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!

Friday, February 7, 2020

La Liga Matchday #23: Getafe CF 3 - 0 Valencia CF Match Thread

We return to La Liga where Valencia, having been eliminated from the Copa del Rey mid-week, can focus completely on the remaining two competitions. This game is crucial for the season since the team can deny a direct rival for the Champions League spots 3 points and gain 3 of their own, moving a step closer towards the season's objectives.

Getafe have had 6 days of rest between their previous fixture. They played away from home in La Liga against Athletic Bilbao and scored a goal in each half with no answer, securing a 0-2 win. Not an easy feat.

Valencia on the other hand, have had only 3 days of rest after their last fixture, in which they suffered a 2-1 loss against Granada. Soldado had scored in the first 3 minutes of the game and it took Valencia 37 minutes to respond with a goal of their own. The game would remain tied till stoppage time of the second half where the deadlock was broken by a goal that came in injury time from a penalty due to hand-ball and there was no time to recover. The loss meant Valencia would be eliminated from the competition. There have been several complaints in the news from Valencia staff and personalities criticizing the unfairness of VAR.

In their La Liga campaign, Valencia hosted Celta Vigo at Mestalla in the last La Liga fixture and secured a narrow 1-0 victory thanks to a goal from Carlos Soler. As the story has been at many times this season, the performance was not convincing but somehow the required result was achieved.

The game between these two in La Liga earlier this season at Mestalla was intense. Getafe took the lead in the first minute of the game. Valencia would remain behind until the 30th minute when they would go on to score 3 goals in 10 minutes, two from Maxi Gomez and one from Kang In. With a 3-1 scoreline, the team went confidently into half-time only for Getafe to turn it around with 2 goals in the second half to equalize the scoreline, ending the game in a 3-3 draw.

Getafe sit at 3rd in the league with 39 points, while Valencia are 5th with 37 points.
Getafe La Liga form: WWWLL
Valenica La Liga form: WWLWD

SQUAD

The good news this week in training was that Cillissen, Cheryshev and Vallejo have all rejoined training sessions with the team. It remains to be seen when they will get called up again but they will be handy reinforcements in a tough month of fixtures. 

Both Wass and Coquelin are out of this game due to accumulation of bookings and so Correia and Esquerdo have be reintroduced into the squad list. I don't see either of playing though, especially with Florenzi available and several options in midfield.

There was news that Parejo had suffered some discomfort during training and might miss this game but it seems that he's fine and is in the list.

Gaya and Gameiro both missed the midweek game through injuries picked up in training but only Gaya has been recovered for this game.

In other news, Ferran has expressed his intent to continue with the club and renew his contract so a deal is expected in the near-future.
Bench: Rivero, Mangala, Correia, Esquero, Kang In, Guedes, Sobrino

MATCH

5' - Getafe with an early chance via a throw in. Cucurella receives the ball in an advanced position. He cuts inside and plays the straight to Molina who squeezes in a shot past Paulista but Jaume dives down quickly to parry it for a corner.
9' - Valencia being forced to punt the ball across the field to clear several times. Possession keeps returning to Getafe, allowing them to go on the offensive yet again.
16' - Paulista goes down under a challenge from the Getafe player. He appears to be really struggling to get up, staying down for a while before being helped off the field. Mangala is ready to come on.
17' - Paulista returns to the field for the time being.
18' - Molina with another great chance. Nyom crosses the ball from a wide position, having bought some space with a touch away from Gaya. Molina heads it towards goal but it's wide.
24' - Yellow card shown to Getafe's Nyom.
25' - Not a single shot, let alone a shot on goal, from Valencia so far into the game. Getafe with 61% possession, 6 shots, only one of which is on target.
30' - The team is struggling to put together any sort of attacking move under the Getafe pressure. The only way the ball gets forward is with a long ball out from the back, but possession falls to Getafe most times.
35' - Ferran and Soler have switched flanks back and forth a 2-3 times already this half. Is this part of the game plan or a decision from the players?
38' - Molina fights with Diakhaby over the ball and has the strength to take him down and go past him. He passes to Maksimovic who is quick to strike at goal but Jaume denies him. The ball is still in play and falls to Cucurella who takes one touch around the defender and tries to curl one to the far post but Jaume with another great save to match the effort.
40' - Ferran has stayed on the left and Soler on the right, doesn't seem like they're switching back anymore, at least for this half. This might suit them better.
45' - One minute added by the referee for stoppages. Valencia trying to just get through the half without conceding. They give a way a last minute corner though.
45+1' - Cucurella delivers the ball straight to Molina's head but his glancing header is wide. It's strange how he missed that, very fortunate for Valencia.

HALF-TIME: Not what was expected or required from the team in such a crucial game. Getafe dominated on nearly every statistic that half. 58-42% possession , 12-1 shots, 3-0 shots on target and 68-60% pass accuracy. The offensive stats alone are reason for concern.

Jaume has been solid to maintain the scoreline. The defense has done their defensive duties well but have got to stop these long ball because they are simply not working. Not even Maxi Gomez is getting at the end of them. It's just playing right into Getafe's plan and returning possession to them. With the ball going from defense towards offense and back to Getafe, the Valencia midfield has hardly got into the game, contributing only defensively. The few times they have got the ball, their passes would give the ball right back.

Getafe's pressure and aggressive style usually causes trouble for the team but after all the previous encounters, the team should have an understanding of how they play and a game plan to deal with it. Some players are trying to draw fouls and get the Getafe players booked but a lot of the times the referee is waiving play to continue.

One thing to watch out for is the knock Paulista received early on, hopefully it's nothing serious as the team has enough injuries already.

The hope now is that Getafe feel demotivated from a first half where they have failed to capitalize on their advantages and are starting to grow tired from exerting all that pressure. Valencia should be able to settle into the game and string together some passes and attacking moves. They need to get shots on goal.

45' - Celades has not used any substitutions in the break which is relief from concern about Paulista. It also seems that Ferran and Soler has retained the positions with which they ended the half.
53' - Getafe take advantage of Gaya being out of position, having joined the earlier attacking play. They play a long ball to Molina in a wide position. He holds the ball and waits for Mata to run into the box before squaring the ball for him. He turns around and shots, but Jaume yet again is equal to it.
58' - Getafe goal. 1-0. Molina splits the defense with a through ball for Mata. Jaume save the initial shot but the ball stays in play. Mata beats out both Diakhaby and Paulista to the ball, having started behind both of them and taps it past Jaume. Need quicker reactions there. The two defenders left it all for the keeper to do.
60' - Substitutions from both teams. Rodrigo off, Guedes on. Nyom off, Kenedy on.
62' - Fight breaks out after Gaya goes down in the opposing penalty area. The Getafe players didn't like it and crowded around him to which the Valencia players all rushed in to protect their teammate. The referee issues out yellow cards for Paulista, Ferran and Damian Suarez for their involvement. Maxi also gets booked for dissent against the referee.
67' - Getafe score again. 2-0. Molina just made the entire defense look like amateurs. He took out Diakhaby with a ball through the legs and then another touch past both Kondogbia and Paulista to go through on goal and still had it in him to find the goal after that. Parejo gave away the ball to start that attacking play. How does Valencia turn this around with only 2 shots and none on goal?
69' - Second substitution for Valencia. Kang In Lee replaces Carlos Soler.
70' - Yellow card for Diakhaby.
75' - Yellow card for Arambarri for a shove on Guedes.
77' - Direct red card shown to Florenzi for a challenge on Cucurella, going in with both legs. Valencia have 10-men and no shots on goal. This game is surely gone. Florenzi will miss the next game also.
79' - Second change for Getafe, Molina off, Angel Rodriguez on.
81' - Celades would rather have Ferran cover as right-back than use Correia.
87' - Getafe score. 3-0. Mata scores. Diakhaby being unprofessional and stopping his track back thinking the referee will call for a foul on him. He was beaten and the whistle did not come. Angel goes through. It's 2 vs 1 against Paulista. He tries a rash sliding challenge but it was predictable. Angel takes a touch away from him finds Mata, who then does the same to Jaume before finishing.
89' - Final change for Valencia. Maxi Gomez off, Sobrino on.
90' - Six minutes of stoppage time is added.
90+1' - Terrible luck, just when Guedes and Kang In link up to set up a good shot to take a first shot at goal, Kang In slips and cannot make contact for the shot.
90+3' - Getafe with another chance. Cucurella with a cross to the far post for Damian. He's in a good position for a shot but Gaya steps in in-time to block the shot.
90+5' - Yellow card for Etxeita for a late challenge.

FULL-TIME

The worst kind of game. Everything on the line at a crucial point in the season. The team doesn't show up. Not a single shot on target the entire game. No one stepping up to make a difference. A red card making any hope of a comeback gone. Every 50/50 challenge goes against, the benefit of the doubt completely given to the other team despite their aggression. All that culminates in a loss against a rival to which no one wants to lose, especially after the back and forth in recent season. Valencia lose their chance to get into the top 4 this week.

Shots 22-5, shots on target 10-0, possession 53-47. passing accuracy 69-66%, 3 goals with no answer. Beaten in every area of the field. Not nearly good enough. In fact very poor. This is a team that's supposed to be a rival, meaning about the same level, not a team that's 2 divisions above. That's certainly how it looked like today.

Some players completely gave up in the final 10 minutes of the game. Players stopped tracking back, left it to someone else or the referee to intervene, passed like they were on the training ground and didn't respond to the pressure, the occasion or the performance in the first half. Credit to those who still tried.

Nothing much to add about this game as it was a game to forget by all means.

The team has gone from decent wins, to narrow wins to just-edging it with minimal effort, and now the losses have come as some have predicted. Eliminated against Granada and humiliated against a rival in the span of one week.

Looking forward, this should serve as a wake-up call. The team needs to respond. Yes, there have been many injuries but this cannot be blamed on that. Yes, there have been a few refereeing decision that have gone against, but again no excuse. For players not willing to put in the effort, there needs to be some bench time, no matter how crucial they are though to be for the team. Consistent good performance must be rewarded and consistent bad performance must be deterred.

Next game is against Atletico Madrid in La Liga at Mestalla on Friday. One can only hope the team shows up then cause they weren't there today. Amunt.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Copa del Rey Quarter Finals: Granada CF 2 - 1 Valencia CF Match Thread

Valencia travel to Granada to play in the quarter finals of the Copa del Rey. This is one of three possible games remaining for Valencia on their road to defending their title as the reigning champions of this competition.

Granada and Valencia have both got to this stage by going through extra time in their last fixtures. Granada faced Badajoz away from home and each of the sides scored a goal at the beginning and at the end of the 90 minutes in a 2-2 draw. Granada would win the game with a goal 4 minutes into the second half of extra time. Valencia, on the other hand, was unable to break the 0-0 draw against Cultural Leonesa even after 30 minutes of additional time, forcing a penalty-shootout. Jaume Domenech would prove to be a hero in a game that very much needed one and saved two penalties to help Valencia move forward.

In La Liga, Granada faced Espanyol this past weekend. They came back from behind to secure a 2-1 win, cancelling out an Espanyol penalty with two goals on either side of the half-time whistle. That win sees them finish out the week at 10th position with 30 points.

Valencia come into this game having struggled into a 1-0 home win against Celta Vigo. Soler broke the deadlock 13 minutes before the full-time whistle, earning a goal on his 100th appearance for the club and securing the win. With the win in hand, Valencia currently sit in 5th place with 37 points.

Both sides come in with a good run of results (not necessarily performances though):

Granada form (all competitions): WWLWL
Valencia form (all competitions): WWWWL

SQUAD

Domenech starts again, having a streak of four clean sheets in a row. Rivero backs him up as Cillissen is yet to rejoin training sessions due to his injury.

In defense, the team was hit with the bad news of Garay's 6 month injury duration. The club has conveyed their intention to sign a replacement soon. Although the transfer window is closed, there are clauses that permit clubs to sign still in the event of a long-term injury. The players that can be signed are restricted to those that play in the first or second division of the league, or players that currently have no club. With the deadline (Feb.3) of submitting the Champions League squad list to UEFA having passed, the new arrival would not be eligible to participate in the Champions League fixtures. For now, Mangala and Diakhaby will be counted on to cover the absence.

Additionally, Gaya struggled with an injury during training and misses this match as well. Costa will start instead. Either Florenzi or Wass will complete the defense as the countdown begins for Piccini's return to action.

In midfield, the novelty is the return of Guedes to the squad list, having been out for months to injury. Having a fully fit and in form Guedes can take the team to a new level but it remains to be seen if Celades can recover that version of the player.

Coquelin is likely to start this game over Kondogbia, since he is suspended for the next La Liga fixture. Celades has the full selection of midfield available to him with the exception of Cheryshev who is still in recovery.

In offense, Gameiro, like Gaya, also struggle with an injury and misses this game. Vallejo, like Cillissen, has not yet rejoined training sessions. This leaves Rodrigo, Gomez and Sobrino as the choices for Celades; although both Ferran and Guedes can fill any shortage there if needed.



Bench: Rivero, Mangala, Florenzi, Kondogbia, KangIn, Guedes, Sobrino

MATCH

2' - Goal for Granada. 1-0. Poor start already. Parejo had given up possession in the play before and now Jaume Costa's sliding tackle sent Soldado clear through on goal. He took a heavy touch to start and it should've been punished there but Paulista stood his ground. Soldado side steps him and takes a shot from the edge of the box. Jaume gets a hand to it but cannot keep it out. Diakhaby was way out of position for that since he went on a needless run forward after he cleaned up from Parejo's earlier mistake. Big mess.
7' - Excellent chance for Valencia is squandered. Costa with a great cross to the far post where Ferran Torres is in space. He volleys the ball back towards the other post and finds Rodrigo with plenty of room. He fires but it's wide. He shouldn't miss the target from there.
8' - Granada retaliate with a chance of their own. A diagonal ball is played behind Wass and the Granada player is through on goal albeit with a tight angle to shoot. He takes the chance anyway and Jaume can only parry the effort back into play. The ball is cleared but it was a dangerous play.
14' - Goal for Valencia but it's overruled by VAR for offside. Parejo had played in Rodrigo with a through ball. Rodrigo strikes towards the far post and slots it past the keeper. It was a good finish too bad it won't count.
15' - Granada again retaliate, this time striking the cross-bar.
17' - End to end stuff here. Wass finds Ferran ahead of him, who then plays a low cross to the far-post for Maxi Gomez. Under pressure from his marker and with his side to the goal, he manages a slight turn and shot but cannot hit the target.
22' - Another chance at goal for Valencia. Wass with another great cross for Maxi. Maxi takes a touch and hits it straight at the keeper. He had the time and space for a touch and a strike. Cannot help but feel cross should've been played to his head not his legs. Good that he hit the target but should've done better from a good position.
30' - Granada hit the post again after Coquelin is dispossessed in midfield. Diakhaby attempted to prevent the shot by applying pressure to the striker but it was still a good hit despite that.
40' - GOAL VALENCIA! 1-1! Rodrigo scores again and this time there is no doubt about the goal. Ferran with a quick pass to Coquelin who plays a short cross to the far post from midfield. Rodrigo is unmarked again and the cross is easy for him to run onto and slot past the keeper.
42' - Yellow card shown to Gonalons for using his arms and legs to stop Ferran Torres's run.
45' - Two minutes added for stoppages.

HALF-TIME: A very open half with both teams showing vulnerability and fragility in defense as they go towards the victory. There were lots of back and forths with the ball moving end-to-end very quickly over the half. Valencia started very sloppily giving the ball away twice in the span of 2 minutes. The first resulting in Diakhaby taking the ball for a run to midfield and the second compounding the mistake of the first and with the defense left short-handed Granada scored. Valencia would go on to feed their strikers plenty of good chances in space in the penalty box but for some reason most efforts either miss or are hit straight at the goalkeeper. After an earlier blunder in front of goal, Rodrigo would go on to score, having gone through on goal by virtue of a Parejo through-ball. Despite the good finish, it was over-ruled correctly for offside. He would get a chance again to score following some very quick passing that caught the Granada defense off-guard. Ferran's pass to Coquelin took out two defenders and made it to Coquelin who took out the entire defense with an unexpected cross to Rodrigo.

The right-side has looked better than the left side of the team. Wass and Ferran have set up many chances for the team and linked up well. The left-side hasn't done too much going forward or back. The Granada right-back has kept them preoccupied. In defense, Costa's mistake combined with Diakhaby's poor choices led to the goal. Risky plays like that from the defense proved costly against Granada and for sure the tougher teams ahead will eat those chances up as well. It's good that Rodrigo finally got a goal but the forwards in general need to be a bit more clinical in front of goal, the service was good and the opposing defense open so there really is no excuse.

52' - Yellow card shown to Soldado for a very late challenge on Parejo
60' - Maxi Gomez plays a low cross across goal but none of the Valencia players can get to it. Rodrigo claims the ball on the far-post and pulls it back for Jaume Costa but he collides with the defender and nothing comes of it.
67' - Valencia with the first substitution. It's Guedes on for Ferran Torres. Soler moves back to the right-flank and Guedes takes his spot on the left-flank. It seems he would thrive in this type of game with all the space being given.
69' - Granada with their own substitution, the first of the game. Carlos Fernandez off, Machis on.
71' - Every time Guedes touched the ball so far, he was instantly tripped up by the opposition.
75' - Diakhaby actually playing well since the first goal. Another great tackle to deny Soldado from running through on goal.
77' - Granada set up a chance with a Soldado back-heeled pass for Machis. The shot on goal is parried by Jaume and cleared.
78' - Jaume Costa and Guedes struggling to deal with Machis, as he cuts inside past both of them and takes a shot at goal. Foulquier was already causing trouble on his own on that side.
80' - Second change for Granada. The booked Gonalons is taken off for Eteki.
86'-  Valencia with their own change, taking off Rodrigo for Florenzi. This means Wass will move up to the right side of midfield, Soler moves centrally ahead of Coquelin and Parejo. Maxi remains as the lone striker. It looks like a 4-2-3-1.
90 - Four minutes of stoppage time added by the referee.
90+1' - Penalty for Granada. Maxi Gomez handled the ball in the penalty box. The ball was headed down by Jaume Costa onto his arm. VAR confirms the decision. Disaster in the last few minutes of the game.
90+3' - Goal for Granada. It's 2-1. Soldado scores from the penalty spot, sending Jaume the wrong way.

FULL-TIME

Valencia is eliminated from the Copa del Rey in the final minutes of the game. The penalty in the stoppage time is hard to recover from with so little time remaining. Granada go through to the semi-finals and the reigning champions go home.

The second half did not get as many chances as the first and it needed something like a penalty to settle the draw. Everyone had anticipated that the game would go to extra time but Granada had other plans and just edged it.

It was interesting to see Soldado celebrate both goals with the amount of enthusiasm he did. He has clearly moved on and felt joy from sticking it to his old side.

It was also an interesting decision from Celades to bring on Guedes, especially by sacrificing Ferran Torres in return. It would've seemed better to take off Carlos Soler instead since Ferran was contributing a lot this game. Guedes did not show much during the time he was on. It seemed like he was just trying to ease himself into the game rather than to make a difference. Nothing more can eb said as it is tough to get back into the game following a long term injury.

When Rodrigo was substituted for Florenzi, it became more clear that Celades could not help but keep the weekend fixture in mind and was protecting key players.

It would've been nice to win, especially against Granada. As the champions, losing to a bigger team would have looked better. However, this might be for the better. It's easier to say now but many fans would rather look ahead and focus on La Liga and the Champions League. One cannot help but think that Getafe wanted this game to go all the way to penalty shootout so that they can get a fatigued team to play against.

Next game is away to Getafe in La Liga on Saturday. This is a very crucial game to the season and it is paramount that the team really needs to show up. This team is one of Valencia's direct rivals for the Champions League spots. They sit at 4th with 38 points, 1 point ahead of Valencia. As such, this game is a chance to deny them three points and get three for the team, passing them in the table. Amunt.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Garay injured: out for next six months

Fairly awful news, and at the worst possible time. Ezequiel Garay's injury is serious and he will miss the next 6 months.


The news sums up our lack of luck with injuries this season. If this had happened even 4 days ago, we could at least have gone for a sticking plaster solution in the form of a loan. But now with the transfer window closed, we now only have Paulista, Diakhaby and a not that good and not that fit Mangala. This comes at the most critical time of the season when the cup game at Granada will be followed by Getafe away, Atletico Madrid at home, Atalanta away and Sociedad away.

For the games against Atalanta, Paulista is suspended, so that leaves just Diakhaby and Mangala as our only available defenders. Why do we always only have four when we knew at the start of the season that two were very injury prone?

***edit/update***
As the injury is for longer than 5 months, Valencia therefore qualifies to make an emergency signing. This must be either a player who plays in the top two divisions of Spain or doesn't have a club at the moment. We are also at the non-EU limit so it must also be someone with an EU passport. The names mentioned in the Valencian sports press are unexciting ones: bringing back Jorge Saenz, who Celta have judged not good enough. Roncaglia returning (again, wasn't good enough last season) or Fernando Calero of Espanyol. Ultimately, we're chasing scraps, but it's better than nothing. Weirdly, Garay being injured for 6 months is better for us than a 4-month injury. Another consideration is that the deadline for registering players for the last 16 of the Champions league is midnight tomorrow (3rd February.)



Friday, January 31, 2020

La Liga Matchday #22: Valencia CF 1 - 0 RC Celta de Vigo Match Thread

Valencia return to Mestalla to play Celta de Vigo in the 22nd matchday of La Liga.

Valencia come into this game having secured a place in the quarter finals of the Copa del Rey against Cultural Leonesa. The game went to extra time and beyond that to a penalty shoot-out, testing the squad's fitness. It was disappointing that the team could not managed to score once against them over the span of 120 minutes. 

Celta Vigo, on the other hand, had a week ahead of this game to prepare, having been eliminated at the Round of 32 of the Copa del Rey by Mirandés.

In the previous La Liga matchday, Valencia secured a 2-0 home win against Barcelona and surprised many. 

Celta Vigo's game last week was against Eibar; a game which they drew 0-0 at home.

The result from the previous week mean that Valencia is at 7th position with 34 points, while Celta Vigo is in the relegation zone at 18th with 17 points.

Valencia La Liga form: WLWDD
Celta Vigo La Liga form: DDDLD

SQUAD

With the transfer market in its few hours and Valencia having made only one signing thus far, the squad looks largely the same. 

Florenzi, the new loan signing, does get called up despite initial news saying he would be left out. This could be a good sign, meaning that he was deemed to be ready by the coaching staff. With Wass also returning to the lineup after an absence in the Copa del Rey due to discomfort, this leaves no room for Correia and he is dropped from the list. In the center of defense, Garay takes his spot back from Mangala, after also missing the mid-week fixture with some discomfort. 

In offense, Rodrigo features again with the transfer saga involving him and Barcelona being finally over. They have settled on another player as they were unwilling to pay Valencia's asking price, preferring instead a loan with no purchase option; a proposal that Valencia would rightfully dismiss.

With regards to injuries, Jaume Costa is out of this game after discomfort during the mid-week game when he couldn't finish the game and had to be replaced by Gaya. Guedes continues training with the team and is expected back in the game against Atalanta. Piccini has also recently started training with the rest of the team. There is little information about Cheryshev, Vallejo's and Cillissen's injuries.

Celades went with Florenzi in the starting XI as right-back. It's a good game to get him adjusted to matches in Spain. Interestingly enough, Wass is also in the starting lineup, probably playing on the right-flank. This leaves room for Ferran to go play upfront with Maxi Gomez. While Rodrigo is available, he will be on the bench to start.

Bench: Rivero, Diakhaby, Kondogbia, Kang In, Gameiro, Rodrigo, Sobrino

MATCH

Wow, Murillo went around and exchanged hugs with every Valencia player and staff on field and on the bench. Good to see a positive return from a former player.

2' - Great chance right off the bat for Valencia. Parejo with a great dispossession in the opposition half, Wass picks out Ferran who then dummies his defender before squaring the ball to Wass in the center. The shot is just wide, he needs to hit the target there but great build up.
12' - Aspas with a driving run forward, Parejo attempts to tackle but misses him. Paulista intercepts the run but makes a mess of the clearance and it falls back to him in space for a shot on goal. Luckily, it's easy for Domenech.
15' - Corner wrongfully awarded to Valencia. Parejo hits it right at the nearby defender resulting in a throw in. The resulting play from the throw sees Ferran cross, Maxi nod the ball on to Wass but he is out-muscled by Murillo. The ball falls to Soler for a shot but it's just wide of the left post. Celta still upset about the corner being awarded while there are some appeals for a penalty for the challenge on Wass.
19' - Yellow card for Paulista for using his arm against Iago Aspas
22' - Florenzi goes on a wild run forward with Garay holding his pass for a while before playing a lob over the defense to send Florenzi through behind the defense. He surprises everyone with a volley and almost places it into the top right corner if not for the keeper's outstretched hand. He was offside anyway so it would've have counted.
32' - Yellow card for Daniel Wass for stepping on to the opposition player.
36' - Garay goes down after landing on his leg. While the medical team examines him, Diakhaby is warming up in preparation to take his spot.
38' - With a bit of treatment and after testing out his leg, Garay decides he can continue and returns to the field.
39' - Yellow card for Comesaña for a collision with Gaya to stop his run.
42' - Valencia will go through with the substitution after all with Garay concerned about his leg. Garay off, Diakhaby on.
45' - Two minutes added for stoppages.
45+2' - Parejo with a free kick after a challenge from Aspas on Maxi. Ferran connects with the delivery and heads it but it's wide of goal.

HALF-TIME: Pretty even game so far, with maybe a slight edge to Valencia in terms of the quality of the chances that came throughout the half. Celta does not look like they're trying to "park the bus" but are rather coming forward and attacking. This should leave room for the Valencia players to exploit and saves Valencia from the struggle of having to breakdown a tight-knit defense. However, there still hasn't been a clear chance so far.

Florenzi has seemed competent in his role and one can only assume that he will get better as he adapts to the team and to Spanish football. Parejo has also looked quite sharp, contributing with passing as well as some useful sliding tackles. The central defenders need to work a bit on their distribution of the ball rather than just returning possession to the opposition. Unfortunate about losing Garay in the first half. Hopefully, it's not a prolonged absence but it could be a significant loss ahead of some important fixtures this month.

50' - Yellow card for Florenzi for a challenge on the edge of the box. Free kick for Celta Vigo.
52' - Iago Aspas takes the free kick from a dangerous position. It's going in but Parejo clears it with his head off the line! It appears that Jaume whispered to Parejo to watch his back and cover the opposite side. Great coordination!
53' - Second substitution for Valencia. Florenzi is taken off and Rodrigo comes on. Roaring applause for Florenzi as he is walks off. Wass slots back into right-back, Ferran moves wide and Rodrigo takes his spot beside Maxi Gomez.
56' - Gaya decides to go on a solo run forward, going past the Celta midfield. Maxi is ahead of him in anticipation of the through ball but Gaya chooses Rodrigo at the far side in space. His touch is poor and the chance is wasted. Not a good way to start.
61' - Wass reclaims the ball after a Celta attack and picks out a beautiful ball forward to Rodrigo catching the defense off-guard. Rodrigo drives the ball forward with with his markers ahead, and Ferran wide. He tries a through ball for Maxi but it's over hit. Ferran is left wondering why he didn't receive the pass instead.
65' - Yellow card for Celta's Rafinha for following through on a challenge on Rodrigo.
71 ' - Rodrigo with another chance at goal after Maxi let the pass go through for him. The ball curls away from the post and out of play.
72' - First substitution for Celta Vigo. Sisto on, Araujo off.
73' - Celta with their own chance. Aspas sets up an opportunity for Gabriel Fernandez and he hits the target. Jaume can only parry the effort and Diakhaby has to clear for a corner.
77' - GOAL VALENCIA! 1-0! Carlos Soler with the goal. Diakhaby with a long clearance forward that finds Ferran in space ahead. He takes a touch to control and then plays a curling cross with the outside of his foot. Rodrigo is first to the ball and heads it back and down for Soler to run onto and slot it past the keeper.
79' - Celta Vigo with their second change. Their new signing Smolov comes on for Gabriel Fernandez.
80' - Yellow card for Maxi Gomez for a challenge with his studs showing.
82' - Celta showing their intent to win with an attacking change - their final one. Beltran is replaced by Santi Mina, who is applauded by the Mestalla crowd.
84' - Rodrigo receives the ball on the right flank in space. He cuts inside, takes on the defender, takes it away from him and picks out a shot at goal. The keeper saves it.
88' - Yellow card for Sisto for a late challenge on Parejo.
90' - Four minutes of stoppage time added.
90+1' - Yellow card for Coquelin for a shove.
90+4' - Aspas with a last minute free kick at goal. Jaume saves, almost spills it but eventually gathers it up. The referee blows the full-time whistle.

FULL-TIME

An important win, especially as rivals have dropped points and/or face difficult fixtures this week. This win gives Valencia the three points needed to finish the day at 4th place.

The debut performance from Florenzi was another positive. He looks like a solid player that will be very useful to have. He didn't complete the game but it was a glimpse of what he could do.

It was also unfortunate to lose Garay especially with critical matches ahead. The extent of the injury is still to be determined.

The second half had slightly more entertainment value than the first, particularly due to the goal. It was a very quick transition from one end to the other and into the net in 3 passes. Diakhaby to Ferran to Rodrigo to Soler and then goal. It was interesting that for that play Ferran and Soler had switched positions.

Valencia had several other chances throughout the half but yet again the problem persists. The ball gets to the final third and then there is a struggle to convert chances into goals.

Objectives wise the team is on track in all competitions and hopefully the performances step up to match the intensity of the schedule and fixtures ahead.

Next game is on Tuesday, February 4th against Granada away from home for the Copa del Rey Quarter Finals. Amunt!