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First leg 0-0

Spanish league leaders Valencia will start as hot favourites against local rivals Villarreal when the sides meet in tonight’s UEFA Cup semi-final in Mestalla.

Valencia coach Rafael Benitez has called upon his players to demonstrate their desire from the kick-off.

“It has to be a motivation to the players when they see and hear how much winning this game means to our fans,” Benitez said.

“The crowd will be pushing us on to victory for the whole 90 minutes and we need to show even more pride and determination than the Villarreal players.

‘The first-leg score of 0-0 means that we both have to play to win and there will be no time or space to relax or feel over-confident.”

Benitez will have to cope without suspended Amedeo Carboni and Fabio Aurelio who is injured and it looks like s Benitez will ask Javier Garrido to switch to left-back.

Another doubt is Vicente who has been suffering from flu and may miss out. Also, Francisco Rufete is out and Miguel Angulo is also a doubt. But better news for Benitez is that Pablo Aimar returns from injury after missing the last three UEFA Cup ties.

Villarreal meanwhile are at full strength with wing-back Juliano Belletti recovered from injury and Rodolfo Arruabarrena back after suspension.

Villarreal centre-half Fabricio Coloccini denied his team would be intimidated by the experience.

“This is the most difficult game we could be facing at the moment – but only in a footballing sense,” he said.

“Valencia are a fantastic unit and, as a team, they are proving why they are on the point of winning the Spanish title. But I don’t feel the Mestalla atmosphere will unbalance us.

‘We are fighting to make history for this club and my team-mates have the mentality to focus on that – it will be the players not the fans who decide which team is going to Gothenburg.”

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