Valencia's Pellegrino wary of BATE
Valencia coach Mauricio Pellegrino says a victory at home to direct rivals BATE Borisov in Wednesday's Champions League Group F game would be a big step towards the last 16.
Both teams go into the game with six points from their first three games, but Valencia have the momentum after winning 3-0 in last month's reverse fixture against the Belarusian champions.
With group favourites Bayern Munich the next visitors to the Mestalla, the former Valencia and Liverpool defender said a win this week was vital to his team's chances of progression to the knockout stages of the competition.
"It is a very important game, given that the group is very open," Pellegrino said. "If we win it will be a big step forward ahead of the two next games. If not the situation will become pretty difficult. A draw would leave us level with two games to go."
The Argentine coach said his side would not be overconfident after their comfortable win in Belarus, when captain Roberto Soldado scored a hat-trick. "This is a Champions League, where Europe's best teams play," he said.
"BATE have played very well away from home, they are comfortable sitting back and waiting for their opponent to make a mistake, that is one of their principal weapons. We will need to be fully switched on."
After a tricky start to the season, which included a 1-2 defeat in Munich and just one win in their first six games in all competitions, Valencia's results have improved in recent weeks, including the hard fought 1-0 La Liga win over high-flying Atletico Madrid at Mestalla last Saturday.
Pellegrino said the idea was to keep this momentum going. "We have won four of our last five games," he said. "Our start was below par but we are playing more consistently now. We hope we can keep this spell going so we can satisfy everyone."
The rookie manager, who has called up fit-again Pablo Piatti and recently dropped Dani Parejo to his 20 man squad for the game, said there was a slight doubt over the availability of Soldado, who attended his grandfather's funeral on Tuesday.
"We will see how he is," he said. "We are all with him, and all his family. We will see how he feels (Wednesday) morning. If he is well, we will choose the best eleven."
Argentine midfielder Ever Banega, who has been eased back into action over recent games after missing eight months due to an unfortunate traffic incident last season, was gradually reaching his best form, Pellegrino said.
"He was out for a long time, he will get his rhythm back," he explained. "In the minutes he is playing, we must balance his fitness and the needs of the team. He will find his best level."