Celtic welcome Valencia to Parkhead on Thursday evening in the last-32 of the Europa League and it is a game which excites both players and fans of the Spaniards.
After a disappointing start to the season Los Che have seen an upsurge in form. When the draw was made in December the team were 14th in La Liga, ten points from a Champions League place, but they come into this encounter having lost just once in their last nine league games, sit six points from fourth and are in the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey.
“In the hours after being eliminated from the Champions League at Juventus Stadium, the Europa League did not appear a desirable goal, neither for Valencia nor its fans,” wrote Vicent Chilet in Levante.
“However, in the two months since the game has passed Valencia are living a better life (in La Liga) and Europe, as well as the Copa del Rey. Marcelino’s team takes the pulse of European competitions this Thursday, in Glasgow, measuring the historic Celtic.”
He did, though, have a warning for Valenica, namely Celtic Park’s aura.
“The festive atmosphere that Valencia will find in Celtic Park, the house of Celtic, is the main handicap,” he wrote.
“Celtic commands the Scottish league, six points ahead of Rangers, with a seven-game winning streak, between the league and cup. However, their performances in Europe go down a lot - they qualified for the round of 32 with difficulties and thanks to a Rosenborg goal in the final minutes against Red Bull Leipzig.”
As with so many visiting teams, Parkhead is treated in mythical terms, one of the best football experiences in the world, alongside the likes of La Bombonera, the San Siro and Nou Camp.
“One of the most legendary stadiums in Britain is already preparing to live a European night with the maximum atmosphere,” it said in AS. “The visit of a Spanish club like Valencia has collapsed the sale of tickets online to the point that several days ago they have placed the ‘sold out’.”
Five hundred Valencia fans are expected to support their side in Glasgow. One fan told AS: “For us it’s a party.”
Valenica are missing a number of players for the match, including top scorer Santi Mina and Spanish international Rodrigo, who is their second top scorer. The goalscoring responsibility will fall on the shoulders of French striker Kevin Gameiro, who averages a goal every 113 minutes in the Europa League.
Among the travelling party are Ezequiel Garay, Carlos Soler and Toni Lato. All three have previously played at Celtic Park.
The former turned out for Benfica in 2012, scoring against Celtic in the home tie of the Champions League group stage match.
“Celtic Park was incredible. It’s a very beautiful ground with a spectacular atmosphere, and it’s really nice to play at places like that. You appreciate playing there because of the atmosphere of those games,” the Argentine told en.valenciacf.com.
“The fans there are very passionate and they support their side to the fullest; right from the warmup they are there. It’s incredible.
He added: “We are Valencia CF, we have a great team, we can score at any time because of the quality of our players, but we also know that it’s going to be difficult.”
“They will come out strong, and they’ve gone seven games without conceding. We’re going there to get a good result and to have a good game.”
Lato said “Celtic bring back good memories” having played in a Uefa Youth League fixture at Parkhead.
The teams faced each other back in 2001 in a Uefa Cup match. Playing for Valencia that day was Mista, who is now an academy coach at the club, and he still remembers the club’s fans.
“What surprised me most was the atmosphere at Celtic Park,” the former striker told en.valenciacf.com.
“Their fans are some of the nosiest in the world, and when there’s a corner or a throw-in close to the opposition box, the fans roar as if it were a goal. That’s always a boost for their players. When they pulled the tie back level in 2001, the fans pushed hard. We were able to hold on until the end and managed to go through.”
Valencia squad: Neto, Jaume Domenech, Cristian Rivero, Cristiano Piccini, Ezequiel Garay, Mouctar Diakhaby, Antonio Lato, Alex Centelles, Geoffrey Kondogbia, Dani Parejo, Daniel Wass, Kang-in Lee, Francis Coquelin, Carlos Soler, Ferran Torres, Goncalo Guedes, Denis Cheryshev, Kevin Gameiro and Ruben Sobrino.