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Valverde calls for strong Real performance

Valencia manager Ernesto Valverde says his side can regain their pride in Wednesday's Copa del Rey second leg against Real Madrid at the Mestalla.

Los Che were unlucky to be beaten 2-0 at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu in last week's first leg, but fortunate to only lose 5-0 with Valverde's side disintegrating as Madrid ran riot during the two teams' La Liga meeting on Sunday.

The former Athletic Bilbao, Espanyol and Villarreal boss recognises that turning the Copa tie around against Madrid would not be easy, but claimed that anything can happen in football.

"We cannot just bow our heads to Madrid," Valverde said. "We need to step up. We know it will be a difficult game, we are 2-0 down, and we are coming off the spectacular result in La Liga, but the game is there to be played. We know how powerful Madrid are, we have felt it in our bodies, but nothing is certain yet. We need to lift ourselves up and believe in our chances and fight against the difficult situation. After a result like that the most important thing is how you react, and fortunately we have a chance to do that tomorrow. The objective is to win, but more than that to regain our pride."

Valencia's chances of doing so have been further hit by the absence of Roberto Soldado, who has a thigh problem, and is likely to replaced by Nelson Valdez up front. Further changes to the starting line-up will see Victor Ruiz stepping into midfield to replace Fernando Gago, who has been dropped from the squad, and Joao Pereira returning from suspension at right-back. Former Madrid teen-sensation Sergio Canales is fit again, but more likely to feature as a substitute.

Valverde believes that Ruiz, who took Gago's holding-midfield place after the Valencia boss reshuffled his team at half-time on Sunday, should offer more protection against Madrid's fast moving counter-attacks.

"(At 5-0 down at half-time) I told them everyone was against us and we were f***ed," he said. "But also not to take so many risks and hold the centre of the pitch. We will use Ruiz there again. I have talked to him about it."

The game is also likely to bring renewed protests against club president Manuel Llorente, after the weekend's news that Valencia's regional government had taken control of the heavily-indebted club to guarantee an €86 million loan with stricken Spanish lender Bankia.

Valverde accepts there is a lot of frustration around the club at the moment, and said it was up to the players to win the fans back.

"I understand that when there is such an inflated negative result there is a lot of frustration," he said. "Football is a game and we all want to win 5-0, but for that to happen someone must get punished. That the fans return to the stadium depends on us."

Asked whether Gago, who has been linked with a return to Argentina to sign for Boca Juniors, had a future at Valencia, Valverde said that it was not his decision to make.

"If he leaves or not this month is not up to me," he said. "Although if I had spoken with the sporting director (Braulio Vazquez) I would not tell you here."

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