Genoa v Valencia, Europa League, December 17, 2009
Without question, the juiciest match on the Thursday night in the Europa League sees Italian side Genoa play host to Spanish high-flyers Valencia, with both teams vying to cement there place in the next round.
Valencia (11/1 third favourites to win the Europa League), with nine points, are currently in pole position in Group B, while holding second place on seven points and a plus four goal difference are Ligue 1-ers Lille, who welcome already eliminated Slavia Prague to northern France. Accordingly Genoa (40/1 to win the Europa League), also on seven points and with a minus one goal difference, know that a victory over Los Che will guarantee their progression in the competition, while a draw would leave them looking over their should for the Czechs to do them a favour.
So can Genoa get the win they so badly need? That all depends on what Grifone side turn out on Thursday night.
Genoa were seemingly on the verge of collapsing at the start of the season before remarkably steadying their ship and turning their fortunes around. Yet, after stuttering again in recent weeks with a 2-all draw at Parma and a 1-nil defeat at Lazio last time out, coach Gian Piero Gasperini knows that he team have still have a lot to do to achieve consistency this term.
The Serie A league table reflects the flip-flopping nature of Genoa’s season with the Rossoblu have won seven, lost six and drawn three their opening 16 matches, while scoring 28 goals and conceding 27 in the process. Unsurprisingly, Genoa currently occupy tenth place in the 20-team Italian top flight.
Genoa will likely be without defender Andrea Esposito, Moroccan midfielder Houssine Kharja and Serb striker Bosko Jankovic for the visit of Valencia as the trio continue their recuperation for various injuries. On a more positive note though, Genoa are set to play in a 3-4-3 formation that will see Giandomenico Mesto, Giuseppe Sculli and Raffaele Palladino leading the line.
Genoa’s need to claim all three points to secure qualification will also likely see a slew of forwards take their places on the home bench. Amongst them, Argentine legend Hernan Crespo could add to his four goals already scored this season, while Rodrigo Palacio, Sergio Floccari and Alberto Zapater will all be itching to get a run out against Los Che.
After their 3-2 defeat to Real Madrid, Valencia captain Carlos Marchena has bellowed out the rally-cry ahead of the trip to Italy. “Now we only think of Genoa. This match is vital for the team. We know we need a good result there, at least a draw, although we intend to win. We know that if we fail to have a good game it could be our final game in European competition [this season].”
Valencia will need to try and reach their objectives without left-back Jeremy Mathieu after the Frenchman picked up a hamstring injury in the match against Los Blancos on last Saturday. Mathieu’s absence leaves Valencia with a weakened left-hand side, after highly-prized David Silva succumbed to a knee injury several weeks back that will keep him on the sidelines for a while yet.
In their absence, Ever Banega will look to shine once again after the Argentine produced a superb display against the Galacticos 2.0. Coach Unai Emery could employ Banega down the left hand side or in a more central position, with Joaquin, who came off the bench to score against Madrid, also able to run the left hand channel against Genoa.
Further forward Valencia will roll out their dynamics duo of Juan Mata and David Villa up-top (Valencia are 10/3 to score in both halves), while Los Che, who have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last eight matches, will be looking to Bruno, David Navarro and Angel Dealbert to tighten up the hosts backline. (Valencia are 11/5 to keep a clean sheet.)
Goals look a certainty in this winner-takes-all meeting (10/11 to be over 2.5 goals), with Valencia’s away record of six wins and a draw in their last seven away trips gently tipping the scales in the visitors’ favour.
101predicts: Genoa 1 – Valencia 2 (15/2)
Full match odds here.