Valencia CF and Swansea City AFC have hardly been tearing up trees in domestic football this season, mustering a combined seven points from four games each. Yet the UEFA Europa League provides a welcome distraction and both coaches hope the outlook will be decidedly rosier come Friday.
"It's very important to win and put recent defeats behind us," underlined coach Miroslav Djukić, whose Valencia team have lost three in a row in the Liga. "We talked to the players at the start of the week, as they were worried. We must stay focused, continue working and stop conceding so many goals. We're all looking in the same direction, with the same aim. We just have to keep things simple, go back to basics."
In that respect Djukić – who will rest Víctor Ruiz, João Pereira and Oriol Romeu – may be grateful their matchday one opponents are Swansea, "a bit of a Spanish side", and therefore a team playing in a style they are accustomed to. Moreover, the Welsh outfit have looked under the weather themselves so far in 2013/14, though green shoots appeared after Monday's 2-2 Premier League draw with Liverpool FC which followed a 2-0 victory at West Bromwich Albion FC.
Manager Michael Laudrup knows his charges face a tricky assignment in Group A and is determined to draw on the positives. "Playing in the group stage is a great experience, playing a club like Valencia is great," said the former FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF forward. "Valencia have a long history and are still a great team. They're the favourites for this group, but I think Swansea have a chance.
"We have to be careful when talking about style. The 20 teams in the Premier League don't play in the same style, as used to be the case in each country maybe 20 years ago. Maybe having Spanish players on our side will help us get a result. For most of my players, this will be their first competitive match outside the UK, so it will be a great experience for them – that's how I see tomorrow's match. I'm looking forward to it, with no pressure at all."
Djukić identifies the Mestalla outfit's recent shortcomings as poor ball retention, a lack of cutting edge up front and a porous back line, yet he is preaching evolution, not revolution. "This match against Swansea is a good opportunity to improve but do we change our approach to be more defensive? That's not in Valencia's makeup. This is our moment: the moment when the team, the coaching staff and the club work together with the fans to sort out the situation."
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