team."
The visitors' job has been made more difficult by injury and suspension. Defender David Jemmali and striker Jean-Claude Darcheville are ruled out by ankle and knee problems respectively, while midfield player Antonio Mavuba – sent off last week – is suspended along with prolific forward Marouane Chamakh and defender Franck Jurietti.
Pavon, whose players had no match last weekend, said he was not concerned about having to reshuffle his lineup. "Our replacements did the job at [Olympique de] Marseille and earned us a 1-1 draw in our Ligue 1 game ten days ago," he said. "Why can they not repeat that performance?"
Clear heads required
The coach believes his side are capable of springing a surprise against a Valencia team who have won their last seven matches. "Valencia are a free-minded team," he said. "They will play thinking 'We're almost qualified, we can think about our next league game'. We'll have to be clear-headed to keep our hopes alive as long as possible."
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