x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

'Hopeful' Valencia know they are not favourites in Europa League

Valencia won the competition as recently as 2004, but the Los Che's manager, Unal Emery, touts Manchester City and Manchester United as the top two leagues in the tournament.

Unai Emery knows where his team stand in European football.
Unai Emery knows where his team stand in European football.

Unai Emery, the Valencia manager, has played down his team's chances of winning the Europa League ahead of the first leg of their last-16 clash against PSV Eindhoven Thursday night.

Los Che dropped into the competition they won in 2004, when it was called the Uefa Cup, after finishing third in their Champions League group and comfortably saw off Stoke City in the previous round.

But Emery said the English sides, Manchester City and Manchester United, rank ahead of Valencia because of their resources and preferred to describe his side as hopefuls.

He told a news conference on Wednesday: "That is an adjective that is more befitting of us than favourites, because we have the likes of Manchester United and Manchester City in the competition.

"We aspire to beat them, but calling ourselves favourites would be a step beyond that. We don't say this out of fear, but rather because of the large economic differences in our respective budgets."

PSV, the Uefa Cup winners in 1978, should provide stiff opposition for the Spaniards and will go into the match with something to prove after their 6-2 home loss to Twente in the Eredivisie last weekend.

But the Dutch team must create history if they are to triumph at the Mestalla having never won in Spain while Valencia are unbeaten at home against sides from Holland.

PSV have been excellent in Europe this season, though, and have not lost in their last 11 continental matches, winning eight.

Meanwhile, Thibaut Courtois is confident Atletico Madrid can deny Besiktas a first win on Spanish soil despite their poor recent form.

Atletico come into the Europa League last-16 first leg without a win in five Primera Liga games.

"We know at Besiktas' stadium it will be very difficult so we have to win the first leg," said the goalkeeper.