Thursday, March 12, 2020

La Liga suspended for 2 weeks

The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) has announced today that the first two division of La Liga will be suspended for the next two weeks due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19. The RFEF will convene on March 25th to evaluate the situation and how to proceed from then on.

For now, the Valencia squad resumes training sessions as usual and has implemented some checkups and other protocols to minimize risk and spread. However, some players are calling for the RFEF to go beyond and suspend training sessions as well.

Monday, March 9, 2020

UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Valencia CF 3 - 4 Atalanta BC Match Thread (4 - 8 agg.)

Valencia return to Mestalla to play Atalanta in the return fixture of the Champions League Round of 16. They have it all to do and just about all of the odds are stacked against them. They have to comeback from a 4-1 scoreline in the first leg while in poor form, against opposition that are in good form, with no crowd support at home, and where every goal scored against will make the situation that much worse.

That being said, Atalanta did show several signs of vulnerability in the previous game. Their commitment to playing with high attacking intensity left huge gaps in their defense; gaps which Valencia managed to get into but not punish with goals. If anything changes tonight, it has to be this. The quality in the final third has to be spot on, the opportunities that Atalanta's style of play will give are too good to pass up.

Valencia come into the game on the back of a 1-1 away draw to Alavés. Despite being dominant in the first half, the team failed to score from open play when the chances were presented. The team did manage to score albeit through a well-struck Dani Parejo free kick. The reigns of the game were surrendered to Alavés in the second half allowing them to take 10 shots, one of which ended in the back of the net.

While Valencia have had 3 games since the last Champions League fixture, Atalanta has had only 1 game which they played on the first of March. They played Lecce away from home and demolished them with a 2-7 scoreline. At half-time the game was at 2-2 and they managed to score 5 with no reply in the second half. Lecce is in the relegation spots in Serie A but it's still not easy to score 7 away from home. That being said, they did manage to score 2 in the first half alone, which yet again shows that Atalanta are vulnerable if the chances are taken.

Atalanta have scored 70 goals in 25 games in Series A. This is the 3rd highest in the European top 5 leagues, behind only PSG at 75 goals (27 games) and Bayern at 73 goals (25 games).

Valencia form (all-competitions): DWLLD
Atalanta form (all-competitions): WWWWW

SQUAD

According to Superdeporte, Managala, Costa and Correia are left out of the squad by technical decision and not injury. Paulista misses this game since he is served the second game of his 2-game suspension for the red card in the game against Ajax. As such, in defense it will likely be Diakhaby and Guillamon, unless Celades decides to use Kondogbia, Florenzi or Coquelin as cover for that spot.

The midfield is complete, fully fit and ready with Kang In returning the squad as well after being left out in the weekend fixture.

In offense, Sobrino also returns to the squad as an attacking alternative.

Last game, Celades opted for a 4-1-4-1 formation which had its pros and cons. It remains to be seen whether this will be the case again.

Bench: Domenech, Florenzi, Guillamon, Guedes, Cheryshev, Kang In, Sobrino

With the rest of the starting center-backs out, Coquelin will cover their spot in defense next to Diakhaby.

The team returns to a 4-4-2, with Rodrigo back in the starting XI alongside Gameiro where he will look to drop back and help with buildup. In the first leg, it was Guedes and Maxi that made up the attack.

Despite Florenzi being available and having experience versus Italian sides, Wass is preferred in this game by Celades.

Cillissen starts over Jaume for the third game in a row.

FIRST HALF

It seems that the Valencia fans showed up outside the stadium to support the team and are cheering from the outside audibly enough to hear in the stadium.

1' - Penalty for Atalanta after Diakhaby dived in and tripped up the Iličić in the penalty box. Not a good way to start by any means.
2' - Goal for Atalanta. 0-1. Iličić fires the penalty straight down the middle and Cillissen went slightly to the right. His trailing legs just missed the ball as it sailed in.
8' - Rodrigo with a good shot on target, curled towards the far post from the edge of the penalty area. The keeper spilled the effort but no Valencia players were close enough to capitalize.
21' - Goal Valencia! 1-1! Rodrigo with a great throughball for Gameiro, that's just onside. Gameiro does well to get around the keeper and slot it past him.
33' - Yellow card is shown to Francis Coquelin.
41' - Diakhaby concedes yet another penalty for a poor challenge. Yellow card is shown to Diakhaby.
42' - Goal for Atalanta. 1-2. Iličić scores yet again. Valencia now needs 5 goals to rescue something from this game.
44' - First substitution for Atalanta, de Roon off, Zapata on.
45' - Three minutes added for stoppages.

HALF-TIME

The task at half-time is more difficult that when the first team walked onto the field. Instead of 3 goals without conceding over 90 minutes, the team now has to score 5 without conceding in 45 minutes. With the way the team looked in the first half, it doesn't look like it's happening.

Atalanta have come into this game looking to add to their lead and not sitting on it and they've done just that. The nerves got the best of Diakhaby on two occasions and caused him to make two silly fouls to concede penalties that just make life easier for Atalanta.

Valencia did manage to score in between those goals and it was one of the few times that Rodrigo and Gameiro managed to link up well. The finish from Gameiro was very composed.

The team has looked quite deflated after the second goal, no doubt they see the great obstacle in front of them and the impossibility in overcoming it.

Coquelin in defense looks decent, although he has these urges to run into midfield and help out his team. He is still a midfielder at the end of the day and no doubt he will carry those tendencies with him.

SECOND HALF

45' - First substitution for Valencia, Diakhaby off, Guedes on. This change has an attacking intent clearly.
46' - Goal for Valencia! 2-2! Rodrigo sets up Parejo for a shot at the edge of the area but it's blocked and deflects wide for Ferran. He has the time and space to look up and find a a delightful cross which Gameiro meets and heads into the net. Four goals to go.
57' - Yellow card shown to Kondogbia for a late challenge on Iličić at the edge of the penalty box.
63' - Yellow card shown to Daniel Wass for a diving challenge on Gomez. The referee had waived advantage but went back and booked him.
64' - Valencia have upped the pressure on Atalanta this second half, forcing them into poor passing and loss of possession.
66' - Goal for Valencia! 3-2! Soler did well to win back possession in his own half to start. He got the ball to Parejo who had spotted an advanced run from Ferran. Parejo plays a beautiful lob over the defense for Ferran to run onto. The keeper went out to meet him and Ferran punished him with a chip over him and into the goal. Great vision from Parejo to spot the well-time run from Ferran and good finishing to match.
68' - Coquelin attempts to play Zapata offside but ends up letting him go through, although at a tight angle, on goal. He fires across goal but Cillissen does well to save his leg.
70' - Goal for Atalanta. 3-3. What was initially a Valencia attack was ended when Guedes made a mess of the ball in the opposition penalty. After some deflection, the ball landed at Kondogbia's feet and he attempted to run towards the Atalanta goal. He was dispossessed, setting up a 4 v 2 at the back for Valencia. Being outnumbered, Zapata was easily picked out and squares the ball for Iličić. He takes a touch past Parejo, cutting across goal and slots it past Cillissen at the far post for his hat-trick.
73' - Second change for Valencia. Coquelin off, Cheryshev on. Kondogbia has stepped back into defense in his place.
77' - Second change for Atalanta. Alejandro Gomez off, Malinovskyi on.
78' - Final change for Valencia. Rodrigo off, Florenzi on.
79' - Cheryshev with a brilliant cross across goal from the left. Ferran just missed the contact with the ball. That would've surely been a goal. There is potential in these crosses if there are runs to meet them.
81' - Goal for Atalanta. 3-4. Freuler drew the attention of Gaya, Wass, and Kondogbia (the entire defense), and takes them all out with a pass for Iličić who curles it past Jaume at the far post.
83' - Final change for Atalanta. Palisic off, Tameze on.
85' - Yellow card shown to Freuler for obstructing the run of Carlos Soler.
90' - Two minutes added for stoppages.
90+1' - Gameiro gets  a chance at a hat-trick after Ferran Torres produces a brilliant turn past the defender followed by a through-ball to send him through on goal. The striker could only hit the keeper.

FULL-TIME

Everyone knew it would take a miracle to turn around the first leg scoreline and there wasn't one today. Atalanta eliminate Valencia and advance to the Champions League quarterfinals. Going through tonight would have earned Valencia around 10 million euros in prize money.

Atalanta yet again showed their attacking prowess, scoring 4 goals against Valencia in the second leg just like the first. This time around though, 2 of those were gifted through silly penalties.

While there were many disadvantages this game, the team still managed a better performance than the first leg. Although this performance still had many issues, if the team played the same way in the first leg, this tie could have been very different.

This team doesn't score three goals much and yet have done it today. Makes you wonder why the same cannot be done week-to-week. The funny thing is even with no actual center backs on the field for Valencia, the same number of goals was conceded in the second half as the first.

Ferran put in another praise-worthy performance today. He has the mentality of a winner and it showed today. He ran every minute of the game and was producing moments out of nothing for the team. He was the least predictable player on the ball and caused as much trouble as he could because of it.

Full-time stats. 3-4 goals, 16-11 shots, 7-5 shots on target, 60-40% possession, 80-72% pass accuracy.

This result reduces Valencia's season objectives to just one. Qualify for the next season of the Champions League by finishing 4th in the league.

Next game is on Saturday, March 14 against Levante in La Liga at Mestalla. The next two games for Valencia will be played behind closed doors as well, as ruled by the Spanish football federation.

Friday, March 6, 2020

La Liga Matchday #27: Deportivo Alavés S.A.D 1 - 1 Valencia CF Match Thread

Valencia are on the road again to play Deportivo Alavés at the Mendizorrotza.

Deportivo Alavés come into this game having drawn 1-1 away against Leganes in La Liga's previous matchday. They struck first shortly after the half-time break but it only took 13 minutes for Leganes to equalize.

Valencia's last matchday had them win a close match against an out-of-form Real Betis at Mestalla. The crowd was looking for the team to respond and it took til the second half for that to happen. Gameiro with a brilliant piece of individual play helped the team take the lead, while Parejo doubled it up, capping off a nice string passes from the team. Betis did manage to grab one back in stoppage time but it was too late for them to make a comeback.

With those results, Valencia sit 7th in the league with 42 points while Alavés are 11th with 32 points.

The game between these 2 teams earlier in the season at Mestalla ended in a 2-1 victory for Valencia. Maxi Gomez scored in the first half and Parejo scored in the second from a penalty. Alavés's goal came in the final minutes of the game.

Alavés rank 12th in home form for this season. With 13 games played, they have won 6, drew 4 and lost 3. Over those games they have scored 17 goals and conceded 10.

Valencia rank 12th on away form. Having played 12 games on the road, their record stands as 3 wins 2 draws and 7 losses. In those games, 14 goals were scored and 26 conceded.

Alavés form (all competitions): DWLWD
Valencia form (all competitions):  WLLDL

SQUAD

Celades has recovered both Coquelin and Rodrigo for this game. Kang In is absent by technical decision. Guedes is officially listed as forward.


The Valencia website lists Gameiro as the only forward in this starting XI. Interestingly enough, it lists 5 midfielders: Kondogbia, Parejo, Soler, Wass, and Cheryshev. This could very well be a 4-1-4-1 such as the one used in the second half against Betis. The team's performance improved with that formation so it would be great if Celades had decided to go for the change. It remains to be seen who will play the midfield role and who will play wide between Soler or Wass.

The bench is looking strong with very good substitutions that can make a difference. While they are fit, it seems that Celades would like to rest them with the upcoming Champions League fixture in mind.

Bench: Domenech, Costa, Guillamon, Coquelin, Ferran, Guedes, Rodrigo

FIRST HALF


1' - It does look like it will a 4-1-4-1 as predicted from the lineup. Soler is playing centrally and Wass is playing wide.
8' - Diakhaby with a very good sliding challenge to stop a dangerous run into the penalty area.
19' - First shot of the game for Valencia. Gaya moves the ball centrally to Gameiro, who spreads it back out to Cheryshev on the left. Cheryshev looks up and plays a cross to Parejo, who controls it with his chest and then strikes towards goal. The effort is high and wide.
24' - Florenzi passes along the touch line to Gameiro on the right. Gameiro takes a touch past the defender and then produces a burst of pace to beat the defender for the ball and run into space. He spots Cheryshev at the far post and picks him out despite a touch from the defender on the cross. Cheryshev chips the keeper and then gets taken out by him, claiming a penalty as the ball gets cleared off the line.
27' - Parejo makes a piercing run past the Alavés midfield and gives the ball to Cheryshev in space. Cheryshev puts in a low cross across goal but the Valencia players do not attack the ball. There is a lack of movement in the penalty box when these crosses are being put in. The players need to attack the ball and be ready at the far post. They cannot just stand still.
31' - Parejo delivers a short corner to Gameiro and quickly receives it back. He plays a long cross to Soler on the opposite edge of the penalty area where Soler waits in space. He takes a touch and fires at goal but it's high and wide. He gets tackled with a late challenge and wins a free kick though. Parejo to take.
33' - GOAL VALENCIA! 0-1! Parejo curls the ball to the near-side of the goalkeeper and scores straight in the top corner. Nothing the keeper could do about it even though it was at his advantageous side.
34' - Yellow card shown to Kondogiba for a late challenge. He will be suspended for the next fixture against Levante.
35' - Yellow card shown to Lucas Perez for dissent against the linesman.
37' - Joselu with a diving header at goal following a cross from the opposite side. It's hit straight at Cillissen.
39' - Yellow card shown to Ximo Navarrow for a late challenge.
41' - Yellow card shown to Rodrigo Ely for a late challenge from behind on Gameiro.

HALF TIME

One of the better first halves from Valencia, especially away from home. The team seemed calm and composed especially in defense and midfield which is a significant improvement over the rushed and nervous team that played in recent away fixtures.

According to commentary, Alavés is a team that is usually secure and disciplined at the back and looks to strike on counters. Valencia typically have had trouble breaking down those defenses. This is seen again today with Gameiro's pace causing some problems for Alavés's defense but the goal threat is not there. The goal had to be produced for a free kick that was struck beautifully by Parejo from an ideal range, leaving the keeper with no chance.

Cheryshev has produced a few crosses to good positions but the movement in the area is lacking from his teammates. This could be an adjustment that is suggested by Celades at half-time.

The team looks more stable with this change in formation. The ball moves across the field with more fluidity and there are several passing options for players on the ball. These options make the passing more secure and force Alavés to put in more work to reclaim the ball.

Half-time stats. 0-1 goals, 3-5 shots, 1-2 shots on target, 42-58% and 80-88% pass accuracy.

SECOND HALF

57' - Great chance for Valencia. Gameiro makes a diagonal run into the box under pressure from the Alavés defenders. He plays a one-two with Soler at the edge of the box and finds Cheryshev who had made himself available to receive the ball. He crosses to the far post where Florenzi volleys at goal but he hits the wrong side of the net.
60' - Yellow card shown to Gaya for tripping up the Alavés forward who had gotten away from him. Free kick given at the edge of the box.
62' - Yellow card shown to Joselu for a push.
64' - First change for Valencia. Florenzi off, Coquelin on.
65' - First change for Alavés. Luis Rioja off, Borja Sainz on.
71' - Second change for Valencia. Gameiro off, Guedes on.
72' - Goal Alavés. 1-1. A free kick is delivered into the box where Laguardia meets it and heads it down to Edgar Mendez. He strikes the ball into the ground and over Cillissen. Both Diakhaby and Cillissen attempted to stop it but couldn't.
76' - Second change for Alavés. Victor Camarasa off, Pere Pons on.
77' - Guedes receives a knock on the head and has stayed down. The team has called for the stretcher urgently but it took them quite a while to respond. He has managed to get but has blood on his face and his shirt.
80' - Guedes returns to the field after being examined by the medical staff, having his kit replaced and confirmed in good health by the referee.
81' - Final change for Alavés. Fejsa off, Sanchez on.
82' - Final change for Valencia. Cheryshev off, Rodrigo on.
83' - Yellow card shown to Edgar Mendes for a late challenge on Wass.
89' - Yellow card shown to Diakhaby for a tactical foul on the Alavés player.
90' - Five minutes added by the referee for stoppages.
90+5' - Valencia has a handball claim overturned by VAR correctly.

FULL-TIME

After a great first half, the performance took a dip in the second. Alavés was allowed to get back into the game and by getting 10 shots in the second half, sure enough they found their goal.

A free kick, followed by a head down and a shot into the ground was the source of the goal. It can be argued that both the initial header as well as the shot should have been better contested by the Valencia players.

That being said, this was a significant improvement over recent away performances. At least, the team didn't get hammered. A step in the right direction but the end product is still quite a ways away.

It was good to see that Celades trying new things with the formation and player positions. It seems he also has a better time making earlier substitutions with confidence rather than hesitation. The problem with the substitution is the type. The Coquelin substitution is a cautionary defensive substitution. This signals a different type of mentality than one that was needed. Rather than go for the second to put away the game, he went to protect the existing lead.

If Celades can refine his changes, he could hope to salvage something from the season. There is still a lot of doubt to be answered though. 

This result sees Valencia and Alavés remain 7th and 11th respectively, with the added point leaving them with 43 points and 33 points respectively.

Full-time stats. 1-1 goals, 13-6 shots, 2-2 shots on target, 43-57% possession, 78-82% passing accuracy.

Next game is the return fixture on Tuesday the 10th against Atalanta at Mestalla in the Champions League Round of 16. No doubt mind will wander towards that now, if they haven't already. Valencia have a big 4-1 scoreline to overturn and have to do it with no home support as the game will be played behind closed doors. Amunt.

Friday, February 28, 2020

La Liga Matchday #26: Valencia CF 2 - 1 Real Betis S.A.D Match Thread

Valencia return to Mestalla to face against Real Betis after a week to evaluate the mistakes that happened over the past few games. Hopefully, the team comes out with a response, motivated by the home crowd, to secure some points.

This match day is also special because it feature a tribute to Valencia legend David Villa before the game. He announced his retirement earlier a while back and surely Valencia cannot go without honoring his contribution to the club. From 2005 to 2010, Villa scored 108 goals and 25 assists over 166 games. He had a double digit scoring record in every season at Valencia. In 2008, he also helped the team to win the Copa del Rey. He is currently 12th in the La Liga top scorers list of all time. For the National Team, he was instrumental to the team's success in the 2008 Euros and the 2010 World Cup. Many thanks to David Villa and good luck to him in all his future endeavors!

Valencia have had a tough time recently. Recent heavy losses to Getafe (3-0), Atalanta (4-1) and Real Sociedad (3-0) have shaken the belief of many in this team. These were all away games and Valencia sit at 12th if only the away games are considered. With 12 away games played the record is 3 wins, 2 draws and 7 losses, 14 goals scored and 26 goals conceded. At Mestalla, Valencia has done quite well and have the 4th best home form in La Liga. With 13 games played, the record is 7 wins, 6 draws and no losses, 21 goals scored and 11 conceded. With this in mind, there is reason to be optimistic since this is a home game.

Real Betis has had recent misfortunes as well. They have failed to win in their last 6 games in all competitions. All of those games though were tightly contested and were either draws or slight losses. Real Betis's would be 14th in the league on away form. In 12 away games, they have won only 1, drew 6 and lost 5. They scored 10 goals and conceded 20. Their previous game was a 3-3 home draw to Mallorca.

In their previous match earlier in the season, the two teams played a close game. With the score at 1-1, a late Canales free kick in stoppage time was the difference between the two teams in the 2-1 scored game.

Valencia currently sit at 8th with 38 points while Real Betis are 13th with 30 points.

Valencia form (all competitions): LLDLL
Real Betis form (all comeptitions): DDLDL

SQUAD

Nothing new in goalkeeping, Domenech and Cillissen are both called with the former being favored by Celades recently. It remains to be seen what role Cillissen will play this season.

In defense, Paulista and the medical team but in good work to have him recover ahead of schedule. Hopefully, the recovery is complete and not rushed. He is an instrumental player to this team and it's good to have him back. With Mangala and Garay injured, Hugo Guillamon is called again to supplement the defense, although Diakhaby is still likely to start alongside Paulista. Gaya has also been feeling better after the knock he received against Getafe and should be back to speed now. Finally, Florenzi has recovered from his chicken pox and returns to the squad.

In midfield, only Coquelin is missing due to injury with no information yet as to when he will be back. Last game, Guedes was left on the bench by Celades by technical decision, probably due to performance. It would be interesting to see if this is the case again this match.

In offense, Rodrigo has tried his best to recover for this game since he knows he is needed but he couldn't do it in time. There were reports that Celades would like him for the return fixture against Atalanta and doesn't want to risk a relapse in his injury. As such, he might play little to no part in the La Liga match after this one as well. For this game though, he is not fit. Celades has also recovered Maxi Gomez for this game who was suspended last game due to accumulated bookings. He will likely start alongside Gameiro although Cheryshev and Guedes are available as alternatives.


Cillissen gets his first start in a while over Domenech. Wonder if reason results had something to do with this. Wass starts in right-back despite the availability of Florenzi. Guedes remains on the bench.

Bench: Domenech, Florenzi, Guillamon, Cheryshev, Kang In, Guedes, Sobrino

MATCH

8' - Valencia started this game with some good pressing, denying Betis the breathing room that other teams have had in recent fixtures.
10'- Parejo does well to intercept the pull-back from the Betis player to Fekir, however, he then gives away the ball to Fekir in his own penalty area resulting in a shot on goal. The shot is hit a tight angle and Cillissen can save.
17' - Joaquin with a freekick from the left edge of the box that curls around the wall towards the near post. Cillissen does well to get across his goal and save the effort. Diakhaby clears for a corner.
31' - Yellow card shown to Alex Moreno for a high foot that strikes Maxi Gomez in the chest
34' - Yellow card shown to Kondogbia for a late challenge on Canales
42' - Ferran with a ground cross to Carlos Soler who gets a shot despite pressure from the defender. The shot was simple for the keeper to save.
45' - A pull-back from Wass to Soler is cleared by Betis but Kondogbia was the quickest to gather the ball and run with it. He finds Gaya at the left edge of the box and picks him out. Everyone expected a cross but the full-back took a shot and did well to force a save from the keeper.

HALF-TIME

A decent half. It was an improvement on recent performances for sure. The team was present at least and showed some good signs. This is all in relative terms though. It is expected that the team does better at home since the record is so good at Mestalla.

Now there were some worrying signs. There were a few instances of miscommunication that gave away the ball in the penalty area, resulting in free chances for the Betis players. There was an additional instance that resulted in an unnecessary corner after an overhit backpass from Soler to Gaya.

The team did set up some chances in the half. Gaya had a long range effort hit the crossbar Soler had a shot on target, and Gaya got another chance from the edge of the box that tested the keeper. There was also a chance for Gameiro to put it in a good cross for his teammates in space but he couldn't manage a good delivery as his cross was stopped by the first defender.

Betis's dangerous chances came from Parejo's giveaway that resulted in Fekir's shot and Joaquin's curling freekick effort at the near post.

Ferran looked like he picked up a knock and was testing out his leg for a while but he managed to continue to play as normal. Hopefully, that's nothing serious. Guedes appeared to be warming up as a precaution, so he is ready to come in at short notice.

Half-time stats. 4-6 shots, 2-2 shots on goal, 36-64% possession, 75-88% pass accuracy.

46' - First substitution for Valencia. Maxi Gomez off, Guedes on. Time for Guedes to step up.
47' - Betis play a through ball behind Wass setting up a pull-back to Fekir in a dangerous position. He takes a shot and his effort hits the post and bounces out of play.
50' - So much of the Betis danger is self-inflicted by Valencia with some very poor back passes and miscommunication between players.
60' - GOAL VALENCIA! 1-0! Gameiro with a brilliant effort to score, Guedes had received the ball from Gameiro wide on the left and runs towards the goal line under pressure from Emerson. He manages a pass to Gameiro at the edge of the box and goes to ground under the challenge after. Gameiro takes a few touches to set up a good shot and curls a beautiful shot to the far post. Nothing the keeper can do about that finish.
65' - Gameiro hold possession in midfield, manages a pass to a Parejo who plays it first time for Guedes to run onto. Guedes cuts inside, taking out the defender and chooses to shoot from the edge of the box, with Gamerio available for a pass. The shot is hit right at the keeper and is saved.
71' - Double change from Betis. Joaquin and Edgar Gonzales off, Tello and Carlos Alena on.
74' - Valencia with their second substitution. Gameiro is replaced by Cheryshev.
75' - Yellow card shown to Emereson. Cheryshev had intercepted the pass to him at the edge of the penalty box and he had to take him down to stop a dangerous chance.
76' - Parejo's free kick hits the wall and goes over the goal for a corner. The short corner is not successful and the ball has to be passed back all the way to Cillissen due to the Betis pressure.
78' - Ferran cross the ball to the near post where Cheryshev is waiting. The ball is played right to his feet but he cannot direct the shot towards goal.
79 - Yellow card shown to Guardado for a late challenge. The keeper had waived play on for advantage but went back and booked him.
80' - Parejo's delivery is played to the far post where Diakhaby is space. He stretches for the ball but it's just beyond his reach.
81' - Final change for Real Betis. Guardado off, Loren Morón on.
86' - What a chance for Valencia! Wass with a long clearance to Guedes on the center of the field. He runs forward but is taken down by the Betis defender. Ferran takes over the ball and carries on forward with support from Cheryshev against one Betis defender. He passes the Cheryshev who shoots at the far post but his effort is narrowly wide.
87' - Final change for Valencia. Ferran off, Sobrino on. Ferran is holding his leg on the way off.
88 ' - GOAL VALENCIA! 2-0! Parejo scores! On the right flank, Ferran makes a back pass to Parjeo who in in turn passes to Soler in the center. Soler plays a great throughball to Wass who is pressure by two defenders. He takes a few touches looking for an opening while Parejo runs into the box to provide support. Wass picks out the short to Parejo who had made himself available. Parejo takes one touch forward and finishes so well to the far-post.
90' - Three minutes added by the referee for stoppages.
90+2' - Goal for Real Betis. Paulista misjudged the height of the ball and missed his header to clear. This left Morón clear through on goal and he had no trouble beating Cillissen.
90+3' - Four on two chance for Valencia and Sobrino manages to mess up the pass, giving Betis time to recover their defensive shape.

FULL-TIME

A much needed win. The team managed to pull off the result at home as expected, remaining unbeaten at Mestalla.

The team put in a lot more effort in the second half, setting up several chances and managing to score two of them despite Maxi Gomez being subbed off.

The first goal came from good link-up between Guedes and Gameiro on the left, followed by a moment of individual brilliance from the latter.

The second came from the opposite flank following some quick passes between Ferran, Wass, Soler and Parejo. For this goal, one can see quite the potential from Soler to make these incisive forward passes into the box.

It's a shame that Maxi had to be substituted with injury and the team and fans can only hope that it is not a prolonged absence. However, the team did well to pull through even without him.

Full-time stats. 10-14 shots, 5-5 shots on target, 35-65% possession, 74-88% pass accuracy.

This win is a step in the right-direction. A small step. The 3 points move Valencia up to 7th with 41 points. Of course, many teams have yet to play this weekend.

That being said, it was still too close for comfort. The team played at home and it was still a close game, which has happened several times before. Next game is away so it will be interesting to see if the team can manage a result then too.

Next game is on Friday, March 6th away from home to Alavés . Amunt!

Friday, February 21, 2020

La Liga Matchday #25: Real Sociedad S.A.D 3 - 0 Valencia CF Match Thread

Valencia travel to play Real Sociedad at the Anoeta Stadium, in yet another away game. These games have been a clear area of weakness for Valencia this season.

Real Sociedad come into this game with a big accomplishment in hand. Last week, they had did half of the job required to get into the 2019-20 Copa del Rey final beating Mirandes 2-1 at home with all goals scored in the first half of the game. In the quarter-finals before that, they shocked everyone beating Real Madrid 3-4 away from home.

In their previous La Liga fixture, they played a derby game against Real Socieded at home and walked out 2-1 winners with all goals coming in the second half. The win had them finish the week at 8th position with 37 points..

Valencia, on the other hand, come into this game with a 4-1 loss away from home in the Champions League against Atalanta. This game was an example of just how much Valencia suffers away from home. The chances were there, as Valencia had 17 shots, 4 of which were on target. Even so, even the most reliable Valencia players in front of goal could not put their chances away. The goal for Valencia came from a change in energy provided by Cheryshev's introduction, which saw him score within a minute of his substitution. The four goals scored by Atalanta were a consequence of gaps and indecisiveness in either defense, goalkeeping or both. Cheryshev and Gaya have both come out after the game to call for discipline in execution and team unity.

Valencia's previous La Liga fixture was at home against Atletico and the team showed character to come back into the game in the second half after a poor first. The game finished 2-2 and showed glimpses of what the team can do at home. Many pointed to Atletico being weakened by injuries, however Valencia suffered some of their own. The result saw Valencia finish 7th with 38 points. Despite the lapse in form recently, Valencia is only 2 points away from 4th place.

Valencia and Real Sociedad are one point apart which gives the game more weight again. This is another chance to make a gap between Valencia and a direct competitor for the European places. Both teams have similar goals scored and conceded.

Real Sociedad form (all competitions): WWWLW
Valencia form (all competitions): LDLLW

SQUAD

With Cillissen fully recovered, it will be interesting to see what his role will be given that Valencia has 2 competitions remaining.

In defense, Gaya will miss this game with a muscular discomfort in his thigh. This means Jaume Costa will get some game time for the first time since the Granada fixture in the Copa del Rey. Mangala and Diakhaby will likely pair again in defense despite the Atalanta result, although Celades has also called Hugo Guillamón from the B team in this squad list. He could surprise and give the youngster a chance. Finally, Florenzi is still down with the chicken pox, although he has started training again, so Wass will start in right-back again.

In midfield, Valencia recover Kang In, who missed last game after he had troubles with his knee in training before the match. Coquelin is the only absence in midfield, still dealing with injury. Esquero is called as a spare.

In offense, Maxi Gomez misses the game due to accumulated yellow cards. With Rodrigo still injured, this leaves Celades with only Gameiro and Sobrino. Guedes has filled the role in recent games but there were reports that Cheryshev could be given a chance instead.


***The Valencia website labels Cheryshev as 'Forward', confirming that he will play alongside Gameiro in attack.

Bench: Cillissen, Correia, Guillamon, Esquerdo, Kang In, Guedes, Sobrino

MATCH

1' - Ferran spots and picks out a run from Gameiro, setting him to go clean through in a one on one against the goalkeeper. Gameiro takes a few touches and misses the goal completely. Luckily for him, the offside flag was raised so it wouldn't have counted anyway.
11' - Goal Real Sociedad. 1-0. Mangala's pass forward was intercepted. The following pass from the Real Sociedad player deflects off Kondogbia and finds its way to a wide position where Zeluda was waiting. He plays a cross towards the center and Merino gets a free header on goal. Diakhaby had given him space and tried to jump to head away the cross instead. Unfortunately, it was too high for him and the striker got his free header. Jaume Costa could have also done more about that cross, he stood so far away from Zeluda with hands behind is back.
16' - The ball is pulled back for Isak at the edge of the penalty area, he takes a touch and fires at goal. Jaume saves it falls back in play. Diakhaby is first to the ball and clears.
20' - Diakhaby just abandoned the team on the cusp of a cross to go complain to the referee that he wanted a penalty. Not very professional.
26' - It's clear that the team has been instructed to use long-balls to transition to attack as quickly as possible. Although, Gameiro is not the ideal target man, he's managed to run onto the ball well when it's come to him at a reasonable height. When he doesn't the team has been quick to get the second ball but the following pass forward has been called offside 3 times now.
32' - Jaume Costa almost gives away a penalty by handling the opposing player in the penalty area. VAR suggests that the challenge wasn't enough for the player to go down.
38' - Yellow card shown to Mikel Merino for a challenge on Ferran Torres. The resulting free kick is crossed into the area by Parejo but deflected for a corner.
39' - Cheryshev dribbles past his marker and runs to the goal line before pulling the ball back to Ferran Torres in the center. He takes a shot but the defender heads it away for another corner.
45' - Two minutes added for stoppages.
45+1' - Goal for Real Sociedad. 2-0. The corner kick is headed on to the far post by Mikel Moreno to Nacho Monreal. Cheryshev attempts to stop it with his foot but the Real Sociedad player got there first.

HALF-TIME: 

Simply the continuation of the Valencia away form this season. Valencia has the fourth most goals conceded away from home so far this season and they conceded 2 in one half today.

The defense looks very lost out there. The Real Sociedad players are not being closed down, getting all the space they want and need to pick out crosses and time their shots. Both goals, there was loose/no marking on the opposing players. It is unacceptable.

In offense, the team's plan to play the long balls forward was not very successful. The final pass has been called offside every time.

Hopefully, Celades can wake this team up in the half-time talk. Conceding a goal right before the break is not good for confidence and with the game already at 2-0, this could get real bad in the second half if the team doesn't respond.

Half-time stats: 2-0 goals, 10-2 shots, 3-0 shots on goal, 52-48% possession and 82-77% pass accuracy.

45' - First change for Valencia at half-time. Mangala has come off and Hugo Guillamon is brought on.
46' - Another offside for Valencia in the pass behind the defense from Soler to Gameiro.
48' - Goal for Real Sociedad. 3-0. Januzaj with a long range effort fired across goal and beating Jaume. Three Real Sociedad players passed their way around the entire Valencia midfield and defense to set up that chance. There is no decisiveness in challenging for the ball, there is some fear in applying pressure. The team needs players who are willing to throw themselves in front of the ball, putting their body on the line, NOT this. Surely, there is no way back from this.
56' - Just about all the Valencia players in the penalty box defending and four Real Sociedad players find the room to set up a shot to almost score the fourth goal.
58' - Shot at goal from Odegaard is spilled by Jaume and two Real Sociedad players are first to the ball - Merino and Isak. Luckily, Jaume manages to save the effort.
59' - Jaume Costa plays Cheryshev into space along the touch line. Cheryshev drives the ball forward and squares the ball for Gameiro who scores. Jaume Costa's pass is called offside. He held the pass for so long unnecessarily. Goal would've given the team some hope.
64' - Second change for Valencia. Carlos Soler off, Kang In on.
70' - Real Sociedad are using their first substitution. Januzaj is taken off, Willian Jose comes on.
77' - Oyarzabal plays a through ball to Willian Jose in the penalty area. He keeps Diakhaby at arm length, takes a touch and fires at goal but Jaume is equal to it.
79' - Final change for Valencia, Ferran off, Sobrino on.
83' - Kang In with a great pass to Sobrino on the opposite flank. Sobrino takes on his marker and beats him, cutting into the box for a clear shot at goal. It's high and wide. Same problem, cannot hit the target.  It's good to see someone try to take on and beat defenders instead of turning back though.
84' - Second change for Real Sociedad. Isak off, Sangalli on.
87' - Yellow card shown to Jaume Costa.
88' - Final change for Real Sociedad. Oyarzabal off, Munoz on.
90' - Two minutes added for stoppages.
90+1' - Sandalli sets up a 2v2 with a through ball to Odegaard. He takes too many touches on the ball and in the end his shot is saved by Jaume.

FULL-TIME

Not what was required by any measure. After an embarrassing performance mid-week, this was supposed to be a game where the players go out and prove to the fans that they care and will try to turn it around. The fans got more of the same.

All three goals came from a failure to close down and apply pressure on the opposition players. Upon re-watching the third goal, it seems that the players are training ground cones for the opposition to pass around. Jaume Costa gave Januzaj too much space for the shot rather than trying to make life difficult for him. The players should be willing to throw their bodies in front of the ball not run away from it.

The team crumbles away from home in a strange way. Being edged away from home is understandable since the home team has advantage but now it's gone to being thrashed away from home. The defense is in shambles and the final pass is still missing. The stats for this game tell quite a story.

For positives, it was good to see that Celades made substitutions quicker this game, rather than waiting to the late parts of the second half to do so. Also, Ferran, Cheryshev and Gameiro applied decent pressure to the opposition in the first half.

Full-time stats: 3-0 goals, 19-6 shots, 7-1 shots on target, 46-54% possession and 83-82% passing accuracy.

This result sees Valencia drop out of the Europa League spots to 8th position with 38 points while Sociedad are 4th with 40 points.

Next game is on Saturday when Valencia return to Mestalla to play Real Betis in La Liga.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Atalanta BC 4 - 1 Valencia CF Match Thread

Valencia travel to Milan in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16, a position the club hasn't achieved since the 2012-13 season. Their opponents, Atalanta have never been in this position before.

Atalanta's road to the round of 16 was tough. They were placed in Group C alongside Manchester City, Shakhtar Donetsk and Dinamo Zagreb. Manchester City were the run-away winners of the group with 14 points with Atalanta narrowly squeezing in second with 7 points; 1 point ahead of 3rd and 2 points ahead of 4th. They started off with a 4-0 away loss to Zagreb, 1-2 home loss to Shakhtar Donetsk and a 5-1 loss to Manchester City away from home. They managed to turn it around in the reverse fixtures achieving a 1-1 draw against Manchester City at home, a 2-0 win over Zagreb also at home and a 0-3 away win against Shakhtar which sealed their qualification to the next stage. 

Valencia had one of the toughest groups to content with. Chelsea the Europa League winners, Ajax the Champions League semi-finalists and Eridivisie champions, and Lille the Ligue 1 runners up. In addition, they started the fixtures on the back of a change in coaching staff. They surprised and took 3 points from Chelsea away from home to start before suffering a heavy 0-3 at Mestalla to Ajax. Then they struggled to a 1-1 draw against Lille away from home. In the return fixtures Lille were beaten 4-1 at Mestalla, Chelsea were challenged in a tough 2-2 draw, and with everything to play for, the team managed to edge out Ajax to secure top spot in the group.

Coming into this game, Atalanta have been in a good run of form. Their attacking prowess become noticed by many others as they won several games by wide scorelines. A 1-2 away win against Roma this weekend earned them 3 points, 4th spot in the Series A standings and widened the gap between them and 5th place Roma. 

Valencia's weekend fixture was an intense 2-2 draw at home against Atletico Madrid. Having had a poor run of games before this game, it was important that the team showed up in this game. The first half was lacking but the second half performance had many positives to take away. The draw sees Valencia finish the week in 7th with 38 points.

Atalanta have 63 goals scored in 24 games. This is the 3rd highest in the top 5 European Leagues with PSG being ahead on 67 goals and Manchester City at 65 goals but both having played an additional game. This is the kind of fire power Atalanta hold this season. On the flip side, Valencia have generally had a better time against teams that love to come forward and attack, catching them off-guard with quick counter-attacks. It needs to be said though that Valencia's form drops away from home.

Atalanta form (all competitions): WWWDW
Valencia form (all competitions): DLLWW

SQUAD

Cillissen has returned to the squad list, having recovered from his injury. It remains to be seen if he will start, especially given the importance of this game.

In defense, Paulista was added to the injury list for the next 3-4 weeks after a late challenge in the game against Atletico. Mangala and Diakhaby will be expected to partner up and deal with the Atalanta attack. Guillem Molina from Mestalla B team is also available for selection, likely as a substitute to cover the center backs. 

Florenzi is still down with the chicken pox, so he is out of this game as well. As such, Thierry Correia has returned to the list, but Wass is expected to start.

Neither Coquelin or Rodrigo has managed to recover in time for this game, despite that being the goal for them. Celades will have to count on Kondogbia and Guedes to address the gap left by their absence. Rodrigo will be out for yet another 8-10 days which means he will likely miss the 2 next La Liga games as well.

Finally, it seems that Kang In has also picked up an injury in the last training session before travelling; a story that has become ever so frequent this season with different players. 


The starting XI is exactly the same as the weekend fixture with the exception of Diakhaby replacing the injured Paulista. Guedes will play upfront alongside Maxi Gomez yet again according to the Valencia website which lists him as a forward, not a midfielder for this game.

Bench: Cillissen, Molina, Costa, Correia, Cheryshev, Gameiro, Sobrino

MATCH

Good to see how Domenech give each player a one-on-one pep talk in the tunnel before the game. A leader emerges in these type of games.

3' - Early free kick for Atalanta after Parejo fouled the opposing captain on the edge of the penalty area to prevent a counter-attack. The free kick is hit over the crossbar.
5' - Valencia earn a free kick on the opposite end but Parejo's delivery cannot get past the first defender.
7' - Pasalic goes clear through on goal with a through ball and faces Jaume one on one. He has the time to take a few touches before shooting but Jaume reads the shot and saves. Good save to deny a very dangerous chance.
13' - Parejo with another free kick in a similar position to the first and yet again the delivery is sub-par.
15' - Goal for Atalanta. 1-0. Hateboer was waiting at the far post for the cross across goal and fires at the far side of goal. Jaume gets a touch but cannot keep it out. Gomez was allowed to much time and space on the ball to pick out a cross. Ferran and Wass should've done better to prevent the cross.
20' - Atalanta flood the Valencia box with attackers every time they come forward but do leave spaces behind as a result. Unfortunately, Valencia have yet to find a way to exploit that.
30' - Valencia keep winning free kicks on the right flank in an advanced position. This one caught Atalanta off-guard as it was taken quickly. Ferran is through on goal but has a tight angle and hits the post. The ball falls to Guedes in the center but he cannot buy himself the space to get a clear shot under pressure from the Atalanta defense. Instead his shot is blocked and deflects to Gaya who's cross is in turn deflected for a corner. The corner is delivered poorly yet again and cannot get past the first defender.
34' - Gaya puts Guedes through on goal with a fantastic lob over the defense. Guedes shoots at the far post with Mangala and Maxi Gomez both waiting at the far post. The ball goes out of play much to the frustration of Maxi Gomez who wanted a cross. It is strange to see Mangala is up in attack in that play.
36' - Valencia loses a lot of attacking momentum with these passes. They are always played behind the receiving player or with too much strength, buying the Atalanta defenders time to get behind the ball.
40' - Atalanta are through on goal again with yet another through ball, this one played between Wass and Mangala. Gomez misses the goal entirely but it wouldn't have counter regardless with the offside flag going up.
41' - Goal for Atalanta. 2-0. Illicic receives the ball at the edge of the box from a wide position. He shrugs off the challenge from Soler, takes a touch past Mangala and Kondogbia and fires at goal straight to the top right corner of Jaume's goal.
45' - One minute added for stoppages.

HALF-TIME: Valencia hasn't gotten into the game yet. Another half with not a single shot on goal. One effort, from Ferran, did hit the post, Another close effort was squandered when Guedes went for a shot instead of squaring the ball across to his teammates.

 The game was pretty open as many expected with Atalanta being as offensively-oriented as they are. Still, with all the spaces the forwards runs and shots end up being blocked. Atalanta is given the opportunity to track back and deal with the counter attacks due to poor quality passes when transitioning. It is not ideal for players making runs to have to slow down or run back to get a misplaced pass. The priority should be to get forward with assurance that the pass will come.

In defense, the team is often double or triple teaming Atalanta forwards but failing to win the ball. Both goals came as a consequence of this. The Atalanta players can somehow squeeze passes even when under pressure from the 2 or 3 defenders. There needs to be more decisive challenges. No point in the double and triple marking if it's just posturing. Only in the final minutes of the first half did Kondogbia step up and start shutting down the midfield. This needed to come much earlier. This needed to come much earlier. Unfortunately, like with the Atletico game, this was done late. At that point, Valencia was already two goals down.

Jaume had a good early save to deny Atalanta from a goal, but could've arguably done better for the first goal and second goals; though it should be said that both efforts should've been dealt with by better closing down from the defense.

It is possible to turn this game around still but a lot has to change. Valencia need an away goal to take into the second leg from this fixture at the very least. Hopefully, this can be done without conceding further.

Half-time stats. 2-0 goals, 7-6 shots, 3-0 shots on goal, 49-51% possession. 81-83% shot acccuracy.

49' - Atalanta almost grab a third goal. Wass dropped to the ground after a foul but the referee didn't give it, leaving Valencia completely exposed on the right. Gomez runs into the space and is picked out, delivers a cross to the far post but Diakhaby gets enough on it to deflect it away.
51' - Ferran finds Soler with a curling cross straight to his feet but he cannot direct the effort at goal. It's wide.
57' - Goal for Atalanta. 3-0. This keeps getting worse. Gomez outmuscles Kondogbia for the ball and plays a short pass to Freuler ahead of him. He takes a touch, cuts inside and uses Diakhaby and Parejo to mask Jaume vision of the shot; allowing him to curl it to far post and score.
60' - Valencia with their best chance of the game. Ferran intercepts the keeper's pass, takes a touch and finds Maxi Gomez unmarked in the penalty box but the shot is hit directly at the keeper. This was the chance the team needed. Again, chances like this need to end up in the back of the net.
62' - Goal for Atalanta. 4-0. Hateboer is played clean through on goal. Diakhaby managed to catch up with him but again no decisive challenge. He runs with him into the penalty box and drives the shot into goal at the near post. Jaume fails to get a touch even at his near post. The defense is completely in shambles this game. Gaya and Mangala did not deal with the initial pass and Wass was out of line on the opposite end, playing the Atalanta player onside.
65' - First change for Valencia, Guedes off, Cheryshev on.
65' - Goal for Valencia. 4-1. Cheryshev scores straight off the bench, giving Valencia a nice away goal. Palomino made a defensive error after some miscommunication with the goalkeeper, giving away possession to Cheryshev. He takes a shot from the edge of the penalty box to the far post. It was hit low and with power and beat the keeper. Great shot!
69' - Valencia with another chance. Parejo with a fantasic through ball along the touch line for Ferran. He curls a cross for Maxi but it is deflected, falls to Cheryshev who shoots but this time his shot is blocked by the Atalanta defender.
72' - Second substitution for Valencia, Maxi Gomez is replaced by Gameiro.
74' - First change for Atalanta. Caldara is replaced by Zapata. Looks like an attacking change, a defender for a forward.
75' - Parejo's cross is headed away from Cheryshev and falls to Soler at the edge of the box. He fires on the half-volley but he cannot hit the target.
79' - Yellow card shown to Hateboer for a pull on Cheryshev
80' - Second change for Atalanta. Gomez off, Malinovskyi on.
82' - Diakhaby gets arm to the throat and is bleeding from his mouth. The medical staff comes on and his teammates call for a sub but the player signals that he can continue.
90' - Four minutes added for stoppages.
90+1' - Final change for Atalanta. Pasalic off, Tameze on.

FULL-TIME

A pretty one-sided game. The second leg needs a perfect performance from Valencia and a horrible game from Atalanta to turn this around; which is quite frankly difficult to see happening. The team did manage a 3 goal victory in the Champions League against Lille this season and will recover some players before that fixture, so there's that. However, I suspect that in the minds of many, this tie is over.

The critic for this game is the same as many other games this season. This is indicative that there hasn't been much improvement over the weeks. It's easy to blame this injuries and those do in fact excuse some lack in performance but not this much. Even when those players were fit the team still struggled.

The preview for this match detailed how good offensively Atalanta was and pointed to the fact that Valencia do better against open teams. Atalanta did show up with the fire power, did leave spaces behind but without punishment.

This game was different to the game against Getafe in that there were shots and on target. There was some effort, but no quality to capitalize. This was more similar to the game against 0-3 defeat at home to Ajax where the opposition were given to much space to take shots and crosses from wherever they pleased with being contested. On the other hand, the chances that the team got were not converted. Both of that game and today, the team lacked decisiveness - in scoring and in making defensive challenges.

No doubt in the press conference the fans will get another apology and the promise of a turnaround at Mestalla yet many will question those words having been repeated so often.

Full-time stats. 4-1 goals, 11-17 shots, 5-4 shots on target, 52-48% possession, 79-81% pass accuracy.

For now, all the team can do is focus on the next game. There is no room for sulking or complaining. The tough fixtures will continue and the team needs to step up.

Next game is on Saturday away at the Anoeta against Real Soceidad, another rival for the European competitions.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

La Liga Matchday #24: Valencia CF 2 - 2 Atlético Madrid Match Thread

Valencia return to Mestalla for the second big game in a series of big games this month. It is a game against a rival for the Champions League spots, a chance to redeem the recent poor performance and build confidence for upcoming games.

Valencia's last game, losing 3-0 away to Getafe, was to many, including Celades himself, the worst game of the season. It's not an exaggeration by any means. The team barely contested the match in a match against a direct rival. It's a game where hardly anybody showed up, defense in shambles, midfield invisible and strikers without a single shot on target.

Atlético managed a narrow 1-0, win at home against Granada in their last game. The goal from Correa came in the opening 6 minutes of the game but the team struggled to build on that lead.

On the back of those fixtures, Valencia sit 7th at 37 points, while Atlético are 4th with 39 points. This game is a chance to overtake them, another 6 point game.

It should be noted that Atlético have conceded the second lowest goals in the league, behind only the league leaders. That being said, their goals scored have been lacking this season.

This is a La Liga home game, where Valencia is one of three teams (Barcelona and Real Madrid the others), who are undefeated at home. Valencia have 7 wins and 5 draws at home in La Liga.

Valencia La Liga form: LWWLW
Atlético La Liga form: WLDLW

SQUAD

In response to the result of the last match, Celades has given the team a day of rest after the game and recently organized a team dinner to get away from the negative atmosphere and help with team bonding.

Cillissen is still struggling with his injury and remains out of the squad with no estimate yet on his return.

In defense, Gaya has picked up a knock in the last game against Getafe. The opposing team thought he was diving but it seems that he is actually struggling with an injury as a result. However, it seems that he insisted that he participate in training and the match. It remains to be seen if he will start or if Jaume Costa will take over.

Wass returns to the squad having been suspended in the previous game. It is expected that for next week's Champions League fixture, Mangala and Diakhaby will feature together since Paulista is out with a suspension. Although there were also rumors that Piccini could fill in if he is fit and is required. Celades could start those two together this game to get them used to playing alongside one another or he could see this game as too important to risk and play Paulista instead. Let's see what happens there.

In midfield, Cheryshev finally returns to the lineup. The midfield would be complete now but for Coquelin picking up another training injury and missing this game. Kondogbia will certainly be given another start as a result.

Gameiro has also recovered to join the team. However, Rodrigo who has been carrying and playing with a knee injury for the past few games, has been deemed not in condition to start. He will be rested with the goal of recovery before next week's game.

Atlético have some key players missing including Diego Costa and Joao Felix.


It should be noted that on the club website, Guedes is listed as a forward and NOT as a midfielder as he was in previous games. This is clearly a 4-4-2 still but Guedes is playing where Rodrigo normally plays and will try to link up the midfield with attack. This is the first time this partnership between Guedes and Maxi will be tried.

Bench: Rivero, Diakhaby, Costa, Cheryshev, Kang In, Gameiro, Sobrino

MATCH

1' - It is in fact 4-4-2 with Guedes playing alongside Maxi Gomez. It seems Celades still think Soler and Ferran should start on the left and right flanks respectively. They usually switch positions though so it can happen again this game.
5' - Sloppy and nervous start for both teams. The ball is moving end to end but the poor passing puts those plays to an end.
15' - Goal for Atlético. 0-1. A bunch of unfortunate deflections in defense. Gaya's got in the way of the incoming pass on the right flank but the ball goes through to Atlético. This left Mangala against Correa and Vitolo. They play the ball between them in the presence of 3 Valencia defenders before Correa plays a cross into the box which Paulista gets a touch to block but it goes through again. Llorente picks up the ball and fires from point blank range to score.
22' - Atlético forcing Valencia into a similar position to the game against Getafe. High pressure when out of possession causes the Valencia defense to clear out with a long ball which the Valencia players cannot contest with the Atlético holding the physical advantage.
26' - Yellow card shown to Lodi for a late challenge on Daniel Wass.
27' - Decent delivery from Parejo's free kick. Maxi heads to the far post where Paulista attempts to volley it back across but it is blocked for a corner.
32' - Great link-up between Gaya and Soler on the left. Clever one-two to take out the Atlético defenders and put Gaya through into space in a good crossing position. He managed to pull off the cross but Oblak is quick to smother the ball.
40' - GOAL VALENCIA! 1-1! The corner from Parejo is delivered to the far post where Maxi had slipped away from the defense. He controls and crosses to Paulista who heads it for a goal.
43' - Goal for Atlético. 1-2. Parejo is dispossessed in midfield and sets off a solo run from Thomas Partey. He gets away from his markers and fires from the edge of the box to the near post and slots it into the goal past the outstretched hand of Jaume.
45' - One minute added for stoppages.

HALF-TIME: There were signs of some improvement from last game but there are areas that still remain the same. This was a half were Valencia dominated possession (60%) but could only manage 1 shot on target with that possession. Fortunately that shot on target was a goal.

Atlético took the lead due to a combination of fortunate deflections and sloppy defending. Despite being outnumbered in the penalty area, they still managed a goal. Valencia's equalizer came 5 minutes from the break and from a unlikely source - a corner kick. Usually, these corners end up falling straight to the opposition but clever movement from Maxi turned a delivery that seemed overhit into a chance to score. The players thought they would take a lead into the change room but Atlético would respond 3 minutes after. Parejo was caught off-guard by Partey who went on to run and score despite all the players around him.

The team still struggles against high pressure and aggression. Even the experienced players end up giving possession away or are forced into clearances that give back possession to the opposition. In offense, the ball cannot make it into the penalty area with the defense being packed into the box. Gaya, Guedes and Ferran have looked most likely to do so but are especially are being closed down instantly by 2 or 3 players every time they pick up the ball.

48' - Parejo caught again and dispossessed, this time at the edge of the penalty area, he flails his arms and signals to the referee before realizing that he needs to chase the ball. Thankfully, it was cleared by the defense.
50'- Ferran with a bright moment, taking on two defenders on the opposing corner and squeezing between both of them. Unfortunately, his cross cannot find a Valencia player in the box.
52' - First substitution for Atlético, the booked Lodi is replaced by Vrsaljko.
54' - Yellow card shown to Paulista for being persistent in his claims that there was a handball by Atlético even after the referee had already called for a corner. He will miss the next game. This is not what the team needs when they are already short on defenders. Soler needed to hold him back after continuing his protests after the yellow card.
58' - Yellow card shown to Vrsaljko for striking Soler with his arm while jumping. Free kick.
59' - GOAL VALENCIA! 2-2! Another goal from a set piece. Parejo delivers to the center of the box and the Atlético defense fails to get to it. Kondogbia was closest to the ball and gets a touch on his way down under pressure from the Atlético defense to secure the goal.
60' - First change for Valencia. Guedes off, Gameiro on.
63' - Momentum is switching in Valencia's favor at the moment. The team has begun putting pressure on the Atlético players. winning possession and setting up one attack after the next.
65' - Atlético with an offensive change. Santiago Arias off, Alvaro Morata on.
67' - Yellow card shown to Mangala for a challenge from behind on Saul.
70' - Yellow card for Simeone for protesting the free kick awarded to Valencia for a challenge on Parejo by Morata.
72' - Kondogbia is having a great second half. He is making sure Atlético are trapped in their own half with great interceptions and dispossession. The team needs this version of him every game.
73' - What a chance from Valencia. Ferran Torres breaks away from his marker with a clever first time touch from the pass. He runs past and takes on another defender, squeezing a cross past him right to Gameiro's feet but he misses! That needs to be scored, such a good position and great effort went into setting up that chance.
77'- Final change for Atlético. Koke is replaced by Carrasco.
78' - Yellow card for Maxi Gomez for using his arms in a challenge. He will miss the next game as well.
79' - Second change for Valencia. Soler off, Cheryshev on.
81' - Jaume with a brilliant diving save to deny a point blank header from Morata! That was dangerous but this kind of save is the equivalent of a goal.
82' - Ferran giving his marker nightmares, beating Vrsaljko yet again and providing great service for Maxi Gomez to run onto but again the shot misses the goal completely. The team needs more quality with these chances.
88' - Just about complete domination from Valencia in the second half. All that's missing is the winning goal. Corner kick.
89' - The corner is cleared towards Gaya who hits it first time at goal and the keeper has to stretch to save it.
90' - Three minutes of stoppage time added.
90+1' - What a pass from Parejo. A diagonal long ball forward behind the opposing right-back for Gaya to run onto. He tries a cross but cannot direct it well enough to find a Valencia player.
90+2' - Paulista goes down under challenge in the corner. It seems he cannot continue. More misfortune in defense.
90+3' - Final change for Valencia. Diakhaby replaces Paulista. Paulista is writhing in pain on the touchline. This looks worrying.

FULL-TIME

Almost there. Despite a slow first half and an early mistake in the second half, the team had a very good second half. They did just about everything apart from finish the game off. Gameiro and Maxi Gomez each with a chance, served on a plate of gold courtesy of Ferran Torres. There was no end product though.

Valencia surprised this game by scoring both goal off set pieces. This is normally an unlikely source for the team but it shows what can be done with good execution and focus in delivery.

Ferran proved himself once again to be quite a talisman for the team. The opposition could not deal with him at all in the second half. He was against experienced players and still came out on top.

In midfield, Kondogbia showed his best version in the second half. He scored the second goal, being the quickest to react and meet Parejo's delivery. He controlled the Atlético players and helped trap them in their own half for the majority of the half.

Stats for this game 64-36% possession, 9-8 shots, 3-3 shots on target, and 82%-75% pass accuracy. A lot more respectable that last game, especially given the opposition. That being said, this was a weakened Atlético team due to injuries to key players.

It was unfortunate to have both Paulista and Maxi Gomez booked. This will see them both miss an important game against Real Sociedad. For Paulista especially, the booking was bad news for an already short-handed defense. Seeing the state he was in at the end of the game, in extreme pain, could mean another big injury. I suspect the club will expedite the arrival of a central defender in the near future.

Valencia remain undefeated at home and end the day at 6th with 38 points, while Atlético remain 4th with 40 points.

Next, the team travel to Milan to play in the San Siro against Atalanta in the Champions League Round of 16. That game will be on Wednesday, February 19th. Amunt!