Under-pressure Neville 'can't wait' to face Barca

Russian midfielder Denis Cheryshev could be handed his debut against Barcelona after joining Valencia on loan from Real Madrid.
Russian midfielder Denis Cheryshev could be handed his debut against Barcelona after joining Valencia on loan from Real Madrid.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BARCELONA • Gary Neville's off-form Valencia face a daunting task today as they take on mighty Barcelona in the first leg of their King's Cup semi-final at the Nou Camp.

Valencia's run to the last four of the Cup has been the only positive aspect of a difficult start for Neville in his first managerial role.

However, it does not get any easier as he comes up against the European champions, who are determined to continue their quest for a second consecutive treble.

A first defeat at home in La Liga since November 2014 - 1-0 by Sporting Gijon on Sunday - stretched Neville's winless streak in the league to eight games and left Valencia just five points above the relegation zone.

Today, they will have to perform much better if they are to reach the Cup final for the first time since 2008 against a Barca side who have not lost in 26 matches in all competitions.

Neville, though, insists he is embracing the challenge of returning to the scene of one of his greatest triumphs where as a player, he won the Champions League title with Manchester United in 1999.

"I can't wait for Wednesday night, and I think the players will be the same. These are the moments you live for as a coach and a player," he said.

One of the manager's boldest moves has been to name top scorer Paco Alcacer captain in place of Dani Parejo and he is hopeful the Spanish international will be fit to feature after two weeks out with an ankle injury.

"By Tuesday we'll have a full complement of players, Paco is looking good and is back running again," said the Englishman.

The visitors could also hand debuts to Denis Cheryshev and Guilherme Siqueira after they sealed loan deals from Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid respectively until the end of the season.

Cheryshev's inclusion in the Real team for their Cup opener at Cadiz saw them thrown out of the competition as he was suspended for an accumulation of yellow cards last season.

However, he is free to feature at the Nou Camp.

"Barcelona are a great opponent, but Valencia can also do damage," said the Russian international.

Barcelona manager Luis Enrique has a fully-fit squad to choose from and is likely to rotate after his side showed signs of fatigue from their demanding January schedule while beating nine-man Atletico 2-1 on Saturday.

"It suits us to have four days of rest before hosting Valencia," said defender Javier Mascherano.

"We have managed to keep winning and we're in an ideal situation, but in any moment it can slip away, so we have to keep going."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 03, 2016, with the headline 'Under-pressure Neville 'can't wait' to face Barca'. Print Edition | Subscribe