December 4, 2017 / 8:24 PM / a year ago

Surprise title contenders Valencia stay calm after first defeat

MADRID (Reuters) - Valencia suffered their first defeat of the season against 10-man Getafe in La Liga on Sunday but coach Marcelino remains positive that they can keep up with Spain’s elite sides.

FILE PHOTO - Soccer Football - AFC Bournemouth vs Valencia - Pre Season Friendly - Bournemouth, Britain - July 30, 2017 Valencia coach Marcelino Garcia Toral Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs

The east coast team, who last won the championship in 2004, are five points behind leaders Barcelona in second place on 31 after 14 games and surprise contenders for the title after two seasons in the doldrums, finishing 12th each time.

Marcelino was appointed in May, their 10th coach in a rollercoaster period since Unai Emery left in 2012 after four years at the helm.

Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville endured a torrid four-month spell in charge after being appointed in December 2015 and was sacked before Pako Ayestaran suffered the same fate as the Englishman and Cesare Prandelli resigned.

Marcelino’s appointment was heralded as a fresh start and it has proved to be just that, with Atletico Madrid a point behind Valencia on 30 and champions Real Madrid fourth with 28.

Real sold striker Alvaro Morata to Chelsea and loaned James Rodriguez to Bayern Munich this year and although they signed promising young players they look weaker.

“I think that the Real Madrid squad is worse than last season, they’ve lost power over the last year,” Marcelino told Radio Marca.

“Barcelona, Real, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla (fifth on 28 points) have been there for years. We can consider Barcelona a little more of a favourite than the rest.”

None of La Liga’s top sides were convincing at the weekend however. Barca and Real Madrid drew at home to Celta Vigo and away at Athletic Bilbao respectively while Atletico needed a late Antoine Griezmann strike to see off Real Sociedad.

Valencia have an advantage because they are not competing in Europe due to their mid-table finish last season, meaning they can rest players in Champions League weeks.

Marcelino, however, is not permitting any title talk after seeing Sevilla impress everyone in the first half of last season before falling away and finishing fourth.

“We aren’t looking too far ahead, only at the next game. Right now we are not in a position to fight for the title,” said the coach.

“Sevilla last season finished the first half of the season in second place and then had trouble qualifying for the Champions League.

“We must live in the present. As a reference point, we have to take on each match as (if it were) a final.”

Editing by Ken Ferris

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