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Atlético and Valencia primed for tight tussle

Club Atlético de Madrid and Valencia CF are united in their belief that, as was the case two years ago, "small details" will determine who emerges from their UEFA Europa League tie.

Action from the clubs' second Liga meeting of the season
Action from the clubs' second Liga meeting of the season ©Getty Images

History suggests there is little to choose between Club Atlético de Madrid and Valencia CF, and their coaches agree that it is likely to be much of the same when the Liga rivals meet in the UEFA Europa League semi-finals.

"This tie will be won by the team with the most patience, by the players who can capitalise on the slightest of mistakes," said Atlético boss Diego Simeone, a sentiment echoed by counterpart Unai Emery: "They are pretty similar to us in all aspects and the sides know each other well, so the small details, the work invested throughout the 180 minutes, will be critical."

There was little to split the pair in their Liga meetings this season, drawing 0-0 in Madrid two months ago, while Roberto Soldado's goal was all that separated them earlier this term. Valencia have a more significant, seven-point advantage over their opponents in the Liga but poor recent form, culminating in Sunday's 4-0 loss at RCD Espanyol, has shaken their confidence.

Emery, though, insists that the UEFA Europa League brings the best out of his side, and he is hopeful their "incessant willpower" will be showcased again on Thursday. "We have to remember there are 180 minutes, but we want a good result in Madrid. We need to try to score; in fact, we need to score – and the more the merrier."

Simeone is certainly wary of Valencia's attacking arsenal, especially on the flanks. "Perhaps the difference between us is that Valencia play more using the wings while we are more of a central attacking force," he told UEFA.com. "If they have the ball we will suffer because we have few players who can cover out wide; if we are in possession they will be in danger."

Éver Banega's long-term absence from the heart of Valencia's midfield increases that threat, and the visitors will also be without the suspended Antonio Barragán. Miguel is available after shaking off a knock and is likely to slot in at right-back as the visitors seek to avoid lightning striking twice: Atlético beat them on away goals in the quarter-finals en route to the title two years ago.

Emery says his team "need no reminder". Yet while a goalless draw ultimately ended Valencia's campaign in 2010 as the home leg finished 2-2, Simeone, who will be without the banned Diego Godín, suspects they would settle for that scoreline this time around. "Valencia know how to come out and play, but they didn't do so here [in the 0-0 draw] recently. I think that Thursday will be similar." Nobody seems to disagree.

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