Monaco to test Valencia revival

Valencia coach Nuno Espirito Santo (centre) has not been able to bring in significant upgrades to the team owing to the financial fair play regulations and the club making several player loan deals permanent.
Valencia coach Nuno Espirito Santo (centre) has not been able to bring in significant upgrades to the team owing to the financial fair play regulations and the club making several player loan deals permanent.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Peter Lim's side face tricky Champs League tie as they deal with departure of Otamendi

MADRID • This is what Peter Lim signed up for: Watching his men standing toe-to-toe against the European football elite, with the stirring Champions League anthem resonating around the Mestalla.

Tonight, the Singaporean billionaire will have a taste of that, as his Spanish club Valencia look to move a step closer to ending their three-year absence from Champions League group-stage action.

But his Champions League experience is in danger of ending as quickly as it started, especially when Valencia face a tricky two-leg tie against French giants Monaco.

Lim, 62, has forked out more than €420 million (S$650 million) since taking over the ownership of Valencia in October last year, and has set his team the twin targets of winning the Spanish La Liga and the Champions League.

According to the club's Australian goalkeeper Matthew Ryan, failure is not an option.

"The club owners have said their objective was to win La Liga and the Champions League, and are always putting in plans to achieve their aim," he said.

"Beating Monaco and qualifying for the Champions League group stage has been described as a must. So that's our first big goal for the season."

However, Valencia's dreams of a return to glory days have been hit with the imminent departure of key defender Nicolas Otamendi for English Premier League side Manchester City.

Valencia and City have reportedly agreed a £32 million (S$70 million) deal for the 27-year-old, who was reportedly undergoing a medical in Manchester yesterday.

The deal was on the brink of collapse until Otamendi's agent and Lim's close friend, Jorge Mendes, intervened to push it across the line.

The timing of the loss of their defensive stalwart is far from ideal, as Valencia prepare for two games against last season's quarter-finalists that could make or break their season.

"We are focused on the game against Monaco. Whatever happens with Otamendi is out of our control," Valencia defender Antonio Barragan admitted.

"We need to go through. It hasn't crossed our minds we won't go through the qualifier."

Otamendi's departure is the latest episode of an unsettling summer for Valencia, which was compounded by drawing Monaco, the toughest opponents they could have faced at this Champions League stage.

Hampered by financial fair play regulations and a number of compulsory purchase agreements for players on loan deals last summer, coach Nuno Espirito Santo has not been able to significantly improve the squad that pipped Sevilla to a top-four finish on the final day of the Spanish La Liga season.

New signing Ryan is set to make his debut in goal. Santi Mina and Zakaria Bakkali could also make their competitive bows, but both are likely to start on the bench.

Monaco's preparations for the tie have also been far from smooth, after suffering a double injury blow in a disappointing 0-0 draw at home to Lille last Friday.

Portuguese midfielder Joao Moutinho is ruled out for four to six weeks with ankle ligament damage, while Layvin Kurzawa is a doubt with an ankle knock.

In contrast to Valencia, Monaco are a much-changed side from the one that surprisingly reached the last eight last season.

Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco and Geoffrey Kondogbia were sold, with eight new players coming in.

Ivan Cavaleiro is one of the new recruits who has experience of facing Valencia from his time at Deportivo La Coruna last season, and knows that his side will be facing formidable opponents.

"Valencia are a great team. They had a great season last year," he said. "It will be very tough for us."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2015, with the headline 'MONACO TO TEST VALENCIA REVIVAL'. Print Edition | Subscribe