MADRID - It is a measure of how far
Valencia have come under Unai Emery that defeat by Schalke 04
and missing out on the Champions League quarter-finals was so
The club's crippling debts forced them to sell World Cup
winners David Villa and David Silva last year and experienced
stalwarts like Carlos Marchena and Ruben Baraja also left to be
replaced by low-profile new recruits.
Defying expectations, the 39-year-old Emery has steered
Valencia into third place in La Liga and came close to putting
out Schalke on Wednesday. They took the lead on the night to go
2-1 up in the tie before losing 3-1.
An ability to score late goals which has served them so well
in the league deserted Valencia in Gelsenkirchen, however, and
as they pushed for the second away goal that would have put them
through Jefferson Farfan sealed victory for Schalke with a late
"It was the game we had prepared," Emery, well-known for his
meticulous preparation for matches, told reporters.
"Other times we haven't deserved to win and we did, but
today we lost in a game in which we just lacked a little luck.
"We played the way we wanted to and we had various chances
to make it 2-2. It's tough, we are massively disappointed."
Out of Europe and the King's Cup, Valencia only have the
league to play for but they are the best of the rest in Spain as
Real Madrid and Barcelona tussle for the title.
They are 13 points adrift of Real and four ahead of
fourth-placed Villarreal in the last remaining automatic
qualification slot for next season's Champions League, with 11
games left to play.
Fans who look back with fondness on Rafa Benitez's era when
he won a league and UEFA Cup double in 2004 have often shown
impatience with Emery during his two-and-a-half year tenure.
Unconditional support has hardly been forthcoming from the
board either, though club president Manuel Llorente went a step
further than usual when asked about his coach.
"It's been very tough because we had high hopes we would
progress. We spoke to the players and the coach to try and cheer
them up," he told reporters after visiting the dressing room.
"At the moment, we aren't thinking of any other coaches
other than the one we already have. We continue in third place
and we want to finish third."
Missing out on a quarter-final payday is painful for
Valencia, but a return to the Champions League next season is
vital to the club's long-term stability and, probably, Emery's
"Direct qualification for the Champions League is the club's
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