Valencia head into season run-in with so much to play for
After getting off to such a bad start, Valencia have certainly got their centenary season back on course: they're into the final of the Copa del Rey and the last four of the Europa League and, despite having forced themselves to play catch-up in LaLiga, are in with a real shout of a top-four finish. It's clear now that their poor early form was just one big blip. The club resisted the temptation to sack their coach - an urge that quickly gets the better of the more trigger-happy souls among us - and were right to hold fire. Marcelino has never lost control; he simply had a few key men who were out of sorts, in a side that went through a spell of unusually extreme profligacy in front of goal. That led to a spate of draws that stunted their progress.
Valencia flying now - as we saw against Villarreal yesterday
They're in fine fettle now, though, and demonstrated as much last night, in a game which, what with the rain and the result in the first leg, was only attended by the diehards, the fans who never miss a match. In truth, the tie had already been won by those late Daniel Wass and Gonçalo Guedes goals at the Estadio de la Cerámica. Villarreal, who sent out a much-changed side, gave their all at Mestalla, but right now there's a huge gulf between the two teams - and it showed. Valencia now go on to face Arsenal, in a tie that brings back memories of one of Los Che's finest hours: that penalty shoot-out victory over the Gunners in the 1980 Cup Winners' Cup final. The other Europa League semi-final sees Chelsea meet Eintracht Frankfurt.
Valencia have six games left in LaLiga, two in the Europa League - plus the final if they get there - and the Copa showpiece against Barça. A potential 10 matches in which their task is to kick on and make this milestone campaign (one in which they also seem to have finally resurrected their troublesome stadium move) a year to remember. Their fans have so much to look forward to; at the end of the day, that's what every supporter asks of their club. Meanwhile, it'd be remiss of me not to comment on the fact that four of the eight teams left in Europe are from England, compared with Spain's two and Holland and Italy's one each. The Premier League, which provides both Barça and Valencia's opposition, is very much on the rise.