A Capable Valencia Are Champions League Underdogs
Los Ches might just be the Ajax of 2019-20's competition.
By nature and by title, the Champions League is supposed to be a competition for the European football elite. There is not supposed to be an underdog element.
The run of Ajax to the semi-finals last season tested that theory, and there might not be a team that fulfils that role this season.
If there are two who come close, they would Atalanta and Valencia - one as a first-time Champions League competitor, the other for its return to the top table.
In that regard, Valencia might be the Ajax of 2019-20, especially if it gets a good draw in the last-16 and beyond. Going into the draw scheduled for Monday night, Valencia was one of eight seeds with five possible opponents: Atalanta, Dortmund, Lyon, Napoli or Tottenham.
Somewhat ironically, Valencia had to beat Ajax in the last group game to advance, relegating the Dutch club to the Europa League. But to get this far is an achievement for Valencia, which changed managers early in the season during a serious period of uncertainty for the club. New boss Albert Celades thrilled to be proving the doubters wrong:
In the end, we are very happy because this is an achievement, not only for today. With the draw, we were in a difficult group, but that’s how it is and many people thought it would be impossible.
Given its status in Spanish football history, Valencia should not be considered an underdog. But coming into the last 16 of the Champions League, there is no question Valencia will be a team that is capable of upsetting the bigger clubs and making a run through the competition.