Celtic have drawn Valencia in the last 32 of the Europa League after Monday’s draw.
Celtic’s reward for splitting the Red Bull brothers Salzburg and Leipzig is a trip to the Mestalla in February next year.
The tie will provide Celtic with a stern test against the Spanish side who dropped out of the Champions League.
The recent history
Valencia are one of the most well known Spanish clubs around the world. In the early millennium they were a European powerhouse.
They reached two successive Champions League finals, losing both to Real Madrid and then Bayern Munich on penalties respectively.
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Rafa Benitez delivered a La Liga title to the Mestalla before departing for Liverpool in 2004. Players like David Villa, Juan Mata and David Silva to name a few made their names at Valencia.
They have yet to reach those heights again but always remain a formidable opponent.
Valencia at this moment in time are not in the best of form domestically. Los Che currently sit 14th in La Liga with 19 points from 16 matches.
Valencia dropped out of the Champions League despite taking four points off Manchester United in two games.
They have failed to win in their last three league games but have successfully negotiated their first tie in the Copa Del Rey.
They enter the Europa League knowing victory in the competition is their most likely route back to the Champions League next season.
The current team
Valencia embarked on a major spending spree, calculating a whopping £107.1m bill for their summer acquisitions.
Most notably was the £36m and £19.8m fees attached to winger Goncalo Guedes and midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia. They also loaned Michy Batshuayi from Chelsea, after the Belgian youngster impressed at Borussia Dortmund.
They backed their manager for their failed assault on the Champions League. Valencia’s squad is one of serious depth of talent. They have established players in almost every position.
The experienced Ezequiel Garay marshals the back line for them. Their league form is a serious red herring compared to the squad they have at their disposal.
Celtic have already lost to Valencia this season, missing out on Italian right back Cristiano Piccini.
The star man
Although he hasn’t quite got going yet this season, Valencia still rely on Spanish hot-shot Rodrigo for goals. He fired 19 goals in 44 games last year for Los Che.
The Brazilian born striker appeared in three of Spain’s four World Cup games in Russia in the summer. He didn’t manage to find the net for Valencia in the Champions League season.
However he is one man Celtic and their defence must keep an extremely close eye on.
This is an extremely difficult tie for Celtic to negotiate after Christmas. Valencia will pose a dangerous threat to Celtic’s hopes of an extended run in Europe.
It’s not unwinnable though. Valencia’s goal difference of 0 in La Liga shows they are just as capable of losing goals as they are scoring them.
The Spaniards will start the tie as huge favourites, they are unlikely to be taking the Europa League easily.
With it being their most likely route back to the Champions League, expect Los Che to come at Celtic all guns blazing.
Spain has a love affair with the Europa League, Valencia will be out to ensure that continues.
However, Celtic will be hoping they can go at least one round better than last year, where they crashed out to Russian cracks Zenit.