"The idea of relegation couldn't be further from my mind"

The Valencia coach said he only wanted to discuss football matters when he previewed tomorrow's Copa del Rey semi-final return this afternoon.

"The idea of relegation couldn't be further from my mind"
Manuel Queimadelos Alonso Getty Images

Gary Neville began his press conference ahead of tomorrow's Copa del Rey semi-final return leg by urging reporters to only focus on sporting matters and issues relaing to the game. The Valencia coach emphasised the need for maximum concentration going into the game and was happy to talk about tactics with the press. He also says it is only a matter of time before the tide turns in the team's favour.

“The usual format is that you ask questions and that’s obviously something that’s happened since I came here. I think this is my 30th press conference in 60 days and I think this is not a time for words – I’ve spoken too much already; we’re in a loop – you obviously want to ask me questions all the time about the same things… from my point of view, the fans don’t want to hear my words at this point in time, and even I’m tired of hearing my own voice. I’ve got full belief in myself, full belief in the players and from my point of view the only thing we can do now is win matches. I understand that you want to ask me questions about positions; if you want to ask me questions about football and tomorrow’s match, I am happy to respond but I want full concentration and I want to make sure that I am only discussing football matters today, even if that might not be on your agenda – my agenda is to try and turn this situation round – most of all, for the fans".

Pressing high against Barcelona

I was asked about pressing high after last week’s game against Barcelona. My intention is to have the team always pressing as high as possible but over the years, I have seen other teams trying to press high against Barcelona, I’ve also seen teams dropping off against Barcelona; when I was a player at Manchester United, when met Barça several times in the Champions League and we tried different tactics against them. If I’m not mistaken, Barcelona have not lost for 26 matches – so, teams have tried to press high and others have tried to drop back – unsuccessfully. We had some success doing that against Real Madrid, and against Barcelona in by playing a certain way in the last two months. That’s what we tried to do again last week at Camp Nou. After the result, people will start to say ‘Why didn’t you press high?’ but if they look at the game we played at Mestalla, the tactics were very obvious – we frustrated them, we counter attacked very well against them and were compact in defence and didn’t leave their forwards any space. I wanted to approach last week’s game in the same way, with the same tactics which was relatively successful.

Confidence and morale

Last season, this team ended on 72 points – you’ve seen what Valencia are capable of when confidence is high. Obviously, right now, confidence is nowhere near that level. Confidence will only come through hard work, preparing well and winning matches. I see a committed group of players and looking back on our games from the last two weeks, I do believe that there have been moments in games which have gone against us – Sporting de Gijón, Deportivo, Betis… we’re not sat here on three wins, we’re sat here on one draw and two defeats. But the chance we had in those game to go on and win were incredible – when that changes for us, our confidence will return because we now have all our players fit – only Javi Fuego is not training.

What can Valencia bring to this return leg?

Last week was unacceptable and I take full responsibility for that. We have a lot of things we need to correct but I always go into every match looking for a positive result; to get a result to go through to the final is near-on impossible. What we have to think about is how we approach the game, our performance, effort and desire – also, we have a huge game on Saturday against Espanyol and I have to think about that as well in terms of what team I field tomorrow. Bearing in mind the first leg result, I have to prioritize Saturday’s match – that’s not to say we are forgetting about tomorrow’s game because I want to see the team perform out on the pitch and show the fans that we are desperate to turn this around and I promise that we will.

Have you considered the possibility that Valencia could be relegated?

That doesn’t figure in my plans; my belief is that the moments which have gone against us will eventually turn and start going our way very soon. Football is a cruel game sometimes. There are game that you play when you don’t deserve anything – or you’re lucky and just happy to have got a draw... We have to win on Saturday – that is the pressure I am putting on myself and the expectation of everybody.

Valencia squad:

Jaume, Ryan, Caballo, Diallo, Santos, Abdennour, Vezo, Gayà, Ayala, Zahibo, Tropi, Danilo, André Gomes, Bakkali, Piatti, Iban Salvador, Fran Villalba, Santi Mina and Negredo.