Canales confident of Valencia victory
Young Valencia playmaker Sergio Canales says his side have the quality to overturn the form book and win at Atletico Madrid in La Liga on Sunday evening.
Valencia currently sit fifth in the Primera Division after an inconsistent season, and find themselves in a battle for the final Champions League qualification spot with in-form Real Sociedad, Malaga, who are currently banned by UEFA, and surprise packages Real Betis and Rayo Vallecano.
Meanwhile, Atletico, who have been flying under Argentine coach Diego Simeone, appear to have already secured a top four spot, and now sit a full 15 points ahead of the visitors.
Canales nonetheless feels his side have the players to go to the Estadio Vicente Calderon and get the three points they need to maintain their push for fourth place.
"We know they are a difficult opponent, having played a very complete season," Canales told Europa Press at Los Che's Paterna training facility on Thursday. "Especially at home, where they are a very reliable team, difficult to play against. But we have the team to go there and win. We have shown that before against other strong teams. We must go there without any fear."
Canales, 22, received widespread international attention when linking with Barcelona's Thiago Alcantara to score a memorable goal against England at the 2010 Under-19 European Championships semi-finals, although his progress since has been hampered by two separate long term injuries.
The Cantabrian made a first international underage appearance in over 18 months last Monday, scoring as a substitute as Spain's Under-21s warmed up for June's European finals by hammering Norway 5-2. He had enjoyed being back with his old friends, he said, and was now approaching full fitness after such a long time without playing regularly.
"It had been a long time without playing with [Under-21s]," Canales said. "I was delighted to be with my team-mates again. Playing a run of consecutive games is difficult after so much time out, but I have tried to be at 100%. I am feeling better all the time. Confidence is very important for any player, both for him and the people around him."
Canales looks likely to play an advanced midfield role on Sunday, with Los Che's Brazilian attacker Jonas playing up front in place of regular centre-forward Roberto Soldado, who is struggling with an ankle problem.
The former Racing Santander and Real Madrid player has appeared in all three positions behind the front man in Valencia's usual 4-2-3-1 system, and said he was happy to play wherever coach Ernesto Valverde felt he was most useful.
"The boss decides where I play, although I am more comfortable on the right than on the left," Canales said. "The most important thing is to try and help the team."