UEFA Champions League
While Real Madrid and Barcelona can earn their spots into the knockout round with wins against AC Milan and FC København, respectively, and will likely qualify even without victories in Matchday 4, Valencia does not have that margin of error as they play their reverse fixture against Rangers on Tuesday night.
Ever since Barcelona surged in the second half against Valencia to turn a 0-1 match into a 2-1 victory for los culés, Valencia has not won in La Liga or the Champions League. Their only win during this period was a 0-3 first leg win in the Copa del Rey against Segunda División B side UD Logroñés, who were founded only one year ago.
With Manchester United likely garnering the three points against pointless Bursaspor in Turkey, Valencia and Rangers will fight it out for second position in the group, and if the first match between these two clubs is any barometer of future happenings, Valencia cannot afford to play less than their “A” game if they want to record a win over their Scottish rivals.
Criticism has rained down on trainer Unai Emery despite their fourth place position in La Liga because of Emery’s supposed conservatism when it comes to formation and tactics. Juan Mata certainly has not helped Emery’s cause, as his poor form has relegated the Spanish international to the substitute’s bench in favor of Vicente Rodríguez. Emery will have to open up their play against Rangers, as they should expect the men from Glasgow to play defensively and break on the few counter-attacking opportunities they will fashion against Valencia.
While Rangers will likely not completely sit back in their own half as they did against Manchester United when they came out of Old Trafford with an admirable 0-0 draw, they will not be as cavalier as they were at Ibrox when they drew with Valencia 1-1, a match Rangers should have won.
Valencia should be extra wary of Rangers because they lost their 100% record in the Scottish Premier League when Inverness Caledonian Thistle striker Eric Odhiambo equalized in the 81st minute and handed Rangers its first draw of the season. The match was the classic “look ahead” match, as Rangers probably had one eye on their game at the Mestalla against Valencia and did not fully focus on Inverness. Rangers will definitely have their full attention against Valencia, and this match should produce fireworks on both ends of the pitch.
Valencia vs. Rangers – 3:30 PM on Fox Soccer Plus HD
FC København vs. FC Barcelona – 3:30 PM on Fox Deportes and DirecTV channel 482 (482-1 for HD)
AC Milan vs. Real Madrid – 3:30 PM on Fox Soccer Channel HD
UEFA Europa League
Villarreal and Sevilla look comfortable in their groups to earn their spots into the final thirty-two of the Europa League, but the two Madrid clubs, Getafe and Atlético Madrid, have the most to lose on Matchday 4.
Getafe has only earned three points from three matches, and they sit six points behind group leaders Stuttgart and three points behind second place Young Boys. With Odense as the whipping boys of this group, Young Boys will likely win in their reverse fixture against Odense, which would give the Bern club nine points. If this scenario occurs, it is almost imperative that Getafe win their home match against Stuttgart on Thursday to have any chance of surviving to the next stage of the Europa League.
For Atlético Madrid, they are in the tightest group of the twelve in the Europa League, as Bayer Leverkusen leads the group with five points, Aris and Atlético trailing by only one on four points, and last place Rosenborg only two behind on three points.
Atlético will travel nearly 3,000 kilometers to Trondheim to face Rosenborg on Thursday evening, and the rain/snow conditions forecasted for that evening will affect Atlético’s slick passing game. Atlético has fallen off since their terrific beginning, when los colchoneros almost began to believe they had a chance to compete for the La Liga title. Atlético’s fans, the fatalists/pessimists that they are, believed that too much good was happening, and that soon the suffering would return, and it has. Diego Forlán’s World Cup hangover persists, and Sergio Agüero, who has been stellar this season, cannot keep himself healthy for a string of games.
Los rojiblancos should be wary of Rosenborg, even though they handled them easily 3-0 at the Vicente Calderón on Matchday 3 because Rosenborg has already won the Norwegian Premier League a couple of weeks ago, so they have turned all their energy into qualification for the first knockout round of the Europa League. Whereas Steffen Iversen, Rade Prica, and Per Skjelbred looked ordinary against Atlético in Madrid, they play much better at home, where they have not lost all season in their domestic league and won their only home match in the group stage thus far, a 2-1 win over Aris.
Rosenborg vs. Atlético Madrid – 1:55 PM on DirecTV channel 482 (482-1 for HD)
PAOK vs. Villarreal – 1:55 PM on DirecTV channel 483 (483-1 for HD)
Getafe vs. Stuttgart – 4:00 PM on DirecTV channel 482 (482-1 for HD)
Sevilla vs. Karpaty Lviv – 4:00 PM on DirecTV channel 483 (483-1 for HD)