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Gary Neville

Gary Neville set for high-stakes debut when Valencia hosts Lyon

Photo credit: AFP.

Photo credit: AFP.

Gary Neville will be handed a baptism of fire as Valencia boss when the Spanish side host Lyon in the Champions League on Wednesday hoping to seal their place in the last 16. The match will be Neville’s first as a head coach after he was surprisingly hired by business partner and Valencia owner Peter Lim until the end of the season despite his lack of managerial experience. To reach the knockout stages for the first time in three years, Valencia need to win and hope that Belgian champions Gent don’t beat the already qualified Zenit St Petersburg.

SEE MORE: Neville’s effort and acumen will be tested by Valencia pressure cooker.

“I’ve only known one way in football which is to expect to win every match,” said Neville on his unveiling at the Mestalla.

“You can’t always do that but that is what you should expect, it’s what I expect and what a club of this size expects and the fans too.

“Everything that I do, I do with the aspirations to do the absolute best, it’s the way I’ve approached everything I’ve done and this will be no different.

“Valencia will get every ounce of enthusiasm I can give. Hopefully that can lead to success. I’m aware of the expectation and I know that if I fall below it I won’t be here.”

Neville watched on from the stands as Valencia salvaged a point against European champions Barcelona on Saturday in front of a vociferous home support thanks to Santi Mina’s late equalizer. Gary’s brother Phil Neville was part of the caretaker coaching staff against Barca and will continue as assistant having joined the club under Neville’s predecessor Nuno Espirito Santo at the start of the season.

On top of the confidence gained for taking a point from Barcelona, morale among the Valencia camp should be boosted by the return of a number of key players. Former Manchester City striker Alvaro Negredo could return for the first time since early October after he was discarded by Nuno after a fall-out between the two before undergoing surgery for appendicitis last month. Shkodran Mustafi and Javi Fuego are also expected to return from injury, whilst right-back Joao Cancelo returns from suspension.

Neville admitted the Valencia fans are right to have misgivings about the appointment of a coach with no previous experience and who doesn’t speak Spanish, but he has already tried to win them over by opening his first full training session to the supporters.

MORE LA LIGA: From Xavi to MSN: How Luis Enrique remade Barcelona.

And he could hardly have picked a better opponent to face in his first outing than a Lyon side in crisis having failed to win any of their last five matches. The latest embarrassment for Hubert Fournier’s men came with a 2-0 defeat at home to Angers in the last ever league game at the Stade Gerland on Saturday.

Lyon are already eliminated from all European competitions after taking just one point from their opening five group games. Moreover, the French side are hampered by injuries to several key players. Nabil Fekir, Gueida Fofana, Aldo Kalulu and Christophe Jallet are all long-term absentees, whilst Jordan Ferri is suspended.

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