Sunday, January 21, 2018

UD Las Palmas 2-1 Valencia CF Match Report

Valencia CF was handed their fourth defeat of the season today against Las Palmas. This was familiar opposition as Valencia played in two legs against Las Palmas in the Copa del Rey which ended 1-1 away and 4-0 at home. Before this game, Las Palmas was flat at the bottom of the table, with the most goals conceded. This slip was again made worse by the fact that Atletico Madrid, despite being held back to a draw earlier in the day, still gained a point advantage over us. We're still at a great standing in the league, but the game was a massive disappointment.

Before I get into the game, I want to talk about the lineup.

The forward and defense lines are something we've seen recently with the exception of Gaya being replaced by Lato due to suspension. The midfield was a strange one, with both Kondogbia and Coquelin featuring. While Parejo is absent due to suspension, those 2 players are meant to rotate the same CDM position. Looking at it before the game, I thought that we were going to lack creativity from the central midfield and that was indeed the case. As for the wingers, usually at least one of Pereria or Guedes would start but we got to see Nacho Gil and Maksimovic, both of whom have impressed the coaching staff in recent game, start together. 

You couldn't have guessed what was going to happen later in the game by watching the first 5 minutes. That's all the time it took for Valencia to find the back of the net. There were two similar corners, delivered by Nacho Gil, the first dealt with by the opposing defense but the second one beating them completely and headed in by Santi Mina. Valencia's early dominance would continue with Santi Mina being set up for a one on one against the keeper, who would get a touch on his shot but the ball would keep it's motion only to hit the post. Unlucky not to score. 

The first 10 minutes would also feature many tackles by Las Palmas in an attempt to press us off the ball. The referee stopped the game so many times in quick succession and the flow of the game was often stopped. After the goal though, we would lose control over the game and Las Palmas would put together attacking move after move. Viera would start a move and make an unmarked darting run into the box. The ball was lifted into the center, met by Calleri who found Viera's run who blasted the ball into the net from point-blank range between Neto's outstretched arms. In the next five minutes, both Lato and Vezo earned yellow cards. 

With the remaining first half being more of the same, I thought we would bounce back in the second half as we normally do. It was more dominance from Las Palmas and it would become worse very soon. Fifty second minute, a Las Palmas ball struck Paulista's outstretched elbow and the referee calls for a penalty and books him with a yellow card. Paulista gets up in the referee's face and starts complaining about the decision for quite a while and the referee gets fed up and send him off. A goal behind from Calleri's penalty and a man down against a team that has dominated us for most of the game. Again, you could argue with these that sometimes they're not given or that it's too harsh to give a penalty and send a player off but that's the way it went. The last 30 minutes of the game would see Montoya, Neto, Zaza (from the sideline), Vezo and Coquelin get booked. Of course, that meant a second yellow for Vezo as well who was shown a red card. 

Valencia did step up in the final minutes of the game and put together some good moves but it was to no avail. Guedes, Vietto and Zaza were all brought on after the 2nd goal but none could influence the game enough to score. The second sending off killed off the game and even with 4 added minutes everybody knew it was going to be a Las Palmas win. 

0-1 Santi Mina, 5'
1-1 Viera, 20'
2-1 Calleri (pen.), 53'

Neto 3 - Caught off guard for the first goal but it was shot right between his arms, maybe could've done better. Half-dove for the penalty then frozen.
Montoya 5 - A decent performance, generally covered well in the three man defense after Paulista's red card and then the two-man defense with Vezo off.
Paulista 0.5 - Last second challenge saved us from a possible Las Palmas goal, but cost us the game by running his mouth at the referee. He's one of the more experienced players in the lineup and shouldn't throw the game with one silly moment. Also, barely jumped to contest the ball into the box in the lead-up to the first goal.
Vezo 3 - Didn't track Viera's run from his side for the first goal. He did get sent off, but it was a bit harsh and the Las Palmas player was making the most of it. 
Lato 4 - Should've done more defensively for the first goal, he was left in the dust by Viera. Tactical foul to stop a dangerous Las Palmas counter attack
Nacho Gil 6 - great corner assist for the first goal, put in a lot of effort out there.
Kondogbia 5 - solid in the midfield but the lack of creativity is due to the lineup wouldn't blame him
Coquelin 4.5 - great work rate, helped out the defense when needed
Maksimovic 5 - worked hard out there offensively and defensively, his creativity didn't have a chance to show as we were constantly being pressed
Rodrigo 3.5 - barely noticed he was out there, but then again the offense didn't have much work to or supply
Santi Mina 6 - took his chance and scored following Nacho Gil's corner

Some of the changes could have been due to the Copa game mid-week in mind. Marcelino seems really intent on getting us to Copa Final. However, there was a lot of silliness out there. We had a similar number of fouls (they had 19, we had 15) but a disproportionate number of bookings (they had 2, we had 11 of which 2 resulted in players sent off and 1 just off the sideline for kicking away a loss ball). We were missing both Gaya and Parejo due to suspensions but we keep picking up more bookings. We're third in the league, not only in position, but in number of yellow cards (61) and are tied at top for number of red cards (4). This is definitely an issue. 

Our next game is the 2nd leg of the Copa del Rey quarter finals against Alaves. We have a good advantage from the first game which finished 2-1 at home. They have an away goal but we lead on aggregate. The first leg was close and we were rescued by Rodrigo's goal and a red card but the win will not be straightforward. I am optimistic for that game though and it would be a great boost to make the semi-finals. 

Let us know your thoughts on the game? Are bookings an issue for us? Who impressed? Who disappointed? All comments and opinions are welcome and appreciated.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Deportivo Coruña 1-2 Valencia

With Atletico Madrid winning and Villarreal springing a surprise victory at Real Madrid, the pressure was on us to get a result here and the team responded with a mostly decent performance to land three points.

The line-up provided a few surprises.

New signing Coquelin started, with Maksimovic at right midfield. Up front there was full rotation, with neither Vietto nor Zaza starting and Rodrigo and Mina taking their place. Another notable selection was at right back, with Vezo playing there instead of Montoya or Vidal. Vidal was absent from the squad completely and has clearly lost Marcelino's trust.

The first half was a fairly even affair, with neither side creating many chances. Depor adopted the same tactics most teams take against us. Putting men behind the ball when we have possession and targeting our right back. They nearly scored in the 12th minute from a corner, though it would have been by luck. Their player missed a header, with the ball bouncing off his shoulder and on to the crossbar. Our main chances came from an active Guedes. In the 26th minute, he hit an excellent curling shot which the keeper did well to stop going in the top corner. Shortly after, he shot just over. After Depor having most of the best of the 25 minutes, Valencia exerted more control, passing the ball around patiently. A good move featuring Maksimovic on the right could have resulted in a penalty, as their player slipped and handled the ball when falling, but the ref judged it accidental. He was probably right, but we've had those given against us.

Not to be outdone, Valencia took the lead due to good play by the forward three. Mina made a driving run, beating 2 Depor defenders, then finding his way blocked, wisely decided to pass to Rodrigo, who found Guedes in space and his shot beat the keeper, who should have done better. Depor headed just over soon after, but it was advantage Valencia at half time.

The second half was mostly even, with Valencia defending solidly and looking more likely to score on the counter. Guedes was having a great game and was leading a counter when he was fouled for a yellow. But unfortunately, Parejo picked up a yellow soon after and will miss the next game. Valencia doubled their lead in the 64th minute with the same front three involved. Great persistence from Mina, robbing the ball, finding Guedes who passed to Rodrigo and the latter's shot was deflected past the keeper.

It looked more likely that Valencia would wrap it up by adding a third and the team tried. Rodrigo headed wide, Guedes shot wide.... it just didn't happen. Marcelino changed the front two bringing on Vietto and Zaza. Despite Zaza's knee problem being clear again, he added to the attack and was unlucky not to hit the target.

It should have been game over but the team nearly threw it away with a shaky last five minutes. A cross from our right side should have been dealt with by someone including Neto. It looked like Garay was pushed, but either way, Depor had pulled a goal back and we looked vulnerable. With three minutes of added time it was nervy. Adrián should have scored when put through, but one-on-one with Neto, shot over the bar. Then there was a last minute which I just didn't understand. Valencia had the ball at the side of their box with Vietto. Instead of just holding it up, we passed it around, lost possession and conceded a corner, which fortunately they couldn't do anything with.

With the exception of that last period, this was a decent game, we should have put it to bed and I'm still not convinced by any forward two which doesn't feature Zaza. For all that, three points at a difficult stadium gives us our first away league win since 19 November, which was also the last time we won three in a row. Valencia ends the first half of the season in an excellent position, third, 8 pts ahead of R.Madrid (who have a game in hand), 9 ahead of fifth-placed Villarreal with Sevilla a full 11 pts behind and under pressure to win tomorrow's game. A great first half of the season and credit to all involved.

Neto 5 - not a lot to do, but didn't shine
Vezo 6 - had some problems and was targeted but made no glaring mistakes
Garay 7.5 - very good game, was dominant on the ground and in the air
Gabriel 7 - really solid game, cutting out dangerous moves when needed
Gaya 6.5 - the attacking on the left was mostly left to Guedes, but he was defensively sound
Maksimovic 7 - things are going to get competitive now in midfield but he really stepped up for this game, contributing well in an unfamiliar right midfield position and deserves more games
Coquelin 5.5 - quiet game, didn't notice him much, no mistakes but neither was as dominant as Kondogbia is, too early to form any opinion
Parejo 6.5 - the usual controlling performance, there were a couple of times when he nearly got caught in possession but he came out of it well
Guedes 8.5 - excellent game, was our main attacking threat and was back a number of times to help out in defence
Rodrigo 7 - did well, linking up well with the midfield and got his first league goal since November. Is now the team's top scorer this season with eleven goals.
Mina 6.5 - under pressure due to the arrival of the new forward, but had a good game, worked hard and was involved in both goals

Vietto 5.5 - had limited chances with the team defending its lead, but continued to look a handy addition and could have had a penalty near the end
Zaza 6 - put in hard work as always despite his knee condition flaring up again
Montoya N/A - limited involvement, but nothing negative

Deportivo vs Valencia CF Match Preview

Valencia CF just finished the signing of Francis Coquelin from Arsenal FC and the player has already been put on the squad list to face Deportivo La Coruna. Coquelin is replacing Kondogbia in the squad who's unavailable and might even get his first start as well. I reckon we are going to see Maksimovic and Parejo in midfield, though you never know and Marcelino might even start Coquelin, though I must say that would be a surprise, especially after Maksimovic had some good games recently.

These days every match is a must win match and the players need to get into a winning mentality, where the team has to win every single match, has to beat every opponent facing them. Deportivo La Coruna are going to be a tricky opponent, and its never easy against these types of teams, but I am expecting a 2-0 win here or something comfortable along those lines.

While we are at new players Vietto had an amazing start to his loan move here, scoring 3 goals on his debut for Valencia CF, especially after a long haul being goalless. Will that amazing display grant him a starting place in tonight's match or will Marcelino take it slow with him and go with the standard starting eleven of Zaza and Moreno? Will be fun to find out who gets to start, certainly a few starting dilemmas for the coach, but that is a good problem to have!

Valencia CF squad:
GK: Neto, Jaume
DEF: Montoya, Garay, Vezo, Gabriel, Gaya, Lato
MID: Coquelin, Maksimović, Parejo, Nacho Gil, Guedes, Ferran Torres
ATT: Zaza, Rodrigo, Vietto, Santi Mina

Friday, January 12, 2018

Copa del Rey draw

The draw has just been made and here it is

Valencia got the best draw possible: Alavés, avoiding last season's top four, exactly as Marcelino wanted. We should be favourites for this one, though it's a shame that Barcelona and the Madrids all avoided each other. The first leg will be at Mestalla on 17 January, with the return leg on the 24th.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Francis Coquelin joins Valencia CF

Arsenal FC midfielder Francis Coquelin joins Valencia CF on an initial 6 months loan deal, and as I understand a must buy option in the summer for around 13 million euros. Francis Coquelin has barely featured for Arsenal FC, especially this and last season and while he has been rather good when fit and playing, due to injury or cards or tactical decision he's been unable to provide a consistent performance one way or another.

Personally looking at it from a purely sporting perspective I think its a great move, masterful move to significantly strengthen our midfield and provide a lot of cover and options. My big worry is that we have to pay 13 million for this guy in the summer, where is that money going to come from and how can we afford Kondogbia if we are paying 13/14 million for this guy, paying another Zaza installment, another Murillo installment and possibly buying Vietto?

My big worry is that they've decided they can't get Kondogiba, that its too much money and as such they are securing this move right now in order to have a ready replacement in the summer and say hey we can't afford Kondogbia, but we will buy Francis Coquelin instead, so everything is a-okay!

This is my big worry. Becaue again, how can they afford Kondogbia(25m), Francis(13m), Zaza(6m), Murillo(3.5m), Vietto (13m), lets not even talk about Guedes(40m). Valencia CF will need to spend 61 million to get all of the above players minus Guedes or without Kondogiba that would be 36 million euros.

The only possibility is that we sell Rodrigo Moreno, he still has some decent market value and has been doing well this season, so maybe reach 12-13m for him, use that money to fund Vietto, hopefully sell Cancelo for maybe 20 million euros if his price keeps falling and fund Kondogbia, sell Nani and get 7-9 million euros and in installments pay for Francis Coquelin.

Will have to watch closely and see what happens, so far in terms of sporting transfers I like it a lot, I think this guy has a huge talent and can be a great player if he doesn't end up injured and is given some consistency in playing time. Vietto is also a good move sporting wise, again the issue here is money, if Valencia CF had 100 million euros in the bank just laying around I would buy all these players. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Valencia 4-0 Las Palmas (Copa del rey)

After a 1-1 draw in the first leg, it was advantage Valencia, due to the away goal. Nonetheless, the team didn't take it easy, producing one of their best performances in a while to continue a good start to this year, with Vietto the second Valencia player this season to score a hat-trick.

With a fairly intensive schedule this month, Marcelino went for

giving a first start to Vietto, with players such as Neto, Garay, Parejo, Rodrigo and Guedes rested. Las Palmas in contrast went for almost full rotation, changing 9 players, clearly making a strategic decision to focus on league survival rather than the cup.

More often than not, Valencia get going more in the second half. This wasn't the case here as we had an excellent first half, controlling the game, creating numerous chances and unlucky not to be several goals ahead. Pereira cut inside the 6th minute and his pull back was shot wide by Gil. In the 16th minute, Kondogbia made a good recovery in the centre and his ball forward eventually landed at Vietto, who powered a shot just over. Minutes later, Zaza showing his quality, recovering the ball, holding it up then finding an intelligent run by Gil, who was unable to beat the keeper one on one. 20th minute, Lato's cross found Zaza who sent it just wide. Valencia had started brilliantly, doing everything except score.

The nerves were calmed a bit in the 29th minute, with a counter-attack featuring Gil, Vietto and Zaza, ending with Zaza's attempted diving header being rifled into the roof of the net by Vietto for a deserved lead. Las Palmas pushed forward a bit more after that, but Kondogbia and Maksimovic did a good job of covering the defence, while Vezo marked Calleri out of the game, with the latter forced to push Vezo over just before half time to get the ball in the net. Rightly disallowed.

Any disappointments at the lack of goals in the first period were soon put to rest. Pereira linked up well on the right and his centre was met with a good first touch from Vietto who lifted it over the keeper for his second goal. Nacho Gil was unlucky to get a third, as he had been all game. Instead it was Maksimovic who got it, scoring his first goal for the club and a super one too, a screamer from outside the area. Unluckily for him, it would be overshadowed by an even better goal. The Las Palmas keeper had come out to intercept Zaza, but was still rushing back when Vietto lobbed him from the centre circle for a memorable hat-trick which showcased all his skills. A goal that rivals Guedes' first goal against Sevilla for goal of the season.

Las Palmas were well beaten and their efforts after that came to nothing, with Valencia looking the more likely to score. Las Palmas may not have been at their best, but Valencia certainly were. A very solid performance which continues a good week, as R.Madrid and our more likely rivals Sevilla and Villarreal all slipped up last weekend. Marcelino said that if we keep winning we'll finish top four. Play like this and that won't be in doubt.

Jaume 6 - possibly the most disappointed player as he had little chance to show his skills
Montoya 7 - one of his best games in a while, would be great for us if he could play like this more often
Vezo 6.5 - marked well and was there to cut out when needed
Gabriel 6 - like the keeper, quiet game when he didn't have much to do, but did it well when he had to
Lato 7.5 - has been in good form lately and this was a strong defensive performance, with assistance in attack in addition
Nacho Gil 6.5 - had a good game and could have had a hat-trick, really proving his worth to the team
Maksimovic 7.5 - got a chance to show what he could do and take it, scoring a great goal, deserves more minutes and with Kondogbia suspended for the next game, should get them.
Kondogbia 7.5 - solid and consistent as ever, with good recoveries and passing
Pereira 7 - good game but..... could do with being less selfish. That said, always an attacking threat and good assist for the second goal.
Zaza 8 - was really back to his best. Unlucky not to get on the score sheet but did everything besides that, even popping up in defence a couple of times at the end.
Vietto 10 - as I mentioned in a previous post, he's been on our radar for nearly 4 years and so far has proved worth the wait. Will be starter if he keeps this up.

Parejo 7 - I'd have let him rest for the league, but this was a comfortable and confident performance as usual.
Rodrigo 5 - wasn't involved much after coming on, as the game was in the bag and he looked a bit sluggish
Ferran 6 - continues to look a good prospect for the future

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Valencia 2-1 Girona

Three points and a much better performance but still not quite back to the level that we saw up until the end of October so this is one that leaves mixed emotions, as it was not quite the resounding start to 2018 that we were hoping for.

With Montoya and Zaza suspended, Nacho Vidal and Mina got a start and a chance to stake their place for a claim in the starting line-up, which neither would take.

Apart from that, Gabriel being preferred instead of Vezo was the only other selection of note.

The opening part saw both teams have chances. Neto saved low down from a corner, while Guedes had a shot just wide. Poor defending saw Girona take the lead. Both Vidal and Pereira were unable to handle Mojica in the corner and neither Garay nor Gabriel picked up the former Valencianista Portu who planted a header past an all-too-static Neto. A poor goal to concede and the sensation was reminiscent of last season's Valencia rather than the one that had an eight-game winning streak this season.

Luckily, the goal galvanised Valencia, who dominated the half after that. Gayà and Guedes proved a particular threat, linking up well on the left and it was from that side that the equaliser came. Mina found Guedes, who dribbled well on the left to create space. His attempted centre would have probably gone wide, but the defender deflected it past the keeper to give us a deserved leveller.

Valencia should have been ahead before half-time. Firstly, a good header from Paulista was saved well, then Rodrigo was denied a clear penalty after being fouled by the keeper. Just before the half ended, Guedes got clear on the by-line but was unable to find our forwards with the pull-back.

Having deserved to be ahead at half-time, Valencia took the lead just after half-time and the decision also looked questionable. Gayà had made a great run to the by-line and was fouled, but it looked like he was outside the field of play when fouled, which should have been a drop-ball and possible caution for the defender under the rules. The decisions evened out, but it would be best if these refs just got it right first time. Parejo slotted home for what would prove to be the winner.

While Girona made more effort after that, it was Valencia that would have deserved a fourth goal of the game more. Guedes broke and found Rodrigo for a half chance in the 52nd minute, but the latter dragged his shot wide. Shortly after that, it was Rodrigo who turned provider, latching on to Mina's header and centring the ball back for Mina, who was just unable to get on the end of it.

Girona also had their chance, Mojica forcing a good save from Neto at his near post and later, Stuani's header being saved well in similar fashion. Despite all that, it was Valencia who still looked the more likely to add a goal, though it was not to be. Rodrigo and subs Maksimovic and Vietto were all unable to score half chances to put the game to bed and a scrappy climax ended with Valencia running out winners.

Girona have shown themselves to be no pushovers this season and are a top ten side for a reason, but this game highlighted the fact that more effort is needed to maintain us in our current position.

Neto 6 - too static for the goal, a worrying feature of his game we've seen at times this season, but redeemed himself with good stops later on
Vidal 4.5 - has been one of the season's biggest letdowns. Began the season as a player tipped for better things but below par performances have pushed him out of the running. Got owned today and it was no surprise to see him subbed off.
Garay 6.5 - could be questioned for the goal, but overall had a good game, cutting out their attacks
Gabriel 5.5 - after a disappointing first half, grew into the game later and was unlucky not to get his first goal
Gayà 7.5 - a very solid performance, looking good in defence and combining well with Guedes in attack
Guedes 8 - was back to his best today, always looked a creative threat
Parejo 7 - a comfortable and commanding midfield display, passing and recovering well throughout
Kondogbia 6.5 - good game overall, sceening the defence and helping out when needed
Pereira 5.5 - wasn't able to make the most of his opportunities
Rodrigo 5.5 - made a decent effort but it just didn't happen for him
Mina 5 - had his moments after an invisible first period but was unable to make his mark

Vezo 5.5 - an improvement on Vidal, even though it's not his natural position
Vietto 6 - good debut, was passing and linking up well and unlucky not to score
Maksimovic 6 - has quality and definitely deserves more minutes


Valencia CF vs Girona Match Preview

We all hoped that Valencia CF would start the new year in winning fashion, returning to the top form that led the team to second position in the table, but that chance was scrambled with a weak draw in the Copa del rey against Las Palmas. Don't get me wrong the result itself is actually in favor of Valencia CF, managing a draw with one goal scored away from home is a good position to be in for the return leg, but the issue was that the play just wasn't there and Valencia CF just did not look like it could score and we were on the back foot for most of the match. It wasn't until the 65th minute when the team actually started playing and in time we managed to equalize the result and get away with a draw.

The team just hasn't been the same for over a month now to the team that easily climbed to second position on the table and actually went head to head with Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, easily dispatched Sevilla, and so on... Valencia CF coach Marcelino and the players need to react and this match gives them the perfect opportunity to do so. Valencia CF needs a win here in order to continue the Champions league run, otherwise a loss here would severely wound Valencia CF and when the others smell blood they are going to go for the kill every time against Valencia CF.

Good news is that we have acquired Vietto on a 6 months loan deal, with the options to purchase the player in the summer for a reported fee of about 13 million euros. With the issues we've had with injuries and the lack of goals scored for some time now, this should alleviate some of the issues and provide Marelino with more options, especially as Andreas Pereira hasn't celebrated himself with his performances, nor did we have a proper substitute for Guedes. Marcelino has relied on few of the youth players to provide cover, but that hasn't worked out so well and its clear that they need more time to be ready for the first team.
The cover options have been limited to us and when we've had injuries or when some of the first team have been out of form we've had no one to properly substitute for them and provide the same level of skill.

Valencia CF squad:
GK: Neto, Jaume
DEF: Nacho Vidal, Vezo, Garay, Gabriel, Lato, Gaya
MID: Andreas, Kondogbia, Maksimovic, Parejo, Ferran Torres, Nacho Gil, Guedes
ATT: Mina, Vietto, Rodrigo

Technical Details Valencia CF (probable setups):
Formation: 4-4-2
Line-up: Neto; Vidal, Garay, Vezo, Gaya; Andreas, Kondogbia, Parejo, Guedes; Moreno, Vietto
Tactics: Low defensive line, own half pressure, fast tempo pressing, mixed style passing, winged attacks, counter attacks