La Liga Preview: Can Valencia Land Another Top-Four Spot in the League?

Thomas HallettCorrespondent IIAugust 13, 2012

VALENCIA, SPAIN - JULY 28:  Valencia CF players stand for a minute's silence in memory of the Castellon wildfires victims prior to a Pre-Season friendly match between Valencia CF and FC Porto at Estadio Mestalla on July 28, 2012 in Valencia, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

It must be difficult for Valencia fans to come to terms with the fact that they've hit a glass ceiling in La Liga. At this stage the only way is down, but are they good enough to finish in a much-needed Champions League spot once again this season?

The financial woes at Malaga would have been a huge relief to those at Valencia. This summer marked a huge swing in the fortunes of the Andalusian club, but before it seemed that we were witnessing the makings of another big power in Spanish football. The question, of course, was which of the other clubs in Spain would be sacrificed?

Valencia are a strange club to deal with at the moment. They've recently parted with a manager who took them to three third place finishes in the league, and from the outside, it seemed like Unai Emery could do no wrong.

But the feelings inside the Mestalla were greatly contrasting from what we were seeing as outsiders. The club's supporters were and continue to be frustrated more than anything. There is surely an understanding that very few, if any club, can consistently challenge Real Madrid and Barcelona, but they wanted to see their club do a little more.

Emery's tactical choices were not greeted warmly by the fans, and it seemed like the only logical conclusion to the story was that the manager would leave the club.

Now it's down to Mauricio Pellegrino to reach third place for the club again, yet also build a little more on previous points totals.

The club have done well to land talented youngster Sergio Canales from Real Madrid permanently, and the midfielder will be hoping to put his injury troubles of last year behind him.

Alongside Canales comes Fernando Gago, who was on loan at Roma from Real Madrid last season. The Argentine is a midfielder that doesn't necessarily fit the description of what the club really needed—a powerful holding midfielder in the centre of the park—but he is a good player whose technical ability should help him slot into the Valencia team.

Valencia, like many of the "other" clubs in Spain, are a selling club. They've just lost Jordi Alba to Barcelona, Mehmet Topal to Fenerbahce and Aritz Aduriz to Athletic Bilbao. Their biggest need, again like many, will be to stay afloat and continue work on the Nou Mestalla. But they will be very much looking over their shoulder as the season progresses.

Again, Malaga seem to be out of the picture, but Atletico Madrid will be keen to build on their European success of last season. In Falcao, they have one of the best forwards in Europe, let alone in Spain, and with Diego Simeone starting the season at the club, they will push for a top four place.

The worry for Valencia is how they will deal with injuries to key players and where the goals will come from besides Roberto Soldado. The money isn't there to go and buy a player like Falcao, but instead the club have done well to land winger Andres Guardado on a free transfer.

The new manager will need to gain a some consistency early and treat the fans to something a little more ambitious on the pitch. The supporters will want to be entertained, but there will be pressure on the inexperienced Pellegrino.

It's a shame that the club couldn't land someone like Rafa Benitez, as it would have given them a much stronger foundation. Again, the fans may not be too keen on some of Benitez's tactical ideas, but he did extremely well at Valencia prior to his move to Liverpool.

Consistency and hanging on to their star striker in Soldado will be the keys for this Valencia team. They can be beaten and overtaken by clubs like Atletico, but they have very little resources to do much better than they currently are.

Top four for Valencia certainly isn't out of the question, but nothing more. The gap between themselves and Real Madrid and Barcelona is simply too great.