Preview: Gary Neville debuts for Valencia in Champions League match

AP , Tuesday 8 Dec 2015

Gary Neville
Valencia's British coach Gary Neville looks on during a press conference at the Valencia's Sport City in Valencia on December 08, 2015, on the eve of the UEFA Champions League match Valencia CF vs Lyon (AFP)

Gary Neville has no time to settle in at Valencia.

The former Manchester United defender will make his debut as coach on Wednesday with the Spanish club needing a victory to advance in the Champions League.

Neville took charge on Sunday, giving him only three days to prepare to face Lyon. Valencia, in third place in Group H, needs to beat the French club and hope for some help to reach the round of 16.

''We haven't got a preseason or friendly matches,'' Neville said last week. ''We have got huge matches coming up and the important thing is for us to win matches and pick the right team regardless of the style.''

To advance, Valencia must beat already-eliminated Lyon and needs group winner Zenit St. Petersburg go take points at Gent.

Here are some things to know about Wednesday's matches:

Brotherly love

Gary Neville will be aided by younger brother Phil Neville, who was already at Valencia acting as an assistant coach to Nuno Espirito Santo.

Phil speaks Spanish and will help his brother communicate with his players while he learns the language.

Neville takes over from interim coach Salvador Gonzalez, who guided Valencia to a morale-boosting 1-1 draw with Spanish leader Barcelona on Sunday while Neville looked on.

Valencia's notoriously demanding fans have so far taken warmly to Neville. A few thousand supporters reportedly turned out to see his first practice session on Monday.

Banged-up bunch

Unfortunately for Neville, he has inherited a side hit by injuries.

Defenders Shkodran Mustafi, Antonio Barragan and Lucas Orban, midfielder Andre Gomes, forwards Sofiane Fegholi and Rodrigo Moreno, and striker Alvaro Negredo all missed Saturday's match against Barcelona because of injury.

Mustafi and Negredo practiced on Monday, so they may be back to face Lyon.

With so little time to work with his players, Neville has started by keeping his message simple.

''(Neville) didn't want to give us too many ideas, but he wants a compact group, which works hard and helps each other out, one that truly is a team,'' Valencia defender Jose Gaya said. ''A new era has begun. I am really excited to get out there on the pitch and talk with him.''

Under fire

Lyon travels to Valencia with coach Hubert Fournier under increased pressure and his job on the line.

Eliminated from all European competitions, Lyon has taken only one point from its last four French league games and has yet to record a win in the Champions League this season.

In public, Fournier is still enjoying the backing of Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas, who confirmed he will be in charge of the team against Valencia and then at Paris Saint-Germain next Sunday in the French league.

Perfect finish

A win over Gent would make Russian champion Zenit the only team in this year's Champions League to win all six of its group games, becoming the first Russian club to do so since Spartak Moscow 20 years ago.

However, while Zenit has dazzled in Europe, coach Andre Villas-Boas has concerns at home. Only three wins from its last 12 Russian Premier League games have left Zenit in sixth place as the league goes into its three-month winter break.

Brazilian striker Hulk did not travel with the team, reportedly because Villas-Boas wants to prevent him from receiving another yellow card, which would mean a one-game suspension in the first knockout round.

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