Sports Burst - Valencia's New Batman

REUTERS/Juan Medina

By Tim Stannard


Valencia make fifteenth managerial change in a decade with appointment of Javi Gracia as new coach 


With clubs in LaLiga having had to do everything differently since the restart and completion of the latest season, Valencia will be all too familiar with a task being performed on Monday. Signing up and presenting a new coach. 

The Bats have had 14 managerial changers over the past eight years alone to mirror the constant turnover in the equivalent movie franchise.

The Mestalla club was lead by three managers last season and sacked two of them. Marcelino started the campaign, was then replaced by Albert Celades, who was then fired and replaced with the trusty stand-in, Voro

Los Che are set to announce Javi Gracia as the latest coach on the Mestalla bench, a bench that has seen the esteemed figures of Unai Emery, Ernesto Valverde, Nuno Espirito Santo and Ronald Koeman in recent years, before the club rejected each of them. 

And there was also Gary Neville. 

Javi Gracia was once the bright young thing of management before being fired by Watford last season - Spain's equivalent of Valencia in its love of disposing of managers.

The 50-year-old is taking over a club that badly underperformed last season by finishing ninth, thirty-four points behind Real Madrid. The budget is set to be cut due to both COVID-19 financial pressures and a failure to qualify for the Champions League. What's more, there is a heck of a rift between supporters and the club's ownership that is based in Singapore. 

Gracia's appointment which is set to be formally announced on Monday is a sign that some of the big cheeses in Spain are banking on experience and security as opposed to giving youngsters new projects. 

Betis appointed Manuel Pellegrini for next season and Villarreal went for Unai Emery. Valencia's selection of Javi Gracia suggests that all three teams, as well as Sevilla, will be in the hunt for what could be a heck of a Champions League battle next season. 

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Smartbank playoffs in limbo as Fuenlabrada's future hangs in balance


Javi Gracia will now have two weeks to prepare until the Valencia squad gatherers for preseason ahead the planned start of the 2020-21 LaLiga campaign on September 12.

That seems an extraordinarily long time compared to the winners of this season's LaLiga Smartbank playoffs who will join Huesca and Cadiz in the top-flight. That team might get about three or four days vacation - but still plenty of time for those Instagram-posted shots hanging out on a boat in Ibiza. 

The second division playoffs were due to be wrapped up this coming weekend. However, the process was derailed last Monday with the last game of the regular season between Deportivo La Coruna and Fuenlabrada being called off due to positive tests in the Madrid side's camp, while the rest of the round took place. 

That situation has now worsened with 28 reported cases between members of the group still isolated in a hotel in A Coruna and those back in Madrid. 

With little sign of the game being played - Fuenlabrada would only need a point to reach the playoffs - LaLiga petitioned on Sunday to have the match cancelled with Elche, the team currently in sixth spot, making up the four qualified teams of Real Zaragoza, Girona and Almeria.

A commission of three including a member from LaLiga, the Spanish Football Federation and a neutral party will now make a decision on how to progress. 


More news expected on Kylian Mbappe's injury


Monday should also see news on Kylian Mbappe's sprained ankle and whether the forward will have to sit out the resumption and completion of the 2019-20 Champions League. 

The PSG forward was left on crutches after a bad tackle by Loic Perrin in Friday's Coupe de France victory over Saint Etienne.

The initial prognosis diagnosed Mbappe with a severe ankle sprain. On Monday evening in Paris, there will be further tests to ascertain whether Mbappe will be fit for the return of the Champions League. 

The striker is already out of the running for Friday's Coupe de la Ligue final against Lyon that is live, live, live on beIN SPORTS. However, Mbappe's participation in the quarterfinal clash against Atalanta is key on August 12 with Angel di Maria suspended for the match and Edinson Cavani no longer on the books at PSG.