By Myles Palmer
If Valencia score an early goal they will not know what to do.
Sit back for an hour?
Absorb pressure while Arsenal throw everything at them?
I expect a cagey game because Valencia want to win 1-0 but they do not want to win it too soon.
They are at home and they have the crowd and they have 90 minutes to score the goal that will put them through to the semi-final.
So why attack in the first half and risk everything? If Arsenal score Valencia will need three goals and they know they cannot score three goals tonight.
Also, they will be expecting Arsenal to attack them strongly in the first half hour, when they are most likely to be nervous.
The game will probably turn on an incident in that first half hour – a thrilling save by Seaman or Canizares, a shot hitting the post, a penalty not awarded.
I’m pretty confident about everything except Arsenal’s conversion ratio of chances to goals.
When Vieira heads against the bar from two yards in the first game, I worry.
When Kanu misses three good chances against mediocre Middlesbrough, I worry.
When a team depends on one player’s goals as much as Arsenal depend on Thierry Henry’s goals, I worry.
But I have said for two weeks that the most likely score is 1-1 and I’m sticking with that.
The next most likely score is 1-0 to Valencia, but I have not ruled out a 1-0 to the Arsenal.
OK, they are unbeaten in 16 Champions League games at the Mestalla Stadium.
But how many of those games were quarter final second legs when they were 2-1 down? The pressure is on Valencia tonight. They have to perform. They have to keep a clean sheet.
Valencia have to score first, I think, to win the game,and they know that they did not win at Highbury after scoring first.
Bottom line, I think Valencia were better last season when they had Gerard in midfield and Claudio Lopez up front.
Silvinho’s calf injury? I think he could start – and score to make up for Saturday’s silly own-goal.
Hope it’s Lauren in central midfield, not Ljungberg on the right. In a game like this Ljungberg, like Wiltord, is a vital sub.
Both are energetic, fiery players who close down fiercely and Arsenal will need that if it is 1-1 with 20 minutes to go.
17th April 2001.