Sunday, May 31, 2020

Garay explains his position

Garay has just released an emotional video on Instagram (here, in Spanish) in which he explains his side of his contract renewal situation.

He claims that the assertion that he refused a decent sized salary is false, with the only offer made during the Marcelino time and substantially less than what he currently receives. He says that he has always wanted to renew with the exception being for a short period of a few weeks after Marcelino's sacking when he wanted to see how things would develop.

He says that since his injury, the club has made no new offers, apart from suggesting that if he took a bigger salary cut than the rest of the squad this would help his case.

He looks very stressed, really annoyed and at one point, on the verge of tears, saying that he's sick of being misrepresented on this issue.

Despite all that, clubs generally look really unfavourably on such uses of social media, so I would say that this had definitely sealed his fate and he has kicked his last ball in a Valencia shirt.

The question now is who replaces him. The club's defensive planning has been poor for some time. Given his vulnerability to injuries, having 4 defenders has clearly not been enough and there have been various times during the last few seasons when other players have had to plug the gap, Coquelin most notably. The signing of the even more injury prone Mangala just made things worse and this is clearly one of several areas where the club needs to invest in. They also need to blood a fifth defender (Javi Jimenez?) who can step in when needed.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Valencia's mid (or end of?) season ratings

It's slow times for news. We continue to be linked speculatively with targets old and new Jose Callejon, Nahuel Bustos, Musacchio etc and with possible returns (Guaita, Neto, Silva.) At the moment it looks more likely than not that La Liga will be played to a finish with a target date of 12 June and very late kick off times for climate reasons (11pm anyone?) In the meantime here are the player ratings for the season so far

CILLESSEN 3: Most of us viewed the swap positively at the time, seeing him as a slight upgrade on Neto. Though he has produced some decent saves in some games (at Chelsea, for example) he's way below the level needed and is a prime candidate for a summer exit. A disappointing signing. 

JAUME 3.5: Many of our fans, especially those from in and around Valencia,  rave over him and I never get why. Almost all our heaviest defeats this season have come with him between the sticks (four goals conceded to Atlanta (twice) and Mallorca, conceding 3 to Getafe (twice), Osasuna and Sociedad) while he isn't fully culpable given defensive issues this is a clear sign that he certainly shouldn't be our number 1 going forward. An okay back-up keeper but nothing more.

GAYA 6.5: A decent enough season while not hitting the heights he's capable of. His decision making can be suspect at times.

COSTA 4: Lato wanted to leave in search of more game time which he didn't get so he came in. Has been ok in a few games but lacks the quality to be more than a stop gap.

DIAKHABY 2.5: last season looked like a diamond in the rough with some good defensive performances allowing us to overlook his bad habits. Like Cillessen he hasn't been irredeemably awful, with a few decent performances (away to Ajax, for example) to boast of. But those have been easily overshadowed by his many failings, especially in European games, and habits of giving away stupid penalties. The knives are out.

MANGALA 2: He arrived on a free transfer. The positives end there. Most of the time injured and when he does play, you almost wish he'd stayed injured.

GARAY 5.5: A decent and experienced defender, but looks to be past his best and that's even before we get to the elephant in the room: he's always injured. I'd be happy enough to say bye and wish him all the best.

PAULISTA 6.5: with his experience and relative lack of injuries, he's the best defender we have but needs to curb his idiotic outbursts of temper. We saw it a few seasons ago against Las Palmas and again this year at Ajax.

PICCINI (no rating) : probably easy to forget, but he did play the first two games. Another victim of Valencia's injury curse.

FLORENZI 4: looked decent in his first game but then only played three more, getting sent off in one of them and being sub in the other two. Was tempted to give him no rating as he just hasn't played enough to make a judgement.

THIERRY: 1.5: Unbelievably, Mangala wasn't our worst signing. That honour goes to this guy and he wasn't free either, the club squandered 12 million to land him. Way, way short of the level needed.

WASS 6: Never amazing, but a solid utility player who has clocked up the second highest number of minutes in the squad and chipped in a crucial goal (even if it was a fluke) at home to Chelsea.

GUEDES 3: As I said in a previous post, a typical Guedes season at Valencia sees him look like Ronaldo reborn for 2 months, Aderlan Santos reborn for 3 months and injured the other 4 months. This season all we've got are the last two. Needs to step up or be sold.

KANG-IN 3.5: Did get his first senior goal (vs Getafe) but has otherwise looked a bit lost. Clearly needs a loan to get the minutes necessary.

CHERYSHEV 4.5: shades of Guedes, has obvious quality but way too inconsistent and spends far too much time on the sidelines injured.

PAREJO 6.5: Always a controversial player. I think he's had a decent enough season, and the club clearly miss him when he is absent, but he is inconsistent, and we haven't even mentioned the penalty misses.

COQUELIN 7: a solid season undermined only by injuries and bouts of ill-discipline. A good player to have on the team.

KONDOGBIA 4.5: there's been talk of interest from England and it may be time to cash in. After a terrific first season he's been a letdown, with special moments like the goal against Lille the exception amidst injuries and average performances.

SOLER 5.5: injuries and coaches' habits of playing him out of position (hint: he isn't a left winger) have stopped him reaching his potential.

ESQUERDO (no rating): the constant injuries have pushed him to the fringes of the first team but in 3 brief appearances there's been nothing to suggest that he will be any more than an afterthought in the mould of past holders of this role like Tropi, Rober etc

VALLEJO 4.5: has looked a decent and handy player at times, with a key equaliser in injury time at Valladolid, but the left wing where he usually plays is well stocked so it's hard to see where his minutes are coming from.

FERRAN 8.5: big breakout season with too many great performances to list. Unfortunately, it looks likely to be his swansong. With contract negotiations dragging on without success and his contract running out in June next year, I could hardly blame the club if they cashed in their chips rather than risk him leaving for nothing.

SOBRINO 2.5: Would you believe he played in 14 games this season? That stat is misleading as nine of them saw him coming in as a very late sub, in five cases he played just a minute. Like his predecessor, Celades clearly lacks confidence in him and you can't blame him, as Sobrino looks out of his depth. A brilliant debut at Celtic last season was clearly a fluke. A key equaliser vs Sevilla notwithstanding, not good enough. 

RODRIGO 5.5: one of the two most controversial players in the team. Supporters point to his many assists: 11 in 28 games. Critics point out that he's supposed to be scoring goals and 5 in 28 is a poor return, though that does include critical away goals in Europe. Few would argue with selling him if an offer of 40 million or more came in.

GAMEIRO 4.5: an ok third striker, but again his scoring rate is just not good enough: 7 in 29, though half those have been as sub. He was 33 last week and has to be a candidate to be moved on.

MAXI 6.5: decent enough debut season (let's forget Chelsea at the Mestalla) where he's got to double figures. If La Liga does return, 15 goals would be the target. 

CELADES 4.5: came in under very controversial circumstances. With expectations low, he's done better than many expected: qualification from a tough group in the Champions league the jewel in the crown as well as some wins over traditionally tricky opponents such as Bilbao and Eibar. Big question marks remain. Injuries have almost always handicapped him, but how much of those injuries are on him? What's his playing style or philosophy? A major concern is that, under him, the defence has taken a definite step backwards. Hasn't done enough wrong to merit a summer replacement (though with an owner like Lim, who knows?) so should be in the bench next season, but needs to improve if he wants to be in the hot seat beyond the end of this year.

THE SEASON 4: The first game at home to Sociedad was definitely a sign of things to come. Missing a penalty in the 93rd minute, then gifting them a penalty in the 98th to throw away 2 points highlighted a major problem of Valencia: penalties. We miss too many and concede too many, easily the highest in La Liga over the last 4 seasons. Wins at Chelsea and Ajax to secure a first last 16 CL place in 7 years was a sweet moment, but then drawing the relatively weakest team and getting owned in both legs soured it and showed that the club still has a long way to go if it wants to play with the big boys. Constant injuries have highlighted the need for a squad revamp, as there are too many fragile players. The sacking of Marcelino was a worrying development. It showed that Lim can't just leave well alone and the owner-driven signings of Thierry and Mangala on Mendes' advice is an unwelcome return to the bad old days. If the season does resume, getting to top four looks unlikely, the team would need to show much more consistency than they showed pre-lockdown.

Thanks for reading and as always, your comments are appreciated.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

The future after Covid19

La Liga's two-week shutdown has been extended indefinitely and given the situation in Spain, it's hard to see any resumption in the near future. If it does happen, it will likely see games played behind closed doors.

Various options have been discussed for the future. These include:

1) Cancel and void the season.
From a Valencia perspective, this has superficial appeal. This season has been so-so by Valencia standards with the constant injuries preventing any consistency. VCF are the only La Liga team that hasn't fielded an unchanged line-up in consecutive games. The team sits outside the Champions league places in 7th and while the team is only 4 points off fourth, it has never shown the ability to string together the series of results needed to overcome its rivals, making top 4 seem unlikely. Cancelling the season and starting again, with Valencia in the Champions league, sounds appealing, but it would be with the same seeding as last year. meaning another tricky group and wiping out the coefficient points that we gained with the heroics at Ajax and Chelsea. The biggest problem with this would be money. TV companies would undoubtedly demand their money back for an incomplete season and since that money has already been paid in salaries and running costs it would create huge financial issues for the majority of La Liga clubs. For that reason, this option is one that authorities are seeking to avoid.

2) End the season with the current standings.
This was another option discussed and is one that the Belgian league has taken. However, UEFA responded by threatening their clubs with expulsion from European competitions, which shows that it's an option they want to avoid. It's also inevitable that that would see a slew of legal cases, given how close La Liga is. Sure. it would be fun to see Getafe miss out on the Champions league by goals scored, but Real Madrid would miss out on the title by 2 points, Atletico Madrid on Champions league by 1 point, Mallorca and Leganes relegated, despite being only a win away from safety, while our European hopes would depend on whether Sociedad won the cup. For those reasons, this isn't going to happen.

3) A play-off system to decide the title, Europe and relegation.
An option suggested several times. But since no one can agree who would qualify for such a play-off system (top 2? top 4? top 8? 2-legged or one-legged games?) it isn't going to happen, which leaves....

4) Finish the season later.
This is the option being actively pursued by football authorities. It's the fairest, but creates numerous logistical issues. It would be mid-June at the earliest before La Liga could resume which would mean a rushed schedule to finish in late July. While Valencia would at least recover injured players, their fragility would be severely tested. It would also mean hardly any pre-season before starting again in August. There is also the question of players contracts which finish on 30 June. Finally, the qualifying rounds of the Champions league and Europa league usually take place in July. While that would only feature the 7th placed Spanish club, currently us, they would need to be pushed back, putting pressure on next year's schedule as well. I'm not sure if they could alleviate that by, for example, scrapping next season's Copa del Rey, but it produces a major challenge.

===================
Obviously, news has been slow during all this, but there has been chatter about which players leave and join us.

The debate about the goalkeeping position is now live. Cillessen has been a disappointment. When he joined most of us viewed him as an upgrade on Neto, but he's been worse. One option being considered is the return of Vicente Guaita, now a more experienced and better goalkeeper than when he left us.

In defence, Diakhaby, after showing some promise in his first season, has become a liability and is a strong candidate to exit. He is still well regarded enough that the club could probably make a profit on the 15m they paid for him. Not much was expected from Mangala and he didn't disappoint, looking sluggish and unconvincing. The question of whether to renew Garay's contract remains, most sources indicate we will. Thierry has looked another Mendes bust, but would benefit from going out on loan before a final decision is made. Strong rumours are coming that Valencia will buy Diogo Leite of Porto for 20m. This looks like another questionable move. He has only played 3 senior games, so paying such a sum for a 20-year-old Mendes prospect looks like a big gamble and another potential disaster. Valencia have also been linked with River Plate's Gonzalo Montiel (right back) and Lucas Quarto (central defender.)

In midfield, Kondogbia has been linked with Tottenham. After a terrific first season, his last two have been hampered by injuries and inconsistency. He would bring in much needed cash for transfers. Ferran's contract saga lingers with conflicting reports. Some say the player himself wants to leave, others blame it on the agent, saying Ferran wants to re-sign but the agent is demanding a salary far beyond what Valencia can afford.

Up front there is little change. The club will look to offload Sobrino, while Gameiro's future remains up in the air.


Thursday, March 12, 2020

La Liga suspended for 2 weeks

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

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

Monday, March 9, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SQUAD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FIRST HALF

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

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

HALF-TIME

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

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

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

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

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

SECOND HALF

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

FULL-TIME

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 6, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SQUAD

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


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

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

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

FIRST HALF


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

HALF TIME

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

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

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

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

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

SECOND HALF

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

FULL-TIME

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 28, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SQUAD

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

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

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

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


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

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

MATCH

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

HALF-TIME

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FULL-TIME

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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