Anderlecht v Valencia
Anderlecht, the only team yet to register a single point in the Champions League this season look to keep alive their hopes of finishing third and qualifying for the UEFA Cup tonight. The Belgian champions currently prop up Group G and have the second worst defensive record in the competition.
Valencia, meanwhile, must win and hope that Inter avoid defeat in Bremen to keep alive their slim hopes of qualifying for the group stages. If that happened Valencia would then need to beat Bremen in their final group match in Spain in two weeks time to take the runners-up spot.
A draw tonight in the Belgium capital would confine Valencia to the UEFA Cup draw.
Anderlecht coach, Hugo Broos, still harbours hope of finishing third in the group and claiming a UEFA Cup place.
“Everyone can see we’ve got no points,” he said, as his team aim to avoid becoming the first Belgian side to end their Champions League challenge pointless.
“However, we still have our pride and this is a match we have to win if we want to achieve anything. We have to try to finish with some points and qualify for the UEFA Cup.”
Broos is well aware that UEFA Cup qualification is out of their control though.
“Even if we beat Valencia, UEFA Cup qualification won’t be in our own hands,” he admitted.
“But we can’t think like that. Beating Valencia would be a beautiful result. They know we’re going to attack them so they’ll be able to play on the break and that might suit them.”
Anderlecht are without Albanian international midfield player Besnik Hasi through suspension and Broos will not finalise his starting line-up until just before kick-off.
Nenad Jestrovic’s broken arm will keep him out despite a protective cast, while central defender Vincent Kompany is doubtful with a minor knee problem.
However, Kompany’s fellow Belgian international, striker Mbo Mpenza, is available again after a fortnight out with a calf strain.
Goalkeeper Tristan Peersman may also be dropped after he produced an error-strewn performance on Saturday, badly misjudging a corner for one of second division club K. Bocholt VV’s goals in Anderlecht’s 3-2 Belgian Cup victory. If so, Daniel Zitka would replace him.
Under-fire Valencia coach Claudio Ranieri saw his side finally get back to winning ways with a 2-0 win against Malaga on Sunday. It was Valencia’s first victory since late September.
Ranieri said: “It was important for our confidence. Now we have this must-win game. We have to attack but are wary of their ability going forward. They may not have scored a point so far but they create a lot of chances.”
Like Anderlecht, Valencia’s fate is also now out of their own hands.
“We can’t think about what is happening in Bremen,” said Ranieri.
“We have to focus on our match and then hope that Inter achieve something special.”
Ranieri, whose side won eight of their first nine games of the season including a 2-0 victory against Anderlecht on Matchday 1, has a lengthy injury list.
Forward Miguel Ángel Angulo is the latest addition due to a thigh problem. Argentinian defender Roberto Ayala is three weeks away from a return, midfield player Vicente Rodríguez is still waiting to discover whether his ankle injury requires surgery while captain David Albelda has a torn thigh muscle.
In the absence of that key trio, Ranieri will look to Pablo Aimar to provide the creative spark.
The Argentinian international playmaker is ready to take on the responsibility, saying: “I want to play a major role. We’re here to win and play well. But the match is not as critical as life and death. It is only a football game.”