Palace face La Liga fan favourites Valencia in what will be the Eagles’ final pre-season friendly on Saturday August 6th 2016, kick-off 3.00pm. Honoured to host such revered opposition, we’ve rounded up 10 things you should know about this Spanish sporting giant.
One of the most successful clubs in Spanish and European football, Valencia have won six La Liga titles, seven Copa del Rey trophies, two Fairs Cups (which is now called the UEFA Cup), one UEFA Cup, one UEFA Cup Winners' Cup and two UEFA Super Cup's. Founded in 1919, they are the third most supported club behind Spanish sides Barcelona and Real Madrid, and have a fan base of 50,000 season ticket holders and a further 20,000 on their waiting list – making them one of the largest supported clubs in the world.
2 THE STADIUM
Playing at the 55,000 seater Mestalla stadium since 1923, Valencia were due to move into their brand new 75,000 seater ‘Nou Mestalla’ in 2009. However, a downturn in results on the field and the global financial crisis off it meant work was brought to a halt and has yet to be restarted. Since then, plans have been put in place to reduce the capacity to 61,500 and downsize other features to reduce costs. The takeover of Singaporean businessman Peter Lim in 2014 has given the club hope, but there has been no official announcement on when work on the stadium will start back up again.
3 YEARS OF DOMINANCE
From 1999 up until the end of the 2004 season, Valencia had one of their most successful periods in the club's history, winning two La Liga titles, one UEFA Cup, a Copa del Rey, and one UEFA Super Cup. In six years, the club had achieved five first class titles and played in two Champions League finals in two consecutive seasons. At the start of the 2001/02 season, the club appointed Rafael Benitez as their new manager who got the team off to a flying start by beating Real Madrid in the opening game of the season. Valenica went on to record 11 straight victories (setting a new club record) and went on to secure their fifth La Liga title, 31 years after their last title win.
4 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE HEARTBREAK
Aside from winning numerous La Liga trophies and Spanish cup competitions, the team's biggest achievement to date has been to reach two European Cup finals (now called the Champions League). In 2000, it was the first time in the club’s history that the team made it to the final, where they were beaten by 3-0 by La Liga rivals Real Madrid. They didn’t however have to wait too long until their next final round appearance, facing Bayern Munich the following year in a much closer game which they lost to the German side in a penalty shoot-out.
5 LAST SEASON
The 2015–16 season was the club’s 81st in La Liga and it was the first time the club had qualified for the Champions League since 2012–13. After qualifying for the group stages, they could only finish third in Group H and dropped out into the last 32 of the Europa League where they were knocked out in the last 16 by Athletic Bibao. In the Copa del Rey, Valencia were beaten 8-1 on aggregate by Barcelona in the semi-final.
6 PREMIER LEAGUE LINKS
Few will have missed the club’s appointment of ex Manchester United captain Gary Neville in December last year, similarly the announcement three months later that he’d been sacked. At the time, Neville also had brother Phil working alongside him who was already at Valencia working under the club’s previous manager Nuno.
Turning to staffing on the pitch, and some big name players have joined the Premier League in recent years having been sold by Valencia to help reduce the club’s debts. Nicolás Otamendi and David Silva to Manchester City, Roberto Saldado to Tottenham Hotspur, and Juan Mata to Chelsea, have all left for record breaking fees.
7 THE MANAGER
New manager Pako Ayestarán took over from Gary Neville in March this year, and impressed his new bosses by recording consecutive La Liga wins over Sevilla, Barcelona and Eibar. The Spaniard will be a familiar face to some Premier League fans, who may have seen him beside Rafael Benitez during the Newcastle manager’s time at Liverpool. Ayestarán worked as Benitez’s assistant for 11 years, including Liverpool’s Champions League final win in 2005, and went on to manage Maccabi Tel Aviv where he won league and cup honours with the Israeli club.
8 WHO TO WATCH
Valencia’s player of the year last season was a toss-up between Spanish prodigy Paco Alcacer who finished the season with the club's greatest number of assists as well as top scorer, and German centre-back Shkodran Mustafi. Player stats show the latter made 4.4 interceptions per game during the campaign (the third highest in La Liga) as well as some immaculate challenges, and he went on to perform well at Euro 2016, scoring the opening goal in Germany’s first group game against Ukraine.
9 THE NANI EFFECT
After several comings and goings last season, the club have been fairly modest in the transfer window so far this year but have done some good business in the signing of Portugal winger Nani from Fenerbahce. The Euro 2016 winner started all seven matches and scored three goals in this summer’s competition, and says his decision to join Valencia was backed by international teammate Cristiano Ronaldo. At his unveiling at the Mestalla stadium in front of 12,000 fans, Nani told supporters, “hopefully I can be a key part of the club and help them to win trophies. My experience has changed but I have the same ambition, the same desire as I have always had. I play to win every game.”
10 OTHER NEW SIGNINGS
Álvaro Medrán is another new face around the club, and is a player looking to impress having joined from Real Madrid who were reluctant to let him go. The 22-year-old spent last season on loan at Getafe, and is an attacking midfielder who has worked his way up through the ranks at Madrid. Playing with, and coached by some of the best in the business, the Medrán has worked under Zinedine Zidane and Carlo Ancelotti, and alongside the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.
CLICK HERE to book tickets online for the match and don't forget under 12s go free when accompanied by an adult.