Valencia coach Gary Neville has pleaded with the club’s disgruntled fans to turn up and support his struggling side when they face Espanyol at the Mestalla on Saturday.
Valencia have not won in the league since November and there are growing fears they could be dragged into a relegation battle.
Neville has failed to win in nine La Liga games since taking charge in December, form that has seen his Valencia side plummet from five points off the top four to just four points above the relegation zone.
Only an estimated 10 000 fans turned up to see Valencia’s fate sealed in the second leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals on Wednesday with a 1-1 draw against a much-changed Barcelona coming after they were thrashed 7-0 in the first leg a week before.
“I am aware of the right of the fans not to come and to say and do what they want,” said Neville.
“I think the stadium on Saturday will be full and an electric atmosphere. We and the team need the fans more than ever on Saturday.”
Neville’s friendship with Valencia’s Singaporean owner Peter Lim played a big part in him taking his first managerial role at the Mestalla, and has helped the England coach remain in the job despite widespread criticism in the Spanish media and by some sections of the club’s support.
However, another defeat against an Espanyol side who have also not won in nine games and lost 5-0 at home to Real Sociedad on Monday is expected to see Neville’s time in Spain come to an abrupt conclusion.
Espanyol coach Constantin Galca’s job is also on the line just two months after taking charge with the club’s new Chinese owners – who have targeted Champions League football within three years – not expected to show patience with the Romanian.
“They are only three points above us and if we win we put them in trouble as well,” said Espanyol midfielder Victor Sanchez.
“Hopefully we don’t start like the other day and make the game as long as possible for them. There are no more excuses and we need to produce this week.”