Sunday, April 21, 2019

Real Betis - Valencia match thread

So a crunch week arrives with two tough away games, Atletico Madrid away on Wednesday and tonight, at Betis. Valencia hasn't won against either of the two big Madrid teams away since February 2011 when a brace from Jaoquin took the points. He's starting for the other team tonight and Valencia's recent lack of success in Madrid means it's important he doesn't go away happy. Getafe beat Sevilla earlier. As Getafe have a tougher final set of fixtures this was probably the best result possible and also, from a longer term point of view, if Valencia screw up and don't get 4th, Sevilla are a more dangerous rival than the annoying team of Bordalas. Neither can happen though and it's essential that we get the 3 points and then hope to get something from Atletico Madrid. Drop points tonight and it's hard to see us catching up.


Line up is mostly as expected, with the possible exception of Mina up front instead of Gameiro. I guess Rodrigo is still not 100% fit. Mina-Guedes worked well enough last time and both scored in the corresponding fixture last season so here's hoping for a repeat.

==FIRST HALF REPORT==
A mostly frustrating first half. Valencia stood off and allowed Betis lots of possession: it was 74% in their favour at one moment. But a common complaint against Setien this season is that his team have lots of possession without doing anything with it and so it proved. There was a half shot that shaved the outside of the post and a few headers off target but nothing major. Bad news for Valencia as Cheryshev went down injured looking like he twisted something. However, he was able to walk off, so hopefully it isn't too bad. Rodrigo came on, with Guedes returning to his familiar left wing position.

Valencia had created close on zero. I think it was the 41st minute when Valencia even had a shot and that was a tame effort from Mina off target when he was well covered by the defender. The first Valencia shot on target came in injury time and what a shot. Parejo found Rodrigo who drove forward and found Guedes, who cut inside and, with Rodrigo complaining about not receiving a pass, hit a wonderful shot through the legs of the defender to beat the keeper at his near post. Nicely set up for Valencia to hit Betis on the counter in the second half.

==SECOND HALF==
Valencia got the second half off to a good start, from a short corner, the ball came to Guedes, who again ploughed a low drive through a group of defenders to give us a 2-goal lead. Valencia were looking better and more adventurous and looked comfortable. Last year, Valencia had been cruising: 4 up in the Villamarin before imploding in the 78th minute and conceding 3 goals in a short space of time. By coincidence, this happened again. First, Gabriel gave away a penalty to let them cut our lead. Then Rodrigo picked up the second of two stupid bookings to reduce us to 10 men and leave us with a nervy finish. Lo Celso should have had a second yellow but it didn't happen. Despite Betis peppering us with corners our defence held strong. Another decisive performance from Guedes.

Final fixtures.
Valencia: At.Madrid (a), Eibar (h), Huesca (a), Alaves (h), Valladolid (a)
Getafe: R.Madrid (h), Sociedad (a), Girona (h), Barcelona (a), Villarreal (h)
Sevilla: Rayo (h), Girona (a), Leganes (h), At.Madrid (a), Bilbao (h)







Thursday, April 18, 2019

Valencia - Villarreal (Europa league) match thread

Valencia goes into the second leg of its Europa league quarter final tonight with a solid lead. The 2 late goals give the team a considerable cushion, so the main enemy is complacency. Marcelino therefore has to balance keeping the squad fit with getting the job done. Jaume, Piccini, Kondogbia and Rodrigo are out, while Garay gets a rest. Also a consideration, yellow cards are reset after tonight and Gaya, Diakhaby, Guedes and Coquelin will benefit from that as, if they get a yellow tonight, they miss the first leg of the semi at Arsenal (or Napoli.)


Given all that, I think we will see Neto and Lato. Giving Jaume a game would have been an option if fit, but playing Cristian would be a gamble too far. Gaya both needs to rest and avoid a yellow, so Lato should get the full game. For the rest of defence, I would risk Diakhaby, even if he gets the yellow, we can cover with any of the other three. Play Gabriel in the centre and Roncaglia at RB. Roncaglia hasn't been great at RB, but Wass needs some time off with Piccini out.

In midfield, Guedes should sit this one out with the yellow card threat, meaning Cheryshev starts. In the centre I'd play Parejo and Soler, with Ferran at right wing. I would then aim to replace Parejo with Wass at half time to rest him, and Cheryshev with Kang-In around minute 70.

Up front, I'd give Sobrino this game. He needs minutes, especially with Rodrigo out. I'd also give Mina a game to boost his confidence, but with the understanding he'll be subbed off for a rest around minute 60.
___________________
___________________

HALF-TIME REPORT

Valencia were clearly superior in the first half, which was affected by driving rain. We broke the deadlock in the 12th minute. Guedes outmuscled the defender and chipped a nice ball into the path of Lato, who produced a cool finish from an angle for his first senior goal.

Valencia should have had more, but Mina made the wrong decision when we had an overload in defence and Gameiro also messed up a couple, misplacing a chip over the keeper when one-on-one.

There's a little bit of mild frustration that we haven't got the second goal we need to start making subs with an eye on the upcoming Betis game on Sunday.

SECOND HALF REPORT

A little bit of a strange substitution at half-time, Soler being replaced by Gabriel, with a reshuffle moving Roncaglia to RB and Wass to central midfield. The second goal came in the 53rd minute. Parejo's free kick took a huge deflection and it's not even sure he'll be credited with that. Parejo came off just after minute 60 for Coquelin, another strange sub since Coq was on a yellow and we could've just put Cheryshev in instead. Kang-In for Guedes was the last sub. After that, Valencia understandably relaxed a bit, the team hardly ever went past the halfway line. That's ok, but what wasn't was the team's passing became super sloppy and the team barely put more than 2 passes together. Near the end, Coquelin got a yellow card which suspends him from the first leg at Arsenal. It was never a yellow, the Villarreal player blasting it at him and the ball bouncing off his knee on to his hand. Maybe the club can appeal? But as I say, stupid decision from Marcelino to play him when the team had a 5-1 aggregate lead.

Good performances from Diakhaby, Lato and Wass with Guedes standing out again. An easy win overall and now Arsenal await.



Sunday, April 14, 2019

Valencia - Levante match thread

The Valencia city derby always has bragging rights at stake, but tonight is even more crucial for both teams. Levante are just above the relegation zone. A win for Sevilla this weekend gives them a 6-point advantage over Valencia in the race for 4th and means Valencia must win to stay in touch. Lose or draw and the Europa league would be our only route into the Champions league and the win for Bilbao earlier today means there are teams breathing down our neck for the Europa league spots.

Some absences in the team. Kondogbia is out for the rest of the season, Ferran and Roncaglia are suspended and Rodrigo picked up a late injury.


I thought we would see Coquelin in midfield, but Wass stays there: he had one of his better games on Thursday, but I suspect Coquelin still isn't 100% fit. There's a slight surprise up front. Mina starting instead of Rodrigo was as expected, but Guedes, instead of Gameiro, is his strike partner. We've seen Guedes used as forward a few times, but always being switched there late in games after starting on the wing, so this is the first game he's started for us as forward. The only time we previously saw this combo used was against Sevilla in October 2017 after Valencia were already 2-0 up and both Mina and Guedes scored, so the omens at least are good.

HALF-TIME REPORT
Valencia dominated the first half and it took just 90 seconds for us to be ahead, a short corner, Guedes put in a good centre for Mina to head home. He needed that goal, his first in 3 months. Guedes made a powerful run minutes later and fired just over and there were chances in the half for Chersyhev, who headed just over and Mina, whose header was saved. Levante had only one chance in the 13th minute, with Neto saving well and generally our defence has kept them quiet. However, it's still only 1-0, the team is lacking precision in the passes and decisiveness in the final third. Despite Levante not doing a lot, our vulnerability from set pieces means we have to get a second goal to give us a cushion.

Levante played fairly dirty at times and it's amazing that the only player booked is Soler. Piccini went off after a collision, hopefully it is not serious. It looked fairly innocuous, but Marcelino said in the post-match interview that he'd gone to hospital, which sounds more serious.

SECOND HALF REPORT
Well, I said it at half-time: Valencia needed to score to cover our vulnerability from corners otherwise be punished and sure enough, that's what happened. Soler made a mess of clearing a corner and put it in his own net to give them an undeserved equaliser. Us scoring for them looked the only way they would manage it, as their sole effort in the second half was a shot from distance. Levante didn't even had time to pull the champagne cork out, as we quickly restored our lead. A one-two between Guedes and Soler, a clever back heel from Soler allowing Guedes to rifle a powerful shot across the keeper. A few minutes later we did indeed have the 2-goal cushion. From a cross, Soler hit a shot past the keeper, it rebounded off the post behind him allowing Mina to tap in. Soler really redeemed himself from the own goal with a couple of assists, Mina only ever seems to score in doubles and Guedes is in a purple patch and having his best spell since the first half of his first season with us. Would be man of the match for me tonight. A really good Valencia performance: probably should have won by more.






Thursday, April 11, 2019

Villarreal - Valencia (Europa league) match thread

I'm putting this place holder up at half time for comments tonight and tomorrow. No surprises in the line-up. Roncaglia at right back was dubious last time, but it's forced on the club this time, with the injury to Kondogbia, Coquelin still not fully fit and Soler suspended, meaning Wass is the only central midfielder available.


A great start for Valencia, winning an early penalty with a blatant foul on Guedes. Parejo stepped up with the pressure of a missed penalty last game on his shoulders. Sadly, it was fairly predictable that he would go for his favoured side of right of the keeper, where he usually goes, given that his attempt to switch sides last time didn't work. Saved. Luckily, Guedes followed up quickly to slot home. Valencia's only chance after that was a great cross from Ferran to Gameiro, who did excellently to create space with 2 defenders on him, but his shot was still blocked.

35th minute, Garay, who has had a below par game so far, gave away a stupid penalty to let them equalise and right now, they look more likely to score. Here's hoping for a better second half.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Rayo Vallecano 2-0 Valencia

Valencia goes to Vallecas today to try and finish an excellent week by winning and getting into the Champions league places, at least temporarily, for the first time this season. With a Europa league game coming up on Thursday there are, as expected a few changes.


Garay gets rested in favour of the returning Paulista. Wass gets a break and, with Piccini out, Roncaglia starts there instead. He's only played once there this season, so this is a bit of a gamble. Cheryshev and Ferran start instead of Guedes and Soler, with Mina in instead of Gameiro. Parejo's yellow card in the last game was rescinded after the club's appeal. Not sure that's a totally good thing. This is one of the easier remaining games and it might have been better for him to sit this one out and reset his yellow card counter than be missing for a future important game.

Rayo have danger men like the Real Madrid loanee De Thomas, but the club is in the middle of an awful run: last week's home draw with Betis is the only point they've got in the last 9 games. If Valencia wants Champions league, it's imperative that we win games like this.

===============
A poor first half. Valencia did put a couple of good balls through for Ferran. In the first he shot wide when he might have tried to find Rodrigo and in the second he was closed down by the goalkeeper. There was a warning shot soon after. Parejo dawdled on the ball instead of clearing it, got robbed and their shot was just wide. This is something that's crept into our game in recent matches: we get overconfident around the box instead of just getting the ball out of danger and it was to prove costly.

A few minutes later, Rodrigo was brought down in the box. Parejo hit one of the worst penalties I've seen in ages. No power and too close to the keeper. A great chance to lead wasted. Soon after came exactly what I'm talking about, Diakhaby took too long on the ball got robbed and Paulista lost his man, De Thomas (I did say he was the danger man) who put them ahead. Valencia only created one attack after that, a break away with 5 facing 3 defenders, but as usual screwed it up. A much better second half needed....

================
….but it didn't come. Passing really poor and imprecise. We lacked definition and any attacking threat. Parejo had one of the best chances after a one-two with Gameiro but shot straight at the keeper. Guedes was fairly lively after coming on, but his shot was unable to beat the keeper and when he found Gameiro, the latter, as so often happens this season, was offside. Rayo actually looked more likely to score but fluffed a couple of counter attacks. However, at the end, they sent a cross in, Paulista, for the second time, screwed up with Neto pulling off a great save. It was all for nothing, though, as Rayo scored from one of the resulting corners.

After doing the hard part of beating Sevilla and Real Madrid it's a sickener to lose to a team that hadn't won since January, with Valencia's 16-game unbeaten run ending tamely with a whimper.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Valencia - Real Madrid match thread

This is a late kick-off on a week night, so the best I can do is put up a placeholder for people to comment on.

Like the last game, this is a crucial one. Getafe drew last night so we can move a point behind them with a win. But looking the other way, Bilbao are a goal up against Levante with 20 minutes left and will move level with us on points. Simply, Valencia *must* win this one (and all remaining home games) to have any hope of top four. It's doable. Real struggled against Huesca in the last game and we've beaten them in two of the last four games at Mestalla.

Paulista, unfortunately, has picked up a knock so the only change for this game is in defence. I'm a little surprised that Diakhaby has been chosen rather than the more experienced Roncaglia, but hopefully it will worl and we get the three points.

----

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Sevilla 0-1 Valencia

Valencia achieve a key victory at the difficult stadium of a hated rival, achieving "il sorpasso" - overtaking them in the process due to a better head to head record. No mean feat when you remember that the week before Christmas, Sevilla were 12 points ahead of us.

The team's better form this year has been helped by a short injury list. Jaume, Piccini and Coquelin were the only absentees today, meaning we were able to select a strong team.


I thought Marcelino might have been tempted to play Gabriel on the right to counter the threat of Promes, but it was a straightforward enough line-up, and the first choice pairing of Gabriel-Garay had a good game.

Sevilla got out of the blocks quickest and had us under pressure in the first 10 minutes, but after weathering the storm Valencia controlled most of the rest of the half. Disappointingly nothing much came of it. Soler had an excellent moment, beating 2 defenders and sending the ball across the box but all the players were waiting for a pull back. When a similar chance arrived later in the half, the players were instead attacking the 6-yard box when the ball was pulled back (!) The team also screwed up a couple of breakaways. In one of them, Gameiro dawdled too long and the chance went and the second, in the second half, saw a 3 on 2 break, but Rodrigo took the wrong option of passing to Gameiro and his return pass was deflected just past Parejo.

One of several things I didn't like, and I've complained about this before, is that the team seems almost afraid to have a pot shot from distance. We have players like Guedes, Parejo and Kondogbia up against a rookie goalkeeper, a third choice making his debut and our first shot on target is our goal? Seriously?

The goal came from an excellent cross field pass by Parejo, with Banega bringing down Gaya for a clear penalty which Parejo easily converted.


The first half had seen Wass get owned by Promes and Guedes by Navas, and it was the latter that went off at half-time. Good decision I thought. Valencia's best chance of the second half came from a strong shot by Gameiro from outside the box, precisely the sort of thing we needed to see more of.

There's not a lot of good things that can be said about our second half performance. At times it felt like the players had been told not to put more than 2 passes together. We constantly lost the ball, failed to keep composure and suffered from it. There was one ridiculous moment when Cheryshev got the ball on the left and with only one attacker up, still chose to try and find him rather than waste some time holding it up in the corner until support arrived.

Sevilla made some mystifying substitutions. Amadou and Promes, both of whom had done well were taken off quite early. There was some controversy late on with 2 heart-stopping moments when the ref paused things to check if Sevilla should have a penalty, but both were waved away. I didn't see why Sevilla were so livid about the second: both players tangled in a 50/50.

Not sure we deserved the 3 points from that, but it's a huge result, especially with Getafe and Alaves losing and Betis drawing and we are now just 3 points off Getafe, on whom we have a better head to head.

Here are the final fixtures for teams ranked 4th to 9th: