Valencia's season plummeted to historically low depths on Monday after a 1-0 defeat at Getafe left Los Che on just 20 points from 22 matches, good for 19th-place in LaLiga and two points from safety.
It was Valencia's first match under new manager Rubén Baraja. The 47-year-old spent 10 glorious seasons at the Mestalla as a player between 2000 and 2010 — winning LaLiga twice, the Copa del Rey and the Europa League — but his coaching career hasn't been as glittering. He hasn't lasted a full year at any of his five previous managerial posts, but Valencia desperately needed an emotional spark.
Gennaro Gattuso, after only seven months in charge, left the club by mutual consent at the end of January with Valencia in 14th.
"It is clear that I am responsible for this," the Italian said.
But interim boss Voro experienced three straight defeats before Baraja was signed last Wednesday.
"For me, coaching Valencia is my lifelong dream," Baraja said. His only request was that Carlos Marchena — another key part of that illustrious Valencia team — was made his assistant.
They didn't have much time to work with the squad before Monday's trip to the Alfonso Pérez, but 20-year-old American Yunus Musah started in the midfield while Gabriel Paulista captained the side.
Samuel Lino missed a huge opportunity to put Valencia ahead early, and Getafe finally got one past Giorgi Mamardashvili in the 82nd minute with Borja Mayoral scrambling one home from a corner kick.
HIGHLIGHTS: #GetafeValencia 1-0Important win for Getafe thanks to @Mayoral_Borja!#LaLigaSantander | #LaLigaHighlights pic.twitter.com/Ux5v0rmILx
— LaLiga English (@LaLigaEN) February 20, 2023
Valencia's place in the relegation zone was confirmed for another week, and players went to speak with the traveling fans after the final whistle.
“Por este escudo me voy a morir, nos vamos a morir por este escudo” pic.twitter.com/huypryQlNn— (@ElenaVCF_) February 20, 2023
The pressure is truly on Los Che now. They haven't won in LaLiga since Nov. 10 but it doesn't get any easier. Their next four fixtures: third-place Real Sociedad on Feb. 25, first-place Barcelona on Mar. 5, 10th-place Osasuna on Mar. 11 and fourth-place Atlético on Mar. 18.
That's hell. Valencia's in hell.