The next stop on our season long tour brings us to one of the oldest grounds in LaLiga, Estadio Mestalla, the home of Valencia CF. Mestalla was opened in May 1923 to a crowd of 17,000 spectators and has been the permanent home of los Murciélagos ever since.
Since its humble opening as a dirt pitch surrounded by bleachers and farm land, the stadium has undergone a series of renovations to bring it up to its current capacity of 49,500. This article from Estadios de España includes a series of aerial photographs of Mestalla over the years which illustrate the growth of the stadium in relation to urban development in surrounding areas.
In addition to serving as Valencia’s home, Mestalla has been an important ground for the Spain national team. The first international match at the ground was a 1-0 victory over Italy in 1925. In the 1982 World Cup, the stadium—then known as Estadio Luis Casanova—hosted all three of the initial groups stage matches for the host nation. Then at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Spain won five straight matches at the venue—without conceding a single goal—en route to the final, where they topped Poland in the host city.
Despite the storied history of the ground, the decision was made in 2006 that Valencia needed a new, modern home. Ground broke on the Nou Mestalla in 2007, but cost overruns and budget issues have left the project incomplete. A series of cost-conscious redesigns have kept the project alive, but no opening date for the new ground is in sight.
With its imposing grandstands and raucous crowds, Mestalla is an intimidating away venue for opposing teams. Despite this, Valencia struggled at home last season, posting only an 8-4-7 record. This season they are off to a better start, with a win in their home opener against Las Palmas to go along with the impressive draw away to Real Madrid. Atlético Madrid should not take this one lightly.