Valencia 2012-13 preview

Dubbed as the perennial 'third team' of Spain, Valencia have decided to make radical changes as they attempt to again chase down Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Eccentric boss Unai Emery has left the club and moved to Spartak Moscow in Russia, and his replacement is former Valencia player Mauricio Pellegrino. Pellegrino worked closely with former Los Che boss Rafael Benitez at Liverpool and Inter, but his appointment will be the Argentine's first stint managing a team.

The sale of left-back Jordi Alba to Barcelona is an obvious blow, but the team has strengthened well this summer – Joao Pereira, Andres Guardado and Fernando Gago have been snapped up as well as promising youngster Jonathan Viera from Las Palmas, whilst Sergio Canales has made his loan move from Real Madrd permanent.

Canales could be a key player this season as he looks to overcome his injury woe and turn in performances that saw him hit the headlines previously for Racing Santander. With Atletico Madrid, Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao chasing Champions League spots, it is paramount that Pellegrino hits the ground running to secure that third spot once again.

The source of goals will once again be Roberto Soldado, whose omission from Spain's Euro 2012 squad should leave him refreshed and raring to go, whilst new signing Guardado will be out wide, supplying Soldado with the ammunition to try and break the duopoly in La Liga.

There's no doubt that in recent years, Valencia have had to sell some very good players – David Villa, David Silva and Juan Mata have all left the club, reaping in valuable income as a result, but it often hamstrung the team and frustrated the outgoing Emery. This time, only Jordi Alba has left and they've managed to keep hold of Soldado and Ever Banega, but for how long?

The financial situation at Valencia is well-known, and their half built stadium in the north of the city is indicative of their recent struggles, and whilst building work is set to begin again, Valencia must find the winning formula on the pitch under a rookie Coach, before thoughts can turn once more to a brighter future off the pitch.

The difference maker – Roberto Soldado

The former Real Madrid prodigy became the main man under Unai Emery, and his goalscoring exploits have attracted considerable interest from around Europe. Now 27, Soldado will be looking for another great season to cement his reputation as one of the deadliest finishers in the game.

Best Signing – Joao Pereira

Right-back has been a concern for Valencia since last summer, as Miguel started to show signs of slowing down. His replacement is his compatriot, Joao Pereira, who starred for Portugal at Euro 2012. At just €3.6m, Valencia have bagged an experienced full-back for a bargain price.

His time? Jeremy Mathieu

Having struggled at left-back, Mathieu found his home on the left of midfield last season, playing just ahead of Jordi Alba. He was desperately close to a place in France's Euro 2012 squad, but another strong season will transform him into a household name. Unfortunately, he could return to left-back as Valencia search for Alba's successor.

Coach – Mauricio Pellegrino

In his first permanent job, Pellegrino will be looking to cement Valencia's position as the 'best of the rest' in La Liga.  Their signings have been modest but clever, but can he really improve on what Emery did? It's a tough task for someone with little experience, though hopefully he learnt from Benitez. Expect Pellegrino to use Valencia's usual 4-2-3-1 system once again.

The big question…

Can they close the gap between themselves and ‘The Big Two’?

Probable line-up: Alves; PEREIRA, Rami, Ruiz, Mathieu; Feghouli, GAGO, Banega, GUARDADO; Canales; Soldado


IN: Pereira (d, Sporting Lisbon), Gago (m, Real Madrid), Viera (m, Las Palmas), Guardado (m, Deportivo La Coruna)

OUT: Moya (gk, Getafe), Alba (d, Barcelona), Bruno (d, Brighton), Miguel (d, Released), Maduro (d, Sevilla), Dealbert (d, Kuban Krasnodar), Topal (m, Fenerbahce), Michel (m, Levante), Aduriz (a, Athletic Bilbao)