VALENCIA - ATHLETIC

Neville stares into jaws of the lion:"We have to fight like locos"

Neville faces a Mestalla in the balance between furious jury and potential gamemaker against a determined Athletic Club.

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Neville stares into jaws of the lion:"We have to fight like locos"
Alberto Iranzo DIARIO AS

Neville and 'Project Lim' go up on trial tonight, lose in front of a perturbed Mestalla and there's nothing left to play for but mid-table mediocrity for Valencia."I'm not going to hide", said Gary Neville pre-match, but his team are up against it this evening:

0-1 down on aggregate to Raúl García's goal in San Mamés, and trying to pick themselves up after a damaging loss to their bottom-of -the-table neighbours Levante, the Mestalla will be a tinderbox tonight.

If the crowd get behind the team, this could be a turning point for Neville's troubled tenure at the club che; lose, and it may turn into an angry protest against Neville, Lim, Layhoon Chan, and the direction that the club is headed.

The Nevilles met Layhoon, president of the club, in a restaurant in the centre of Valencia, a public show of support for the embattled Mancunians, yet while the ex-Manchester United men have the support of the owners, so did Nuno, and when the 'Nuno vete ya' chants began, friendship with the owner couldn't save him.

There are only 9 matches left in La Liga and it looks unlikely that the owners will oust the brothers before the end of the season, but if they are to be saved, and offered a new contract, they'll have to give Lim a reason, and give the fans something to stop an angry mutiny forcing a change from the stands.

Neville's plan is to resurrect his faith in Negredo with Santi Mina playing just behind him, André Gomes on the left, Feghouli on the right, Parejo and Danilo the anchors behind that front five.

For Athletic, the plan is simple: score. Valverde knows the away-goal is key, playing down their own advantage saying "I don't feel like we're favourites, it's not like we're going into this 3-0 up".

Stat: Valencia have kept a clean sheet in only 10 of their 45 matches this season.

With 30-goals-this-season-already man Aritz Aduriz in the side alongside a resurgent Muniain, the dominant presence of Raúl García in the middle allied to the assurance of Beñat 'the lighthouse', there is no doubt that Neville is in peril of a very hostile night that might sentence his season to indefensible failure.