Cup king Ryan gives Neville a selection headache

Australia goalkeeper Mat Ryan has become Valencia's lucky charm in the Copa Del Rey as the case for his inclusion in Gary Neville’s starting side in La Liga gathers momentum.

Mat Ryan

Mat Ryan has been a rock in Valencia's recent Copa del Rey run Source: Getty Images

As the Englishman ponders his starting line-up for the visit of second bottom Rayo Vallecarno to the Mestalla, the favourable statistics being racked up by Ryan weigh heavily in his favour as he chases a fourth Primera Division start for Los Che in his debut season in Spain.

Ryan has yet to concede a goal in four cup appearances, keeping his record intact in the 3-0 midweek win over Granada, the completed a 7-0 aggregate round of 16 rout.

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Valencia have conceded seven goals in the last four games without Ryan in goal, and just one in four when he has been between the sticks. All four of those games ended in victories to further strengthen his hand.



Ryan's case to replace current incumbent, local boy Jaume Domench, becomes even more compelling when you consider that Valencia have managed no clean sheets in their last eight league games without him.

That number rises to 11 when you add the UEFA Champions League.

Neville is also searching for a first league win since taking over last month - the run now stretching to eight games.

Ryan, who won the Belgian cup with former team Club Brugge last season, is approaching peak form again after putting the meniscus surgery that derailed his start to life in Spain far behind him.

“I was happy with a few good saves to keep it at 0-0 in the first half so we could move on to win,” he told The World Game after several notable stops in the stroll against Granada.

“It’s a great feeling for me. I am trying to help the team winning by doing what I do.

"So I was really happy to keep the clean sheet again and to get the victory and qualification for the next round.

“The cup is important to me because winning titles and trophies is the reason why I play football.

“Like last year when winning titles like the Asian Cup, and with Brugge also winning the Belgium Cup,  that’s the ultimate feeling of why I do what I do.

"At the end of the day, winning titles and cups is something you’ll never forget.”

But playing his part in helping 11th-placed Valencia bring a maiden win for rookie coach Neville, and climbing the ladder in the process, remains his top priority.

“Now we must focus on our next game and really work hard to win on Sunday at home in Mestalla against Rayo Vallecano, who have been struggling this season," he said.

“We have to get the same kind of results in La Liga as we have been doing in La Copa.”

Valencia have drawn another relegation struggler, 16th placed Las Palmas in the last eight, with Ryan adding: "We have learnt this season that we have to respect every opponent, and we have to expect two tough games against Las Palmas.

“But I hope we can implement a dominant game plan and first get a good result at home and then finish the leg away."


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3 min read
Published 16 January 2016 at 5:04am
By David Lewis