New boss Neville didn’t want to confuse Valencia

Matthew Briggs

Gary Neville will not lead his Valencia team against the reigning Primera Division champions Barcelona on Saturday for fear of “confusing” them.

The former Manchester United and England defender was appointed at the Mestalla earlier in the week and signed an initial six-month contract with Valencia currently ninth in the table.

His brother Phil has been at the club since the summer and will continue in his capacity as assistant coach for the remainder of the year.

Neville’s first game in charge will come in the pivotal Champions League tie with Lyon next week and he explained why he is leaving Saturday’s visit of Barcelona to the stand-in coaching pair of Phil and Salvador Gonzalez.

“First of all, I won’t be on the bench against Barcelona,” Neville said at his unveiling.

“On Sunday evening the first contact was made, by Monday evening it was accepted Tuesday we talked about logistics and coaching, Wednesday was announcement and today was the first time I could get over here.

“We decided earlier in the week it was too soon, too unprofessional to come in the day before such a big match. It would have been unfair on the players.”

Neville admitted the language barrier will be his biggest initial problem but that will be helped after the appointment of Miguel Angel Angulo to the senior coaching set-up.

The England coach met the players for the first time on Thursday morning but wanted to keep them focused on the tough challenge of hosting leaders Barcelona.

“I didn’t want to confuse them because they have an important match on Saturday and they need to concentrate on that,” he added.

“They don’t need to get too contaminated by words from me at this stage. I just told them I’m here to give my all and to give my best and I expect the same from them really.”

In Gerard Pique, Barcelona have a defender who played alongside Neville during their time together at Manchester United.

The 28-year-old is expecting the appointment of his former team-mate to give Valencia an added incentive on Saturday – but has backed Luis Suarez to continue his impressive run of form in recent weeks.

“Visiting the Mestalla is always difficult and now that they have a new manager it will be an extra motivation for them. We want to continue our winning spirit,” he told Barcelona’s official website.

“He (Suarez) is the best number nine in the world. He has proven it. He has scored lots of goals and, on top of that, important ones in moments where we needed them.”