Chelsea will be traveling to the sun-soaked Mediterranean oasis of Valencia this Wednesday to take on the local club in both teams' second match of the 2011/12 Champions League. Chelsea, who currently top Group E face, arguably their toughest competition of the knockout stage in Els taronja as the host will be desperate to not fall further behind in the table.
Valencia has often been what you could consider the “best of the rest” in a league that is dominated by two teams. Their third-place finish last season was worth noting, given the fact that they have been a farm system for bigger clubs. Homegrown starlets like David Silva, David Villa, and now Juan Mata have all left for the big boys in search of glory, despite that Valencia have pulled together year in and year out and been one of the best sides in Spain.
Their season got underway with an ideal start. Three straight wins and a well-earned tie to Barcelona showed that with Mata gone they could still compete. But a loss over the weekend to Sevilla and a tie against lowly Genk in the Champions League make them winless in their last three.
Travelling to the seaside paradise is never an easy task. Just ask Barca who have managed only one win at the Mestrella in their last four visits. Even more difficult for a bunch of pale Londoners who will see the sun for the first time in weeks. A high of 82 Fahrenheit is 10 degrees warmer than anything they have seen in the last two months.
Despite all that, Chelsea boast an undefeated record against Valencia, with two wins and two draws in this competition. Oddly enough, both wins were in Spain.
Here is my prediction for who will line up on the pitch on Wednesday.