Football

Valencia fire warning to Barca

Los Che record eighth straight win ahead of next Monday's top-of-table clash

Valencia issued a strong statement of intent ahead of next Monday morning's (Singapore time) top-of-the-table La Liga clash with Barcelona, after notching a club-record eighth straight league win on Sunday.

Catalan side Espanyol were the latest victims as Los Che won 2-0 away to move within four points of league leaders Barcelona, and six ahead of Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.

If no one was expecting Valencia to be jostling for the title at the start of the season, few will be writing them off after their 12-game unbeaten start to the campaign.

Even luck was on their side at the RCDE Stadium on Sunday.

Coach Marcelino Garcia Toral, who had opted to rest top scorer Simone Zaza and in-form winger Goncalo Guedes, saw his side survive a flurry of attempts from the hosts in both halves.

French midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia broke the deadlock against the run of play with a deadly shot from the edge of the area in the 66th minute, his third goal of the season.

Santi Mina then pounced on a defensive clanger from Espanyol's Victor Sanchez in the 82nd minute to seal the victory.

Said Mina: "We had to work very hard for this win, we were second-best in the first half but we managed to cope, stay compact and compete.

"In the second half, we had more of the ball, we were more comfortable and we take away three points from this very difficult ground.

"Valencia have always been a great team and today we showed we can compete against anyone."

Former Spain, Barcelona and Valencia striker David Villa was also delighted at Los Che's sizzling form, and credited coach Marcelino for their rip-roaring campaign.

He said in an interview with Spanish daily Marca: "As a fan of Valencia, I'm really happy with the situation at the moment.

LOYALTY REWARDED

"This club and its fans deserve all the good things that are currently happening. They have suffered for a long time and now their loyalty is being rewarded."

Indeed, Valencia have shown enough this season to suggest that Barcelona will be in for a hard time at the Mestalla next Monday morning. They have scored 32 goals in 12 La Liga outings, just one behind pacesetters Barcelona.

Striker Zaza has netted nine goals in the league, second only to Barcelona's Lionel Messi (12), while forward Rodrigo Moreno has seven.

Carlos Soler, 20, has attracted interest from Europe's top clubs, including Manchester United, after his excellent displays in midfield.

The only negative to emerge from Sunday's win was the dismissal of Marcelino for dissent, meaning the 52-year-old coach will likely be absent from the dugout for the visit of Barcelona.

Barcelona themselves will be appealing the yellow cards handed out to defender Gerard Pique and striker Luis Suarez during Saturday's 3-0 win at Leganes.

If Pique's appeal is unsuccessful, Barca will be left with fringe player Thomas Vermaelen and Samuel Umtiti as their only two fit centre backs, as Javier Mascherano is sidelined for the next month with an injury. - WIRE SERVICES

Football