Juan Antonio Pizzi warned his players that dismantling Sevilla FC at one end will matter little if they are taken apart at the other as Valencia CF seek another remarkable home comeback.
Valencia are only in this UEFA Europa League semi-final after a remarkable recovery in the last eight, overturning a 3-0 defeat by FC Basel 1893 with a stunning 5-0 extra-time triumph. A 2-0 deficit this time around looks less daunting, though coach Pizzi thinks otherwise, saying: "This is more complicated than our situation against Basel. This is a good team who know us inside out, a team used to playing in the pressure of Mestalla."
To make the task harder, Paco Alcácer, the hat-trick hero against Basel, is suspended after picking up a booking last week. Pizzi is confident he has sufficient depth to deal with it as he set out clear instructions. "We should keep patient, dictate matters and play with more intensity than last week. Every player must beat their opposite number, man to man. If we can do that we will win the tie.
We have to use the energy our fans give us but that shouldn't be at the expense of cool heads."
The Mestalla support could not lift Valencia to victory over Club Atlético de Madrid on Sunday, the hosts going down 1-0, but it was Sevilla's 3-1 defeat by Athletic Club that dominated the questions from attending media. "You didn't need to watch the game Sevilla lost in Bilbao to see they are vulnerable," countered Pizzi, who confirmed that goalkeeper Diego Alves will start. "If we had been more accurate in the first leg we could have scored in Seville. We can overcome the first-leg loss."
Opposite number Unai Emery, of course, needs no introduction to the home fans having coached Valencia between 2008 and 2012. "For me to be here again – I can't explain how good those four years were, but I am putting these feelings aside," he said. "
I'm not looking to defeat Valencia; I'm looking to guide Sevilla through to the final. I've played a semi-final before, with Valencia in the [2011/12] Europa League, but I lost to Atlético. I have another chance now with Sevilla.
"We are all in a good place, close to something extraordinary," added the 42-year-old, who is hopeful Daniel Carriço can play some part despite an ankle complaint. "We know it's going to be a tough game. We need to continue what we did in the first leg, recognising Valencia's threat and potential. I have faith in our ability. Before the first leg I said our chances were 50-50. Now the odds are stacked a bit more in our favour but we must be very cautious and play with a lot of respect for our opponents."
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