Sunday, February 18, 2018

Malaga CF 1-2 Valencia CF Match Report

A win clenched at the dying minutes today. It's three important points nonetheless but it was far from a convincing performance, especially against a side that's occupies the lowest position in the league. This is precisely why every game has to be treated as a serious challenge. There are no easy games

LINEUP


Marcelino fielded a similar lineup to last week's win against Levante. The front line remained unchanged and the midfield featured Coquelin alongside Parejo to cover for the injured Kondogbia.
The defense had the biggest change with Murillo returning to the squad after 3 months on the sidelines from injury. He started alongside Paulista, whereas Ruben Vezo was favored over both Nacho Vidal and Montoya in the right-back position.

MATCH

The first 10 minutes or so started in our favor with a series of attacking plays. Santi Mina had the best chance in that period at about 5 minutes with a headed effort from Gaya's cross but he couldn't get over the ball and sent it high instead.

After about the 10 minute mark, the momentum began to shift Malaga's way. They got organized and closed down our players quickly and played on the counter. They were kept at bay for a while but not for long. Their goal would come from a set-piece, a corner kick from the left side at the 27th minute. Recio's delivery found Ideye, who got free from Ruben Vezo, in space and he beat Neto with a point-blank header. Two comments here. Vezo turned off and let his man run free to easily and he is partly to blame. Also, the header was played pretty close to Neto and he has remained static yet again. He really needs to be more active and command his area in those set-pieces. He has shown himself to be the type of keeper who doesn't like to roll up his sleeves and get down and dirty so to speak. If the ball is at a convenient height for him, he is happy to make the save. But if he has to run out and claim a cross, or make a dive for a low shot, he hesitates or is lazy or I don't know what. He just doesn't do it.

Malaga's period of dominance would continue throughout the remainder of the first half. Valencia had one decent chance from Guedes from just outside the box, in the dying minutes of the first half but it went wide.

Malaga started the second half much the same. In fact 10 minutes in the second half, they could've gone 2-0 up, if it wasn't for a referee decision that was greatly contested by the Malaga players. A set-piece in the form of a free kick from the right-hand side was played into the box to the far post where is was headed back across to find their left-back Gonzalez in space who beat Neto with a shot from close range. The goal was disallowed due to a collision in the box involving Vezo and Paulista as well as Ideye and En-Neysri. The referee deemed it to be a shove from En-Neysri on Paulista and disallowed the goal, much to the anger of the Malaga players. There does seem to be contact on Paulista but it can be argued that it wasn't too significant. It's hard to tell how significant the contact is from the slow-motion replays. If it counted, we would have been down and out.

Marcelino opted for some changes at this point and brought off both Vietto and Santi Mina for Rodrigo and Zaza respectively. The game changed for the better, with Valencia making some decent plays and getting to the Malaga box but no clear chances to score. Zaza had one effort with his back turned to goal initially, he spun around quickly and took a shot instantly and narrowly missed.

This point of the game featured many yellow cards with the game getting highly competitive and every team was contesting every challenge and asking for yellow cards. Even the benches were getting vocal. The referee dealt with this part poorly, booking certain players for dissent and letting others go.

At one point Guedes went on a crazy run leaving their defense in the dust and was taken down with a tackle by Gonzalo Castro from behind, no where near the ball and studs up, it was only a yellow card. I am glad we didn't lose Guedes to injury after only recently getting him back. He gets the majority of the tackles, with Soler at a close second.

Marcelino would introduce the final change at the 80th minute, bringing on Ferran Torres for Soler. The breakthrough for Valencia would come at the 80th minute from a Parejo corner from the left-side. Coquelin would break free of his man at the far post and make a run towards the near post to meet Parejo's corner and head the ball past the keeper for his first goal. He was one of the players working really hard out there and him getting a goal does justice to the effort he put in.

Five minutes after the goal, Guedes intercept a Malaga pass from inside our own third. He plays the ball to Zaza and runs ahead to receive the ball back in the opposition half, continues his run, plays a through ball around the last man to release Rodrigo in a one-on-one with the keeper. The last man pulls down Rodrigo to prevent the goal and the referee rightly red cards him. It was a fair decision as it was clear goal-scoring opportunity, Rodrigo was facing goal, and was clear of the last defender. The penalty was converted yet again by Parejo to give us the lead and we would successfully defend it for the remainder of the game.

GOALS

1-0 Ideye (27')
1-1 Coquelin (80')
1-2 Parejo (85', pen.)

PLAYER RATINGS

Neto 2 - he is far off from what he was in the first part of the season, and his performances have been doubtful and he is losing my confidence. Needs to be more active and take command of his area to claim/punch away crosses and prevent goals like this.
Vezo 3 - was involved decently well in attacking play and put in some decent crosses. Defensively, lost his man for Malaga's goal.
Paulista 4 - might need some time to get accustomed to partnering with Murillo at least till Garay gets back.
Murillo 5.5 - decent return performance, heated battle with Ideye for the entire game, looked solid enough but definitely has a lot more to give when he gets back into the pace of the games.
Gaya 5.5 - better delivery on his crosses, went forward with confidence when giving the opportunity but covered his defensive duties well also.
Coquelin 7.5 - his work ethic and perseverance are admirable. Didn't give up and brought us back into the game with his goal and his performance in general.
Parejo 6.5 - misplaced a few passes, but delivered a good corner for the first goal, as well as a composed finish on the penalty. He picks up a lot of bookings for contesting referee decisions that are avoidable and as captain he should be the calmest, wasn't as vocal as last game.
Carlos Soler 6 - active as usual and is always looking to cause trouble when on the ball. Rash challenge in retaliation to their challenge saw him earn a booking.
Guedes 7.5 - another good performance. The build up for the play that earned the penalty is a prime example of his qualities. Won the ball back in our own third and ran with determination to get the ball back and play a great through ball for Rodrigo.
Vietto 4 - lacked impact and any real chances of threatening or getting in threatening positions
Santi Mina 5 - got into a couple of decent attacking positions in the first few minutes of the game and got one good chance from a header but couldn't control it. Died off for the remaining parts of the game that he was on.

Subs
Zaza 5 - apart from the one effort on goal that narrowly missed, didn't really get any other chances to impact the game. Involved in the build up of the play that earned the penalty.
Rodrigo 6 - he got one moment to shine and he took it. Made a great run to get into position for Guedes's through ball and earned the penalty.
Ferran Torres N/A - not enough time.

FINAL COMMENTS

A narrow win in the final minutes against a side that is really struggling. They looked more likely to score for extended periods of the game. They could've arguable gone 2-0 ahead and then we really would have been in trouble. It should be noted that they have a lot of motivation to put in a tough performance in order to escape relegation. But for a team that sits in third place we're really struggling with the lower place teams. Thankfully, we didn't lose points and we pulled through and capitalized on the few chances we got. We only really started playing 60 minutes into the game with the Zaza and Rodrigo substitutions, with the last 10 minutes where we really took our chances.

Next game is next week Sunday back at Mestalla against Real Sociedad. They find themselves at the lower portion of the table also. Again, we cannot take the game easily and even the lower ranking teams are proving to be a challenge. Let's hope for a more convincing performance in front of the home crowd.

As usual, let us know your thoughts about the game. Is it time for Jaume to be given a chance at first-choice? How did Murillo do on his return from injury? Who impressed? Who disappointed? All comments, opinions and thoughts are welcome and appreciated. 







Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The value of Valencia's players

Superdeporte today had an article on the increase in value of Valencia's players. Unhelpfully, the source material it's based on is only available in the print edition. Interested, I had a look through the two main sources. The CIES football observatory and Transfermarkt to get a rough idea of how much our players are worth now and produced the table below. The CIES data is slightly more recent, dating from 1 February, while Transfermarkt's is from 1 January. Values are in millions of euros.

CIES Transfermarkt
Guedes 36.3 40.0
Zaza 34.0 25.0
Soler 32.9 25.0
Rodrigo 23.0 25.0
Kondogbia 22.4 25.0
Mina 17.2 10.0
Gabriel 14.5 15.0
Parejo 14.3 18.0
Murillo 13.7 15.0
Gaya 13.4 25.0
Vietto 13.4 10.0
Pereira 11.9 7.5
Coquelin 11.7 12.0
Neto 10.8 10.0
Garay 9.4 15.0
Lato 8.0 8.0
Montoya 6.8 15.0
Maksimovic 5.9 2.0
Ferran Torres 5.2 1.0
Vezo 5.1 4.0
Vidal 3.3 2.0
Jaume Domen 2.0 2.5
LOANED
Cancelo 17.2 20.0
Nani 4.8 7.5
Medran 3.3 2.0
Bakkali 2.9 1.8
Nacho Gil 2.8 0.3
Abdennour 2.5 4.0
Orellana 1.9 2.0
Santos 1.2 3.0

In most cases, both sites more or less agree on the player values, but there are some discrepancies. I'd tend to agree more with CIES on the value of Montoya and Ferran Torres and more with Transfermarkt on the value of Zaza and Gaya. The values of Soler, Mina and Maksimovich are somewhat in between the two.

The other take away from all this is that Valencia really can't expect to get much from players already loaned out. Cancelo is the main one that the club hopes to sell, but his 32 million buy option for Inter looks too high and the 20 million value looks more reasonable. For the rest, we are basically looking at loose change in relative terms. Nani could possibly fetch more if he agreed to go somewhere like China. He's rejected that idea before, but if a club came in with a crazy salary offer, it's doable.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Valencia CF 3-1 Levante UD Match Report

The bad run of games finally ends with a good performance against our local rivals in the Valencia derby. The win sees us jump back to 3rd place, a point ahead of Real Madrid (they have a game to spare), 6 ahead of Villareal who dropped points but 9 below Atletico above.

LINEUP



Marcelino started with a familiar lineup. The midfield comprising of Kondogbia and Parejo, with Guedes and Soler out wide is finally back together again to start a game. This was the preferred composition earlier in the season and was vital in today's victory. No surprises in the defense with Paulista and Vezo occupying the central positions with no other choices available following Garay's injury. The front featured Mina and Vietto together for the first time. With the Copa finally over, I wonder how Marcelino will use Jaume from now on or will Neto just command the posts barring any injuries?










MATCH

Valencia started the game with intensity and intent backed by a very vocal and supportive Mestalla. It was clear from the get go it was going to be a competitive game with both teams fighting for it. Valencia needed the win after a string of poor results and to maintain a top 4 position while Levante needed points to distance themselves from the relegation spots. They came in with the confidence of a draw against Real Madrid from the previous week.

It would take 17 minutes for Valencia to find a goal through a corner. Parejo delivered and Santi Mina broke free of his marker and made a run for the back post to meet the delivery and beat the keeper at the back post with a header. Good work by Mina to make the space for himself and get in position.

The joy of the goal would be short-lived though as Levante struck back almost immediately from their own corner. They played theirs short and then squared the ball straight across to find Postigo who had made an unmarked run from edge of the box, past Parejo and slotted the ball past Neto. Neto had about a cluster of defenders in front of him obscuring his vision of the ball and the shot caught him off-guard. The defending in general on this play was lazy. We had them outnumbered in the box and some players just stood by not marking anyone and only blocking the keeper's vision. Parejo, who was just inside the box, could've picked up the run. On the initial corner pass that was played shorted, you can see Guedes standing nearby with Vietto at the right-side edge of the box. He chose to keep his distance and was trying to get Vietto to mark the free man in case of a short corner but Vietto either didn't hear him or ignored him and moved in the opposite direction. Montoya  also started out of position having wanted to do the same role as Guedes initially and then only opting to join his teammates in the center at the very last second. A jumble of errors.

The match would carry on with the same intensity for the duration of the first half and into the second half with Valencia ahead, even in possession. A few minutes past 60 in the game, Levante would score following a corner kick, only for the referee to disallow it and rightly wrongly so after a challenge on Gaya. Replay shows that it was Paulista who pushed Gaya and Coke's goal should've stood (EDIT). On the very next play, Soler took the ball and went on a driving run beating a Levante player, then another, and managed a shot from inside the box. The goalkeeper parried towards Santi Mina who wrestled with his marker for it. Vietto made a run the loose ball found him in space for a straight-forward finish and his first in the League.

Valencia would get several chances more to score. A few minutes later, Kondogbia wins back the ball in midfield and starts a Valencia counter. The Levante players were outnumbered 4 to 2 and it looked to be a real danger if the right ball was played. However, Kondogbia chose to go for glory and fired the shot from the edge of the box, which the goalkeeper parried. I personally think he should've passed as there were available players in space.

This dominance would continue with Guedes doing something similar from the left side of midfield and going on his own wild run. He blasted by players with his fully regained pace after injury and found Santi Mina in the box but he couldn't finish the great chance. A few minutes later, Guedes would find Santi Mina in space again, who dummied the defender to make a great chance but the keeper saved. These were almost certain goals and he should've scored at least one of them to seal the game.

The game would get sealed regardless after a quite controversial decision. A loose ball in the Levante box was contested by both Zaza and a Levante player. Both had an even chance at getting the ball and in their attempt to get the ball, they collided and both went to ground. The referee deemed it a foul against Zaza and awarded the penalty which Parejo calmly finished after some mind-games with the keeper. I personally think it was not a penalty and should not have been awarded. As I said, it was a fair challenge for the ball from both players who went at it in the same manner.

There would be one final chance in the game. A through ball from Guedes would find Zaza in space inside the box but the striker couldn't even hit the target and sent the ball over the cross bar. I expected him to at least hit the target and cause trouble for the keeper but it was quite a poor effort.

GOALS

1-0 Santi Mina (17')
1-1 Postigo (18')
2-1 Vietto (65')
3-1 Parejo (89', pen.)

PLAYER RATINGS

Neto 5 - barely called into action so hard to judge as they only had one shot on target. His vision was obscured for the goal and I place the blame on the defending.
Vezo 6 - decent performance, did well in controlling opposition to a 2 shots only in the game.
Paulista 7 (EDIT: 6) - good run of performances, saved us a couple of times with last second challenges (replay shows he could've caused us to go behind by pushing Gaya which the referee took as a challenge from Coke and disallowed his goal. What was he doing?)
Gaya 4.5 - defensively had nothing to worry about, makes decent runs but his crossing seems awful these days.
Montoya 4.5 - did decently well apart from the goal where he was lost in terms of positioning
Kondogbia 7.5 - always delivers and was prominent in offense and defense, had one selfish moment but easily forgiven for his great performances.
Parejo 7.5 - calm and composed, reflected in his penalty as well, great passing, provided the assist for the goal. Good to seem him being more active and vocal as a captain by directing teammates.
Soler 8.5 - awesome to have him find his form again and he made a huge difference in moment of brilliance which gave us the lead.
Guedes 9 - did everything apart from score. He was a constant threat to the defense, tearing them apart with his dribbling, runs or incisive passing.
Santi Mina 7.5 - good sense and sense to make space for the first goal and involved in the buildup tot the second. He's now matched Rodrigo at 8 goals and one behind Zaza with less minutes. It's a shame he couldn't convert the other two chances he had.
Vietto 6.5 - it was an easy goal to score but he did well to anticipate the loose ball and get into position. Didn't help Guedes for the conceded goal. He held the ball up well and had a few smart runs.

Subs:
Coquelin 7 - as good as Kondogbia is, it makes it difficult for him to get time but I want to see him play more, he plays with such intent and contests every ball, great to watch.
Zaza 5.5 - I still value his work-ethic but in front of goal, seems uninspired.

FINAL COMMENTS

This win gave us 3 valuable points and a confidence boost after a poor spell of games. The team did well to carry themselves and proceed with the same intensity that we saw flashes of last game. Great to say 2 players who have recently recovered from injury (Soler and Guedes) put on stellar performances and they will be a huge boost to reach our goals for the season. The 4 players in midfield made the difference tonight with good all-round performances. Also good to see Vietto pick up a goal for his confidence and Coquelin unaffected by the knock he took last game. I think we deserved to win this game. With the chances we had, even a bigger margin could've been expected but the finishing from clear chances wasn't good enough to warrant a bigger scoreline. They did have a goal that was wrongly disallowed as well as a controversial penalty against them and we don't know how it would've changed the game had it stood. We did also have a penalty call for us but the referee deemed it a dive by Vietto. The game was shaped by some controversial decisions which somewhat takes away from the win (EDIT).

With the Copa games out of the way and the League being our only competition, we can focus completely on the top 4 spots, a luxury our competitors for the spots do not have. Hopefully, we will also recover more players from injury in the next few weeks. Murillo could be returning in the next while and it would be another added boost. As such, I expect similar and consistent performances in our next games. Next game Valencia is away to Malaga who have really been struggling this season and find themselves dead last. While it should be an easy game, we need to proceed with humility and carry the same level of intensity and determination that we saw this game.

As usual, let us know your thoughts on the game. Penalty or no penalty? Who impressed? Who disappointed? What can be improved upon? Is Zaza still first-choice or do other strikers demand the spot more?




Friday, February 9, 2018

Valencia CF 0 - 2 Barcelona CF Match Report

Valencia went down battling in the 2nd leg of Copa against Barcelona in Mestalla. It was a scintillating game with great game plan from Marcelino. Unfortunately it was not to be, but the players can keep their heads high. My only hope is, now they can be confident in themselves and start being more consistent with this kind of footballing ideas.

Lineup:
                   Juame
Montoya-Garay-Paulista-Gaya
Coquelin-Parejo-Kondogbia-Rodrigo
               Vietto - Zaza

First Half:
The first half again started out similar to week, with lot of high press from Barcelona. But what might have paused them was the counters from Valencia. Lot more threatening, lot more direct. Marcelino set up Valencia counter attack beautifully IMO. The 4-4-2 version deployed  was very flexible and transitioned into 4-3-3 which transitioned into 4-3-1-2. The way the formations were changing was brilliant with the game plan again being to clog up the middle. Another pleasing thing to see was Marcelino had set up Coquelin, Kondogbia and Rodrigo as robbers! Whenever Barcelona went back to re-stretch the field, the robbers would be waiting for those side-side swing passes. Rodgrio and Coquelin executed the moves very well and stole lot of passes to initiate counter attacks. It was a very well oiled machine! Zaza was pressing Umtiti, Vietto was running in between the line with his intelligent runs and Rodrigo was having an insane game! This is the kind of play I want to see from Rodrigo day-in day out. Had a great header of the bar. Was sitting right in front of Parejo and was finding himself in nice soft zones in Barca defense and when he received pass here, progressed on the drive and then gave nice through balls. Kept the game flowing! Not a single selfish ball hogging decision making. At the end of first half Valencia had the best chance, with Rodrigo's shot of the bar with Cillessen beaten.

Second Half:
Second half started with even more purpose with Valencia attacking Barca higher up the pitch. Boy were we threatening. It's a pity that we conceded the goal at the most inopportune moment. Suarez did couple of moves on Garay who defended him as well as he could and then found a left footed cross far post, where Coutinho finished it with a deft shot. To me Gaya made a mistake in not being physical enough with Coutinho and let him past him, but still Coutinho had to do lot of work with Juame having covered the near post. My reaction is - this is what money will buy you. Suarez turning Garay around or Coutinho finding the only possible solution for goal - Until there is no fair financial policy or acquiring of talent in laliga, rest of the teams will be forced to eat this kind of goals.
Because from what I have seen from financial fair play - if your team doesn't have high quality players for which a team is willing to pay enormous amount you can't afford better players.

Anyhow, the goal deflated the team. Barcelona were toying with us. Hate watching it - just passing to each other and egging us to rush into tackles so that likes of Alba can display some of the patented writhing around moves. Marcelino tried to bring some juice in with Soler and Guedes on for Coquelin and Rodrigo. We played great attacking football but just couldn't get a goal. Garay seems to have popped his hamstring and it didn't look good, Vezo replaced him. Guedes had a good games as well and played in a great cross to Soler, who headed it into Gaya's path whose shot was kept out by a reflex save from Cillessen. Just unlucky. Barcelona scored one more with Rakitic.

Valencia 0 - Barcelona 2
                     Coutinho(48)
                     Rakitic(82)

Final thoughts:
This was a great game by Valencia. As I have always said, Valencia always does well against teams that attack as they afford more space in counters.  But what was good today was players were playing free flowing, unselfish football. It was pure joy to watch. This has to be used as stepping stone because on any other day we might have scored 3 goals against any team.

Player Ratings;
Juame - 6: Very hard to save the first goal. 2nd goal also looked to be placed well.
Gaya - 4.5: At fault last week for the goal and same this week. But imo, these kind of mental errors usually have very low probability of getting punished and was unfortunate. Karma will average it out. He should move on as he had a terrific game otherwise. His crossing game was also really great today.
Paulista - 5: Had a great game. Lots of last ditch tackling.
Garay - 4.5: Got turned around from suarez, but defended it as well as one could. Had a great game. His injury looks bad.
Montoya - 6: Another strong game. Slowly is getting back to form which is good news.

Coquelin - 6: Did his job effectively. Was physical but clean in tackles. Stole the ball. I liked his physical game against Messi.
Parejo - 5.5: Had a good game as well and very neat in his passing and defended well. With 2 CDMs around him had ton of insurance, but passed around well.
Kondogbia - 6.5: Such a great physical player and it's super hard to get the ball off him. Another stellar performance.
Rodrigo - 7: I might have given Rodrigo a 9 if the we hadn't lost the match. This is the kind of performance which I want to see consistently from Rodrigo. I didn't even have issues with him taking shots outside the D today, because they were all good situational plays!

Zaza - 6: Made himself a nuisance and played hard.
Vietto - 5.5:  Had a decent game as well. Slipping in between lines and entering into the D with delayed runs. Understood his position and where to press when Rodrigo moved into 3rd striker position.

Subs:
Guedes - 6: Was a threat on the left. Like how he calmly controlled the ball to let Sergi Roberto slide and the picked out cross to Soler.
Soler - 6: Was a threat with winning the ball and moving it forward. Was all over the pitch
Vezo - 5: Came in for Garay. Didn't notice him making any mistake. Maybe for 2nd goal could have closed down Raktitic better. It was like 4 Vs 2, so just too much to handle imo.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Atletico de Madrid 1-0 Valencia CF Match Report

Another loss for Valencia and our string of poor games continues. In the last 10 games, since and including the league game against Barcelona, we have 3 wins, 1 draw and 6 losses in league play. With all our other rivals for Champions League spots dropping points earlier, we could've built up more cushion points.

LINEUP

Marcelino broke his pattern of pairings with Zaza starting alongside Mina instead of Vietto. This was due to a clause in Vietto's contract that prevents him from playing against Atletico. On the left side, recent weak performances in defense from Lato made Marcelino push him further up the pitch with Gaya behind him in defense. This is also due to the recent Pereira injury against Barcelona after an absurd challenge from Sergi Roberto. The lineup also featured the returns of Kondogbia in midfield and Garay in defense, whereas Vezo was preferred over Montoya in the right-back position.

MATCH

This section has been pretty much the same story for the past few games so I won't spend too much time detailing it. I am not seeing any difference in the way we approach games. It's more of the same and to no avail.

From the first few minutes in the game, we already gave away possession and almost everyone back to defend. Most counter-attacks that we started had thrown away possession with poor passes or with our players taken out by Atletico fouls with the notorious Diego Costa the culprit of several in a row and being warned by the referee several times. He received many "last warnings".

Neto was forced to make a couple of really good saves to deny Atletico several times and he had a generally good game. Kondogbia was something else today though. He brought much needed stability and retained possession quite well even when several Atletico players team up on him, he manages to come out with the ball at his feet. His passing and distribution both vertically and laterally were great and he did better than Parejo today in that regard.

The ball reached the Atletico box several times but that's just about it. Atletico wouldn't let us into their box. Shots from outside the box ended up in the clouds than in the net. Of the 5 shots we had all game, we managed to get none on target. Absolutely none. This was despite the added fortune of Atletico losing 2 of their center backs due to injury, one early on and one in the second half. Meanwhile Aletico got 5 of their 7 on target. Which brings me to the goal we conceded. Correa receives the ball and runs towards our box surrounded by 4 of our players but all keeping their distance. Kondogbia gets feinted and Correa fires from long range into the top left corner, beating Neto at his near post. I don't really know if Neto could've reached that ball since it was in the postage stamp of the goal. I blame this one more on the defenders who failed to close him down.

After the goal, Marcelino predictably resorts to bringing on a 3rd striker in Rodrigo to replace Lato. A few minutes later, Soler was introduced to replaced Maksimovic. Rodrigo's introduction didn't change much, he was barely noticeable but it's difficult to influence a team that's struggling this much. Carlos Soler did cause some trouble for Atletico with his quickness but he's still not at his full potential after the injury. A few minutes after his introduction he was taken out by Gabi who couldn't deal with him and was rightly booked with a yellow. A few minutes after Kondogbia was on another wild run and Gabi couldn't deal with him either so he pulled at his arm for a while and still couldn't deal him so he takes him out with a challenge. At this point, almost all the Valencia players surrounded the referee to ask for him to get sent off but he escaped it. Even with a man advantage, I don't know if we could've scored. We really didn't look like scoring.

GOALS

1-0 Angel Correa (59')

PLAYER RATINGS

Neto 5.5 - Crucial saves, especially in the first half. I don't know if he could've done much for the goal, maybe a better starting position? It's hard to tell. I blame the defense more.
Vezo 4 - decent performance in defense, not much trouble from his side. Offensively, a different story. It's not his usual position but he looked so lost going forward. Usually lost possession or produced a poor cross.
Garay 5 - another decent performance. Still think his best partner is Murillo but did well to control their strikers
Paulista 5 - also a decent performance, especially relative to past performances
Gaya 3.5 - just watched Correa's run for the goal and didn't attempt to help. Didn't produce much going forward.
Parejo 5 - his passing is still far from his best, was outshined by his partner in midfield
Kondogbia 7.5 - the work ethic this game, should be an example to everyone else. Did everything: win the ball, maintain possession, distribute the ball, help out the defense and went on mad runs forward
Maksimovic 3 - just when I was starting to think he's proving himself in the team a few games back, recently he's been less than average. Reckless challenges and wasteful possession
Lato 3 - he didn't do much for me. He can't compete with the physicality of Atletico's players.
Zaza 4.5 - glad to see him back in the lineup and was quick to make a nuisance out of himself for the opposition. Did his best with the scarce supply he got
Santi Mina 5 - even with few chances in the game, he managed a great one-two with Zaza, only Zaza's touch back was too heavy and escaped him. Could've been a decent effort to get a goal.

Subs:
Rodrigo 4 - credit for work ethic but still wasteful in possession
Soler 5 - caused some trouble in the half an hour he was on but his efforts weren't rewarded

FINAL COMMENTS

The predictability of our gameplay, the long list of injuries and a period of difficult fixtures, produced some unfortunate results in recent weeks. It is getting to a point where the Champions League spot is in jeopardy. Even though, in comparison, the financial benefits and reputation of the Champions League dwarfs the Copa del Rey, Marcelino seems to have intent on reaching the final. Whether or not that makes up for recent results is debatable. It's still early to count us out but things need to change. I was thinking and realized that a lot of the players we have on loan with a purchase option, will not stay if we don't make the Champions League. Our best chance to retain these players is to get a top 4 finish.

Our next fixture is against Barcelona at the Mestalla for the second league of the Copa del Rey semi-final. With the first leg finishing 1-0 in Barca's favor, we're still in the game but it will difficult to say the least. After this Copa game, we will have either have only the League to focus on for the rest of the season or one more game against Leganes or Sevilla. That match is still far off, in mid-April, so we can still focus on the league either way.

In terms of optimism, the next few matches after the Copa match, are much less demanding. We did have to face the top 3 teams in La Liga over 4 games in a short time with a lot of injuries. After those games, we have Levante and Malaga which are at the very bottom of the table. This should hopefully give us some room to build up confidence and produce a decent string of results.

As usual, please let us know what you thought of the match. All comments and opinions are welcome and appreciated. What's to blame for the recent string of bad results? What can be fixed? Who impressed today? Who disappointed? Do we stand a chance in the Copa game?

Friday, February 2, 2018

Barcelona CF 1 - 0 Valencia CF Match Report

Barcelona hosted Valencia for the for the first leg of Copa Del Rey semi-finals at Camp Nou. Marcelino went with a strong starting XI. Valverde's lineup also was pretty strong. I mean Messi never misses a game and they have ton of talent everywhere.

Line up:
                   Juame
Montoya - Paulista - Vezo - Gaya
Soler - Parejo - Coquelin - Periera
           Vietto - Rodrigo

Valencia's game plan was to park the bus and strike on counters. It's a pity we don't have players with the technique/ first touch to execute the idea of counter attack, because in the first half I think we had 20% possession and were gifting Barcelona possession even when there was no pressure applied by the Barcelona player, when all we had to do is string three passes together and out race Barcelona's defense. Watching this was particularly painful as Barcelona were camped in front of Valencia's D the whole half and with no threat of counters they were pushing even higher up.
We actually defended really well. I think Barcelona had 0 shots on the goal in first half. But the problem was transitioning defense to attack. Defense would win the ball or Coquelin (had a stellar game) and pass it to the middle of the field where Rodrigo or Vietto would loose the ball almost immediately either by a very poor first touch or a very poor first pass. The times the were able to pass - Periera would loose it and on it went. I think the Ref was not that great as well. Sergi  Roberto's tackle on Periera should have been a red. There was a visible swelling on his thigh and he was hobbling for the last 10 mins of first half. Compare this to the tackle Periera put on Messi. Periera won the ball and his momentum caught Messi's standing leg and for this it was yellow. Just inconsistent refereeing.
In 45th minute we had the best attacking move of the half - Vietto drove the football and after some interplay out-muscled Pique by the goal line - but his cross lacked quality. The clearance landed at Montoya's feet who played a nice 1-2 with Rodrigo and had a good shot from outside the D.

2nd half the game opened up with Valencia attempting to push men front. Periera was subbed in for Maksimovic who again showed  his quality. Had a great run down the wing but the final cross was a let down. The deadlock was broken in 65th minute. Messi finding Suarez who headed the ball in. Gaya was caught watching the ball instead of marking his man and Suarez drifted off to get open. A lapse in concentration - Gaya had a good game tbh. Ferran Torres came on for Carlos Soler and Rodrigo Moreno came off for Santi Mina. Mina had 3 really good attacking forays with two difficult chances. The first was a through ball from Ferran which pitted Mina against Cillessen. Mina should have tried a chip but instead tried to round the keeper who cut him off. Tough chance and the angle of his run resulted in the ball on his weaker foot but still he should have the cojones to take the shot. The 2nd was a ping ball from Maksimovic in the dying minutes of the game and I felt Mina jumped a little too early and couldn't get control on the header. Nice try on a very tough chance.

Barcelona 1 - Valenica 0
Suarez (65)

Final thoughts:
The strategy/ tactics were very good. Clog the middle and force Barca to go out wide. The defense and midfield organization was impeccable. Very happy to see that Marcelino had put attention to details. Montoya basically picked up every run that Alba made without loosing the defense shape. That's learning from mistakes(given how Alba got behind him and scored the equalizer in mestalla)! We conceded free kicks but looked like we were prepared for it. The let down was triggering the counters. It's just lack of quality in out attacking players. Nothing much to say about that.
To me this tie is in a very bad shape. We need to score atleast 2 goals without conceding. Seems like a tall ask and considering how faltering our counter attack is and putting 3 past Barca at Mestalla and conceding only 1 would be a miracle. The most likely result would be a 2-2 at Mestalla. Will be over the moon if we qualify for the finals - let's see what Marcelino can inspire!

Player Ratings:
Juame - 6: Didn't have much to do. When called upon was assured. Couldn't do much about the goal. Had a nice deflection if first half which put the ball out of Suarez's reach. I like his keeping skills more than Neto.
Gaya - 4.5: Except for the mistake on goal, had a good game. Just needs to get more aware instead of being drawn to the ball. Used his hands to keep the ball from going in - this could have been a direct red.
Vezo - 6.5: He is continuing to impress me. Looks fast, assured in defending and today was one of the ultimate challenges.
Paulista - 6: Had a good game as well. Little aggressive but played well.
Montoya - 6.5: Seeing some of his last season form. He and Soler defended very well on the right.

Periera - 5: Helped out in defense. Wasteful in possession. Unlucky injury - hope it's nothing serious but there was an obvious swelling
Coquelin - 7:   He played really well. Intercepted the balls, put in tackles. Very impressive performance.
Parejo - 5: Defending is not his forte, but tried his best. Couldn't get the counter attacks going and when he did, up front would mess it up.
Soler - 6: Very good game by Soler. Was tested by Initesta, Messi, Alba on numerous runs, but combined well with Montoya. The only guy in first half trying to jail-break.

Vietto - 5: Wow, Simeone has really done a number on this kid. Abysmal in first half. Slowly grew into the game and had a better second half.
Rodrgio - 2:  Apart from his header to Montoya for the shot in 45th minuted, didn't notice he was playing.

Subs:
Maksimovic - 6.5: Played really well on the right and then on the left. good player!
Mina - 6: 10 mins and 2 great chances. Got to give some credit.
Ferran - N/A: Had one great pass for the goal and one bad pass which started Barcelona's counter, but looks really good with ball at his feet.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Valencia CF 1 - 4 Real Madrid CF Match Report

Shocking game. It was frustrating to watch for most of the duration. The scoreline is quite misleading. I was looking forward to a close game and even hoping for a win but I think the referee killed the game and quite early at that. Not to say that our play was great, it wasn't. But the referee definitely is the major player in this game. The news in recent weeks was that the players were noticing that since the Barcelona goal that was disallowed in our favor, the refereeing decisions have taken a noticeable and obvious direction against us.

LINEUP

The lineup is mostly the same as previous La Liga lineups with the biggest changes being Coquelin in defense to cover for our suspensions, as well as Gaya being pushed up to the left midfield and Lato covering left-back.

MATCH

The game started quite even. Both sides were going for it and both defenses had a moment of panic at the first few minutes in which half-chances were made. A few minutes into the game, a Valencia counter ended with Rodrigo who went for a shot from outside the left-side of the box, despite an incoming run from Gaya who was wide open. A bit selfish considering he's never scored from there. At around 16 minutes in, Real Madrid played their own counter led by Marcelo, Ronaldo and Benzema. A bit of interplay found Ronaldo in some space in the box, Montoya cut in front of him and reached for the ball with his leg but didn't get it. Ronaldo dropped to the ground, the referee calls for a penalty and Ronaldo easily converts. This was a fifty-fifty for me and against the big 2, they often go against us. I'm sure many of you have seen this sort of challenge not given as a penalty. Was it a reckless challenge from Montoya's part? Yes. Did Ronaldo make the most of it? Yes.

At one goal down, the game proceeded in a similar fashion with our best chance coming after Kondogbia dribbles past 2 players and fires from the edge of the box but was denied by Navas. Edging closer to the end of the half, a Madrid attack builds up and a ball is crossed towards Benzema from the right. Montoya jumps to contest the ball but Benzema opts to stay on the ground, backs into Montoya looking for contact. He drops to ground very easily and the referee calls a penalty again which Ronaldo converts again. This was in no way a penalty in my opinion. Montoya had every right to jump for that ball and contest it. He didn't push or use his hands, Benzema backed into him, it was a clear dive. 

On the other end, Parejo gets tripped up in the penalty spot with clear contact that was nowhere near the ball and the referee sees it but says to play on. Last minute of the first half, Guedes fires from the edge of the box and Navas parries for a corner. The referee end the half and doesn't let us take the corner. Again, the issue here is the inconsistency. Some teams get several minutes beyond the half to keep taking corner after corner and we can't even get one. Two goals down at half-time with a lot of decision going against us, in a half that was quite even otherwise is a big confidence knock. Guedes suffered from some uncomfort and Soler was brought on to replace him in his first game back from injury.

In the end of the first half and then into the second half, a lot of silliness happened. Madrid players, aware that decision were going their way and that Valencia players were frustrated, starting going down at every little touch. This is to be expected. This is an often overlooked effect of one-sided decisions, players take advantage of it. This is especially true if the antics go unpunished as was the case. A few minutes in and Ronaldo fell in the box again and was told to get up quite rightly by the referee but wrongly escaped booking for a clear dive. 

Valencia would pull one back nearing the 60th minute from a corner. Parejo found Mina who was amidst a cluster of Madrid players but soared above them to head it past Navas on his right. This was when Valencia roared back into the game as the crowd found their voice again and cheered the team on. There was attack after attack and Madrid would keep getting dispossessed to start a new attack. Marcelino brought on Zaza for Rodrigo and Perreira for Lato (Gaya returned to left-back) as he senses the possibility of another goal. 

This was not to be the case and the team drifted off. Passes started getting misplaced and the ball was lost too easily. Crosses were aimless and shots. We had one really good chance from Rodrigo who was found in the center by Mina with a gaping net as Navas was out of position. But the shot was difficult for him and he sent the ball over the bar. 

In the final ten minutes we would be caught off guard twice. The first an attempt that exploited the right side of our defense. A run by Marcelo with a quick one two found him in space and he slotted it past Neto. Very questionable keeping. Beaten at the near side through his legs. The second was 5 minutes later, another one two this time from the center which finished with an effort from Kroos from the edge of the box, beating Neto again. 

GOALS
0-1 Ronaldo (16', pen.)
0-2 Ronaldo (38', pen.)
1-2 Santi Mina (58')
1-3 Marcelo (84')
1-4 Kroos (89')

PLAYER RATINGS
Neto 2 - Is it just me or his keeping looking really shaky compared the beginning of the season. Stays frozen most of the time or doesn't commit fully to a leap. Beaten at the near side is another con.
Montoya 1 - We are really in need of a functioning right back. Despite the referee's harsh decisions, his decision-making wasn't too great either. Every time an attack comes from his side, he looks shaky and we look vulnerable to concede.
Coquelin 3.5 - For a make-shift center-back he did just as much as could be expected from him. He only really looked vulnerable in the last 10 minutes for the third and fourth goals. 
Garay 4 -  took a knock to head early on but fought through and like his partner only looked vulnerable for the last two goals.
Lato 3.5 - at times he looks solid and at others he gets overwhelmed and seems lost.
Kondogbia 5- good game, commanded the midfield alongside Parejo and caused problems with his dribbling and shots.
Parejo 4.5 - decent game but his passing which should be his specialty is really lacking at times, loses possession at crucial moments. 
Guedes 4.5 - got shut down pretty well and didn't get much of a chance to shine save for a shot on goal at the end of the first half, went off due to injury afterwards. 
Gaya 4.5 - decent going forward and tracking back but was a bit wasteful with his crossing at times. 
Rodrigo 2 - selfishness doesn't go well and it's becoming a habit. Opted to shoot from long-range where he's hardly scored before despite an open players available. Also should've done better with an open goal from Mina's cross.
Santi Mina 5.5 - gave us a way back in this game and almost to a tie but Rodrigo couldn't finish

Soler N/A - needs more time, still miles away from his best but maybe this wasn't the best game to reintroduce him.
Zaza 5 - caused a decent amount of trouble in the time he was on, always fights for every ball and tries to pressure the opposition
Pereira 3.5 - hardly made an impact

FINAL COMMENTS
A combination of one-sided refereeing for the majority of the game and really bad play in the final minutes of the game resulted in a misleading scoreline. All the cushion points we had have now run out. Real Madrid are now two points away from us with a game to spare. Effectively we could be in 4th place and 3 points ahead of 5th (where Villareal are currently sitting as I type this as they are leading Real Sociedad). Some of these players could be tired from the extra time during the midweek Copa del Rey game, but the tight schedule is about to continue. In the next two weeks, we face Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and then Barcelona again. It's a gruesome schedule and that's an understatement at that. 

A lot of our players are falling to injury and suspension, so our squad is being stretched. Hopefully we can get Murillo back soon and he quickly finds his way into the team as that will be a huge boost. Our woes in the league have begun right about when he got injured. The partnership with Garay is our best defensive lineup and allows everyone else to commit forward in peace. I don't know if the last 4 days of the market will bring a right-back for us, but we need one. 

As for the refereeing, we just need more consistency in decisions and, a bit more protection and good decision-making (from our end too), as we really can't afford more injuries and suspensions. 

Next game is on Thursday, away to Barcelona for the Copa del Rey semi-finals. We need the game to go way differently that what we've seen today. The first leg result could make it our break it for us.

As usual, let us know your thoughts about the game. Is the scoreline a fair indication of the game? Do you agree with the players that the refereeing is against us since the Barcelona game? Who impressed? Who disappointed? All comments and opinions are welcome and appreciated. 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Nacho Gil loaned out to Las Palmas

Valencia CF midfielder Nacho Gil has been loaned out to Las Palmas until the end of the season. Nacho Gil featured several matches for Valencia CF, mostly substituting for Guedes, but with the upcoming return of Soler, Guedes fully fit, Andreas Pereira in the wings and of course Maksimovic being converted to a winger it was going to be tough for Nacho Gil to get significant playing time to continue his development, so the team decided to loan out the player until the end of the current season.

There are rumors that Valencia CF are also looking at a big name like Lucas Moura who's been told by PSG that he is surplus to requirements and should be looking for a new club, so Valencia CF supposedly in interested in acquiring the player on an initial loan move with a must buy clause at the end of the loan for 30 million euros.

Chances of Lucas Moura coming to Valencia CF are very slim though and it seems like an out there rumor, first the asking price of PSG is 40 million euros, at minimum maybe get his price down to 30 million euros, but he isn't going to come any cheaper, he also has a big salary which VCF can't afford and there are few other clubs with deep pockets that are interested.