Tuesday, September 17, 2019

UEFA Champions League Group Stage: Chelsea FC - Valencia CF Match Thread

Here we go, first game of the Champions League and it could be a tough one. We come into this game on the back of a heavy 5-2 loss to Barcelona, even missing a lot of their key players. Chelsea come in on the back of a 5-2 win against Wolverhampton. Their side has been inconsistent this season, as have we. We have 4 points from 4 games and they have 8 points from 5 games.

LINEUP

The coach has said that he hasn't had much time to work on something new and is going with what is familiar to the players. Again, the Valencia website release only the starting 11 with not formation given. In terms of Chelsea's lineup, Rudiger notably misses the game with injury.


The defense and goalkeeper remain untouched, it's the same 5 that played against Barcelona. In midfield, we have both Kondogbia and Coquelin alongside Parejo and Cheryshev. Rodrigo and Gameiro start in front. It appears that Cheryshev has been preferred over Guedes for this game. He did assist a goal in the short time he was on in the previous game against Barcelona. I'm sure though a lot of people would want Guedes to start. Maybe he will be brought on later to play against players with tired legs.

As for formation, It's probably 4-4-2 where Coquelin plays on the right. He does have experience against Premier League sides so it come in handy. Paulista does as well. It could also be a different formation in a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-1-2 but if the coach is sticking to what players are familiar with, this not likely.

Bench: Jaume, Costa, Diakhaby, KangIn, Ferran, Guedes, Maxi Gomez

MATCH

2' - Valencia pressing pretty high up early on. Chelsea using long balls to exploit space left by our full-backs.
5' - Chance for Chelsea from the right. Build up play results in a pull-back in the box but it is cleared for a corner
6' - Corner is headed towards goal by Chelsea but Cillissen saves.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

La Liga Matchday #4: FC Barcelona 5 - 2 Valencia CF Match Thread

Fourth game of the season and a crucial time for the team. New coach, Albert Celades has a mission today, a mission he's only had 2 days to prepare for. It's hardly enough time for FC Barcelona. We're helped in the fact they are struggling as well, accumulating a similar number of points to us. They are also without Umtiti and Messi for this game, and Suarez is on the bench, surely a big help as well.

LINEUP

No indication of formation so far but assuming it is still 4-4-2 since the team didn't have much time to prepare anything else. The lineup is very similar to what would be under Marcelino. In the contested positions, we have Coquelin starting over Kondogbia, and both Ferran and Guedes given the nod over KangIn and Cheryshev. 


Jaume Costa is back in the squad list after returning from injury. Maxi Gomez is on the bench and Manu Vallejo out of the squad completely. KangIn, Cheryshev, and Kondogbia will be the subs for midfield, while for defense we have Jaume Costa and Diakhaby on the bench.

While the lineup is not that different, the tactics could still be but I wonder how much Celades has deviated the plan from what Marcelino had laid out. We'll wait and see.


MATCH

Game about to start and it is 4-4-2 as expected.

2' - It's already 1-0 for Barcelino. Ansu Fati scores after Frankie de Jong picks him out in the box. Very poor start.
3' - Guedes plays a great lob for Gameiro but it just ahead of the striker, who was clear on goal.
6' - Well, it's 2-0 now. Alba picks out Fati with a through-ball on the left, who then pulls it back for de Jong who hits the roof of the net, past Cillessen.
9' - Good counter from Valencia after dispossessing Barcelona. Coquelin drives the ball forward, picks out Gameiro, who wins a corner on the right. Corner punched away by Ter Stegen.
16' - Fati runs along the edge of the area past Garay and Coquelin, and fires but his shot is deflected for a corner which is cleared instantly.
17' - Busquets picks out Perez with a through ball but it wasn't taken well, he would've been through 1v1 against Cillissen.
18' - Good counterattack from Valencia after Parejo dispossessed Barcelona in midfield. Ferran picks out Gameiro, who then finds Rodrigo, returns it to Ferran but blocked by Barcelona.
19' - Ball played ahead of Gameiro, who runs on to the ball, drives it forward towards Ter Stegen but cannot hit the target.
22' - Barcelona content with passing the ball around, depriving us completely of possession and having Valencia chase the ball everywhere.
25' - Valencia completely overwhelmed and can only blast the ball away when given a chance.
27' - It's 2-1! Valencia manage to pull one back from one of our only chances in the game. Smooth, smart build up between Rodrigo and Parejo. Parejo picks out Rodrigo plays a great through-ball to find Gameiro's run who then calmly slots it past Ter Stegen. VAR reviewing the goal currently for offside...
28' - VAR gives the goal!
30' - De Jong draws a challenge from Rodrigo from behind. Yellow card for Rodrigo.
32' - Barcelona fans claim a handball, then a foul in the penalty area within a 2 minute span. Referee and VAR give nothing.
33' - Fati gives Wass more trouble, as he cuts inside and fires again from distance, wide again.
36' - Possession: Barcelona (75%) - Valencia (25%)
38' - Great run by Ferran to keep the ball in play in the Barcelona half. He picks out Gameiro whose shot is saved, the rebound falls to falls back to Gameiro who tried a bicycle kick. Rodrigo tries to get the rebound but play called back for a Valencia foul.
39' - When given space Gameiro, Ferran and Guedes are causing increasing trouble for Barcelona. Guedes wins a corner. Taken by Parejo but cleared for another. This one punched away by Ter Stegen.
42' - Guedes wins another corner. Parejo finds Rodrigo who heads it back towards the center but Ter Stegen catches it.
45'+2 - First half is done, started quite miserably and could've gotten worse. Becaome more of an even match towards the last 20 minutes.

SECOND HALF

46' - Quick start from Valencia. Ferran drives the ball forward finds Wass's overlapping run but Wass cannot find a good cross. First one was blocked, second one was too high for Rodrigo to control.
51' - Barcelona get another goal. Griezmann gets  a shot through even surrounded by so many players (Parejo, Paulista, Coquelin). Cillissen saves but the ball bounces back to Pique who just taps the ball lightly into the net from close range.
53' - Alba pulls Rodrigo down to stop a Valencia attack. Yellow card from the ref.
54' - Semedo drives the ball forward and tries a shot from the edge of the area but hits the post. Another dangerous chance.
59 ' - Luis Suarez comes on for Ansu Fati.
60' - Suarez takes on touch and shoots from the edge of the box, hits the posts and deflects in behind Cillissen. 4-1 and 30 minutes left to play.
63' - De Jong picks out Griezmann who gets a 1 v 1 but saved by Cillissen. Rebound saved by the goalkeeper for another rebound, again saved by Cillissen.
65' - Suarez with another shot from distance, saved by Cillissen. Valencia being pressured a lot.
67' - Celades bringing on Cheryshev and KangIn for Guedes and Ferran respectively.
69' - KangIn gets a yellow card for a late foul.
70' - Rakitic comes on for de Jong.
72' - Maxi Gomez is the last sub, coming on for Rodrigo. Vidal comes on for Artur.
74' - Another shot from distance, from Busquets this time, misses.
78' - Another yellow for Valencia goes to Maxi Gomez for a challenge on Lengelet
82' - Another goal for Suarez and Barcelona lead 5-1. Wass had just cleared an effort off the line but the ball finds it way to Suarez who kicks it from the edge of the box and in.
83' - Yellow for Cheryshev after a challenge on Semedo
92' - Goal for Valencia, 5-2! Cheryshev squares the ball into the box and Maxi Gomez reacts fastest to get his first goal.


FINAL THOUGHTS

Embarrassing, frustrating and demotivating but hardly unexpected. Barcelona and Chelsea are two tough games and it's a shame that the new coach has to start with those two games. Play has been sloppy for most of the game and the opposition had quite a comfortable game with many spaces and where they were rewarded even by difficult shots. Without Messi, Suarez and Rakitic for a lot of the game, and Dembele, would give the team hope initially to have a chance. But it didn't matter, Barcelona was too much even with their youth academy players starting.

Some people on Twitter wanted heavy losses to send a message to Lim. I wonder how he will take this result. It was quite painful to do this report live. I wanted to stop writing 10 minutes in.

Anyway, moving on. Next game is Champions League on Tuesday against Chelsea, away from home. Chelsea have also had inconsistent performances but won this weekend 5-2 away against Wolves.  It's definitely winnable if we play like we did before. After Chelsea, we get several simpler games where we can hopefully build momentum. Hopefully we get a positive result. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Coach change

News are now emerging that Albert Celades will be replacing Marcelino as coach. A very big shock given that we are playing Barcelona and Chelsea in the next few days.

I have a few worries:
1. Morale of team and dressing room. This development is likely to leave many players shocked, especially Marcelino loyalists like Parejo. Given the proximity to the Barcelona game, I am worried that the team might crumble.

2. Pedigree of the new coach. If true, Celades comes in without prior experience as a first team coach. With La Liga and UCL matches coming in fast and furious. I am not sure how he will be able to prepare for the challenge of managing a big club like VCF.

3. Fans. I am sure all fans like me are likely to be rocked by this news. At a time when we have qualified for two consecutive UCL and also won the Copa del Rey, this seems like such a big dent in our team´s trajectory.

However, this is part and parcel of football and I hope I am proven wrong. This development has been brewing for quite awhile. After clashing with the owner, there was no way this could have ended as a fairytale. Sporting wise, his lack of a Plan B and refusal to use our hungry academy players, have left us vulnerable in this season. This probably made it easy for the owner to remove him. After supporting him with players like Guedes and Maxi, the failure to get the best out of them further reduced the confidence in him. Better to address this problem now than let it fester.

I hope this change brings about a few things:
1. Back to basics. Focus on our young players and maximise the potential from our Academy. That has been a steady source of players like Gaya and Soler in recent years. Academy graduates are also naturally more dedicated to the club and fight harder than prima donnas from elsewhere. I think we have one of the youngest squads in La Liga. Maybe Celades´experience in the Spanish youth teams can help to develop our Academy players.

2. Tactical nous. We have players who can play in a variety of tactics. We need someone who can get the best out of our current squad. We have a very strong team as well as squad depth. Hopefully Celades can be a breath of fresh air.

3. X-factor players. Maxi, Guedes and Rodrigo are clearly our most lethal attackers. The coach needs to be able to get them to deliver. It is sad that Guedes and Rodrigo are chipping in goals with their national teams but struggling to play decently for Valencia. Hopefully this is resolved sooner than later.

All the best to the lads for the next few games. Win or lose, we have to continue cheering on our team. Amunt!

Monday, September 2, 2019

Close of the transfer window near

The close of the transfer window is imminent. Barring any late surprises, it's a transfer window that went past without any major departures to annoy the fans. Neto left after an apparent fall-out with Marcelino, but was replaced by Cillessen, who most of us regard as an upgrade. Santi Mina left and was replaced by Maxi Gomez, who the jury is still out on, as it's too early to say. Valencia also picked up several young players: Jorge Saenz, Salva Ruiz, Manu Vallejo and Jason, as well as making Cheryshev's loan permanent and bringing in Costa and Mangala on loan. Other departures were limited to unwanted players: Abdennour, Vezo and Murillo.

There are 3 last day movements.

Thierry Correia joins from Sporting Lisbon, covering Piccini's 5-month injury lay-off. As recently as yesterday, there had been talk that no one would join to cover, which seemed a high risk, with no natural right back there. The question mark will be about the price, with Valencia paying 12 million (with another 3m in variables possible) and giving him a 100 million release clause.


The club had tried to sign Hysaj, a more established player, but Napoli played hardball and ultimately, Valencia was unwilling to go to 20 million or beyond. Correia has done well with Portugal youth teams, but has very few club starts. Labelled as the "new Cancelo" time will tell whether he lives up to his promise or proves to be an ill-advised panic buy. Valencia has, of course, been weak at right back for some time and none of the recent holders (Barragan, Montoya, Vezo, Nacho Vidal, Cancelo or Piccini) did that well there. 12 million represents a significant gamble and it remains to be seen whether he can step up to the challenge of La Liga and UEFA CL.

Next are two departures, both slightly surprising. Jason joins Getafe on a season's loan. With Valencia weakened on the right by the injuries to Piccini and Soler, I would have expected him to stay.

Even more surprisingly and a bit ruthlessly, Salva Ruiz' return to Valencia proved short-lived. Just 9 weeks and a day after he returned, the club cancelled his contract and he joins Deportivo Corunya, with Valencia having a percentage of any future sale.

Those departures mean that three of the four young players who joined us in the summer have left, with only Manu Vallejo remaining. It all seems badly planned and a bit of a scattergun approach.

***Update*** Having failed to find a club for him during the transfer window, Valencia cancelled Alvaro Medran's contract. It would have expired next summer anyway so either way the club wasn't going to get any transfer fee for him.

Overall, no major departures, and a net spend of 56 million euros, though 35 of that comes from Cillesen's buy, with the Neto money going into last season's account. Despite that, I think most of our fans will be fairly frustrated by this window. We were strongly linked with Rafinha and Denis Suarez, both of whom have joined Celta. Other names like Mariano Diaz, Hysaj, Angel Correa and Otamendi caused interest, but ultimately came to nothing, though many will be relieved that Mendes players like Andre Silva or Radamel Falcao didn't join.

Rodrigo, as always, will remain a divisive figure. Many of our support were happy that he was leaving, and 60 million seemed a good price. Yet, even though the deal seemed to be done it didn't happen. There was always the question of who would replace him and worry about the effect on the team if he left so late in the transfer window, after the season start.

The biggest issue is that all of our rivals, both the big three and the fourth placed contenders, have strengthened, and therefore, by staying still, Valencia slips behind in relative terms. The mini-civil war that the club had in the summer seems to have had its effects and they're not good for Valencia. We can only hope that players like Correia, Maxi Gomez and Manu Vallejo do fulfil their promise.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

La Liga Matchday #3: Valencia CF 2 - 0 RCD Mallorca Match Thread

Third game of the season. Not the best start so far, one draw and one loss. We've failed to show our true potential in both games. We really need a win for confidence. It is a winnable game against a recently promoted team, especially at Mestalla.

LINEUP

Mostly the same lineup, with a few changes. Rodrigo returns to start after Maxi Gomez was given a chance last game. Ferran finally gets the start we've been asking for, given his potential. Marcelino opts for Coquelin, who was suspended last game, instead of Kondogbia.



After last week's knock against Celta, Diakhaby is given a start instead of Paulista. Finally, Wass get to play in right-back with Piccini out with a long term injury (4-5 months).

MATCH

Seven minutes into the first half and Mallorca get their first really good chance. The space left by Gaya is exploited by a Mallorca player who gets picked out by a teammate. He shoots the ball towards the opposite side. Cillissen parries but only to another Mallorca player who hits the post. The ball finds a third Mallorca player who fails to hit the target. Mallorca are reacting faster.

Crowd getting frustrated after another Mallorca chance.  A cross from their right just narrowly misses the run of their player who was in tons of space.

Nice one-two between Guedes and Gameiro, however the latter fails to make use of the space created by Guedes's run, curling the ball beyond the post.

Guedes earns a free kick after superbly dribbling past two players. We need more of this. Parejo wastes the resulting free kick, missing everybody and the goal.

Another close one from Mallorca, this time from their left side. Their players cuts inside given the space and takes a shot from distance to hit the opposite post.

It's 27 minutes in and Mallorca looking more like the home team than Valencia. Their players are getting all the time and space in the world to do whatever they want. Narrow margins separate them from a lead. The team needs to step it up. Crowd becoming increasingly edgy.

Parejo talks a shot from distance, 30 or so yards out, and the ball narrowly misses the post. Great effort which was applauded by the crowd. Cooling break follows.

Mallorca player also tries a shot from distance, narrowly sailing over the crossbar.

Valencia keep getting to the edge of the opposition penalty area and then run out of answers. No room to cross or shoot and often get dispossessed.

Brilliant move from Ferran tapping the ball past his marker and then blitzing past him with pure pace before quickly changing direction picks out out Coquelin, who was tripped up for a penalty. Parejo steps up. GOAL! Parejo cooly slots it past the keeper. 1-0 Valencia!

Second half. Gaya saves Valencia would an outstanding last-second tackle to deny a Mallorca player from taking a shot.

Corner for Valencia, shove in the box on Coquelin (again). Another penalty for Valencia. Parejo steps up yet again. GOAL! Parejo scores again. 2-0 Valencia. Game is going totally against us but somehow we get 2 chances out of nothing to score.

62 minutes in and Marcelino deciding to take out Rodrigo, who I don't remember touching the ball too often, for Maxi Gomez.

Second substitution at 72 minutes, Ferran off for Cheryshev. Guedes moves over to the right to make space. Ferran has played quite well in the second half. Some great dispossession, attacking moves and  done his defensive duties at the back as well. Looking forward to seeing more of him this season. Cherychev already getting involved in the first play since his substitution, but his cross was gathered by the keeper.

Gomez has an effort from close range stopped by the keeper and the play stops for the second cooling break.

Last sub from Marcelino at 82 minutes. Gameiro subbed off for Kang In Lee. The youngster gets involved in the first play, intercepting a pass, and driving the ball forward past 2 Mallorca players and picks out Maxi Gomez who failed to hold his run and gets flagged offside.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Misleading scoreline. Despite being on the back-end for huge portions of this game, we still led through 2 penalties. The penalties were deserved and fair, however, the performance in general was sub-par. It didn't feel like we were playing at home or against a recently promoted team. Valencia did step it up a bit in the second half but not nearly enough.

This win did give some confidence and a chance for Ferran and Kang In to shine and show some promise. Guedes also looked good at times and often needed 2 or 3 players to surround him, shut him down or bring him down. Coquelin also had some bright moments, earning 2 penalties. Parejo, Rodrigo and Gaya, were below their usual performance.

After this game, we go into international break for 2 weeks. September 14th we return for an away game against Barcelona at Nou Camp, who will probably have Messi back at that point. They will be out for revenge for last year's Copa defeat. We also find ourselves tied on points with them after 3 games. Then 3 days later, we're away again to face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge for the Champions League. Two huge games, with some time to prepare except for the few players who will be off for international duty.

Another big point, is that the transfer window closes end of the day tomorrow. The club has recently back tracked on its statement and said that anything could happen, implying that even the Rodrigo deal is still on the table. Reports are Mendes is trying his best to facilitate this deal so he can get his pay-check. Also, the club is saying they might not sign a replacement for Piccini. Hopefully that's false as we absolutely need one. Finally, in terms of outputs, we still have Alvaro Medran, Ruben Sobrino and Salva Ruiz on the books still waiting to be offloaded. Possibly even Jason. Manu Vallejo seems to be staying.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

UEFA Champions League: Group Stage Draw

The draw for the group stages for the Champions League were conducted today. The results of the draw are as follows:


Valencia find themselves in Group H alongside Chelsea, Ajax and Lille. Compared to some of the other groups, our group is quite decent actually. However, it's not easy still. Chelsea are the reigning Europa League champions and Ajax are the reigning Dutch League Champions as well as Champions League semi-finalists. Chelsea's performance this season will be turbulent as they find themselves with a new coach who has yet to achieve good results for his team. Ajax have lost 2 of their star players in de Jong and de Ligt, however they still remain a threat.

This group has a lot of wildcards and teams that could either perform really well or disappoint from week to week. It should be interesting to see how it turns out.

What are your thoughts on Group H in particular as well as all the other groups?

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Piccini Injured

Cristiano Piccini has suffered an injury during training, fracturing his knee cap. This is a very serious injury and will take him out of the squad for at least 4 months but some estimates saying 5 months. This is the second major injury this season with Soler also out for 3-4 months. The season has barely even started.

This injury has forced Valencia to enter the transfer market seeking a right-back to supplement the position while Piccini is injured. We have three competitions to play and one right-back is not enough for rotations. Some would argue that the right-back position should have been reinforced anyways this transfer window. Now, it will be due to an emergency circumstance.