Espanyol vs Valencia preview - Pochettino targets `key victory'

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Posted Wednesday, May 11, 2011 by PA

Espanyol face a crucial clash in their bid to claim a Europa League spot tomorrow when they host third-placed Valencia at the Cornella-El Prat stadium.

Sunday's 2-0 defeat at city rivals Barcelona left Espanyol in eighth spot and four points adrift of Atletico Madrid and Sevilla and Atletico Madrid, who occupy sixth and seventh, respectively.

Fortunately for Espanyol both Sevilla and Atletico also lost at the weekend, but Espanyol know they cannot allow themselves any more slip-ups if they are force their way into Europe next season.

Coach Mauricio Pochettino, whose side's final three fixtures are at home Valencia and Sevilla and away to Real Zaragoza, said: "To get into Europe it's key to win tomorrow and beat Sevilla at home in the last game, because now we don't depend on ourselves and we have to get nine points.

"We must be alert and do our homework in case someone fails."

Pochettino also trusts his side's fans will turn up in force tomorrow, adding: "Against Athletic last Monday (2-1 win) there were more than 20,000 people and now there will be more fans, because they know this is a key game for us."

Valencia do not have the same concerns as Espanyol as they are already guaranteed a top-four finish, although they still have a little bit of work left to secure third place.

They are currently five points clear of fourth-placed Villarreal, and while that may seem a virtually unassailable advantage with only three games to go, coach Unai Emery is demanding no let-up from his team.

"We are going into these games with the idea of winning. The objective must be to win the three games that remain. We need to be properly prepared for these three matches," said Emery, who is not concerned his players might start to ease off.

"I'm not afraid they will relax, I'm confident. As a coach I have faith in the people we work with, in the people who are going to play."

He added: "We must not think about Villarreal. Our objective is not to get four points but nine. We need to have this winning mentality."

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