The pressure is on.
Not only because winning the Europa League represents our only chance to reach the Champions League.
Not only because our poor form has ruined the numerous chances to finish in the top four and above our neighbours.
But because Tottenham have reached the Champions League final – and the only consolation would be to win the Europa League.
With the current theme focusing on comebacks, our 3-1 advantage has never looked so brittle. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s late goal that gave us the two goal buffer looked to be conclusive, but we can’t forget our awful away form and our tendency to crumple under pressure.
Plus, Valencia are plenty capable of scoring the two goals that will put them through. What we need to concentrate on is scoring the vital away goal. If we do that, they will need to score three. Score twice? Then we should have enough to go through.
Nothing is certain however, and Liverpool and Tottenham have showed us that. The moment our players sit back and think the job is done, is the moment we get burned. Valencia are on the up after a period in the doldrums, and with so much pressure on us to achieve, it could play havoc with our players and their state of mind.
This is where Unai Emery earns his wage. He will set his team up accordingly, and hopefully the right approach will be chosen.
What about player selection though?
Petr Cech should retain his place in goal, as he has done for our Europa League campaign. In defence, Laurent Koscielny was rested against Brighton in the weekend, so should be available.
So too was Ainsley Maitland-Niles, and the right-back spot should be his for this game. That means no place for Shkodran Mustafi.
In midfield, does Emery pack the centre with Xhaka, Torreira and Guendouzi? Or will it be two from the three, with more in attack?
We seem to operate better when Aubameyang, Lacazette and Ozil start, and with us needing an away goal to send us through, all three should be on the pitch.
Player to Watch
The Argentine defender has built a reputation on no-nonsense defending, and he will most likely be the toughest obstacle to grabbing that precious away goal. Strong in the air and a threat from set-plays, he is also adept at the darker arts. We will need to take the wind out of his sails.
How This Could Go
Valencia can afford to be patient, at least a little. The La Liga side are filled with goals – their last La Liga game they scored six goals – and have some wily players who can stretch us.
They will seek to lure us out. The key is how we set up.
If we choose to sit on our lead, then we invite pressure and under pressure, we wilt quicker than a chocolate bar under a heat lamp. So we need to give it a go. That leaves openings.
An early goal from the home side and they are perfectly set up to get the second. Plenty of time for them, and lots for us to make an error.
So we need that away goal. And in Alexandre Lacazette we have a player who has a welcome tendency to score big goals in big games. If Mesut Ozil is in tune, then he can give Laca the bullets needed to score.
Plus, in Aubameyang, we have the pace to counter should we need to. We have the players, but we need them to have the confidence to take the game to Valencia.
The truth is, no matter how we take the game, all of us fans will be filled with worry. Our season hinges on this, and we need a final to forget our PL failings.
Predicted Lineup – Cech, Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Koscielny, Monreal, Torreira, Xhaka, Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang, Lacazette
Predicted Scoreline – 1-1