Saturday, October 19, 2019

La Liga Matchday #9: Atlético Madrid 1 - 1 Valencia CF Match Thread

We're back to the league after a two-week international break. This is a huge game, against a tough opponent in a tough stadium. It is arguable whether the team is at the right level/stage to get something from this game. However, this game is a huge opportunity. A good result from this game will show that the team is on the right track. Last time we did it against Atletico and away from home? 9 seasons ago with Unai Emery.

Atlético sit just 3 points above Valencia in the league. A win will put Valencia level. They find themselves at 4th spot while Valencia is at 8th. Atlético are tied for least goals conceded in the league but are struggling in terms of goals scored.

Atlético form: DDWDL
Valencia form: WWDDL

LINEUP

Celades will have to address two things with the squad. First, the psychological effect from a possible Alemany sacking. This is in terms of stability of the club in the eyes of the players. Second, the physical effects from the international break. Which Atlético obviously have to deal with as well.
For Valencia, this will leave the team without both Rodrigo and Guedes. They both scored for their respective national teams but they suffered minor injuries that will leave them out of this game.

On the other hand, Valencia does recover Gameiro, Kondogbia and Carlos Soler, which will be a big boost. Gaya has recovered but not 100% and as such was left out as a precaution, so we can expect Costa to start. Reports also said that Mangala was in some sort of recovery program of some sort, not sure what the issue is. Academy goalkeeper Rivero makes the lineup for the first time as well.



Lineup looks similar to what we have seen in the past few games at least in goal and defense. Kondogbia is immediately restored to the midfield after his recovery. Coquelin retains his spot though. Celades appears to value both of their presence in this physical game against Atletico. We have a 4-3-3 with Coquelin and Kondogbia in front of the defense, Parejo further forward. Cheryshev and Ferran start on either side of Maxi Gomez.

Bench: Jaume, Rivero, Correia, Diakhaby, Soler, KangIn, Vallejo

MATCH

10' - Pretty even game thus far, both sides appear slightly cautious, no clear chances.
14' - Ferran with a decent cross for Kondogbia following a short corner but it's cleared.
15' - Cheryshev with a wonderful cross for Ferran, but Ferran just misses it with his head. Surely would've been a goal.
18' - Chance for Atletico as Diego Costa chests down a cross and set up Saul who fires from outside of the box, but it's just wide.
20' - Joao Felix with a through ball for Morata but it's hit straight at Cillissen.
21' - Atletico shot deflected off of Jaume Costa straight to Diego Costa inside the box. His shot is wide.
27' - Coquelin gives the ball away in midfield and sends Atletico on a dangerous attack led by Morata. He plays the through ball for Diego Costa but the run was mistimed. It's cleared but would've been offside regardless.
28' - Thomas Partey is booked for a challenge from behind on Maxi Gomez. Yellow card.
30' - Thomas with a giveaway at the edge of the box. The ball falls to Cheryshev, who fires a powerful low shot that is saved by Oblak but he spills the ball and has to stop it from going out.
32' - Arias plays in Joao Felix in a wide position. He plays the ball across goal towards Morata but he cannot make contact. Dangerous chance.
34' - Arias's cross is hit towards Cheryshev who shields his face with his arms. VAR reviews and gives a penalty. Unfortunate. Diego Costa steps up to take.
35' -  1-0. Diego Costa slots it past Cillissen. The goalkeeper went the other way.
38' - Cheryshev's misfortune continues with a booking after a challenge on Joao Felix. Yellow card.
44' - Joao Felxi booked for a challenge on Parejo. Yellow card.

HALF-TIME: Valencia has struggled in the majority of that half. Chance after chance for Atletico were kept at bay and then a penalty gets handed to them cheaply. Valencia had a few chances but couldn't capitalize. Rodrigo's absence is showing in offense. Not for goal scoring but as a director to link up play, distribute the ball quickly and making space for Maxi Gomez. Gomez seemed completely isolated this game with the team launching crosses and long ball to attempt to get him into the game but the Atletico managed to control it.

46' - Costa with a decent cross but it's cleared by the Atletico defense. Corner for Valencia. Cleared again by the defense.
48' - KangIn, Soler and Gameiro are seen warming up.
50' - Joao Felix playing a dangerous game with another challenge, this time on Jaume Costa. He is on a booking already.
52' - What a chance. Parejo with a great through ball for Maxi Gomez who draws defenders wide, he sees the run of Cheryshev plays a great ball for him and Cheryshev hits the crossbar. This should've been a goal.
54' - Substitutions for Atletico. Partey off, Lemar on. Hermoso off, Lodi on.
56' - Free kick from Valencia sent by Parejo over everyone and out of play.
57' - Coke with a freekick, picks out Diego Costa wide, who heads it across goal to Jiminez. He couldn't hit the target.
59' - Atletico given a non-existent free kick in a dangerous position for an apparent challenge on Joao Felix from Parejo. Replay shows absolutely no contact. Lemar fires but it's an easy one for Cillissen.
64' - First substitution for Valencia, Kondogbia off, Gameiro on. It's back to a 4-4-2.
67' - Final change for Atletico. Morata off, Llorente on.
70' - Cheryshev plays a cross into outer space. Unusual game from him.
71' - Soler is Celades's second substitution. Ferran Torres is brought off.
73' - Arias with a long run from defense, a slight cut in, and a shot from distance. Hit straight at Cillissen.
76' - Cheryshev with a slick back-heel flick to Costa. Atletico bring him down for a free kick. Parejo plays a strange on to Wass but he cannot strike the ball under pressure from the Atletico defense.
77' - Final change for Valencia, Cheryshev off, KangIn on.
78' - Joao Felix plays a through ball sending Arias through in loads of space. He makes a run into the box, squares the ball but it didn't find any of his teammates.
80' - Joao Felix is limping off the field of play, assisted by the medical team. Atletico down to ten men with no substitutions. Soler is taken down in a dangerous position outside the box.
81' - GOAL! 1-1! Valencia with a free kick and Parejo hits it beautifully. Over the wall and into the top right-corner. Oblak with no chance.
83' - KangIn and Gomez keep the ball in the Atletico box and the latter picks out Parejo and the edge of the box. He fires a great shot at goal but Oblak gets a hand to it. Dangerous. Atletico struggling with a man down.
89' - KangIn gets booked for a challenge on Arias to stop a dangerous attack. Play is waved on as an advantage but referee books with a yellow. VAR reviews and changes the decision to a red card. It's 10 men for both sides now. Studs were up.
90' - Five minutes of added time.

FINAL THOUGHTS

It was a game of many errors. Many chances and many misses. At the end, no goal from open play. Both came from set pieces, one penalty and one free kick.

Some players were not on their game. You can make a strong case that if Cheryshev had a better game there would be no handball and he would've scored that great chance. That alone would've made a difference. Ferran was making sloppy crosses as well and seemed physically drained. There were no bursts of energy on those forward runs either. Coquelin didn't have a good game either. He gave away possession and had some bad passes.

It was great to see Celades acknowledge that his game plan wasn't working and make the suitable adjustments to return to the 4-4-2, under which the team performance improved having initially struggled. The team stepped up even further after Parejo scored that sublime free kick and Felix was taken off due to injury leaving Atletico at 10 men. Valencia tried to press home the advantage and had dangerous chances. it all ended when KangIn made a rash challenge and got sent off, evening the game again.

Soler seems like he's still easing into the game. The passing was there but the energy is something he will bring later on as he gets back into the game.

All that being said, a draw against Atletico at the Wanda Metropolitano is a great result. They are a well established team with a stable system and if you had given Celades a draw before the game he would've taken it.

Hopefully next game we recover Rodrigo, Guedes and Gaya. They will boost this team even more. With full choice, we can see what Celades can do with the full squad and his preferred lineup when all players are available.

Speaking of next game, we return to the Champions League where Valencia travel to France to play Lille. Another away game. Valencia sit 3rd in the group table with 1 win and 1 loss, tied with Chelsea on points. They lead on goal difference though. Last game against Ajax was a night to be forgotten and the team needs to make a comeback. Chelsea and Ajax play each other so Valencia have a chance to go second with a good result.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Further changes in the horizon?

News have emerged on President Murthy travelling to Singapore for a meeting with Peter Lim. This has fed earlier rumours about a possible exit of Sporting Director Mateu Alemany from the club in the near future.

This happens once again at an awkward moment prior to a big game and busy schedule. I certainly hope that the team is focused on the pitch and not distracted by these ongoings, like during the previous international break.

For me, Mateu´s departure would be a huge loss. Even greater than the departure of Marcelino. Mateu has been instrumental in rebuilding the club over the past two years and also a key interlocutor between the owner and the team. He is well regarded across Spain and also a proven negotiator in the transfer deals.

However, ever since the exit of Marcelino and subsequently Pablo Longoria, I am not surprised by this latest development. He would have been perceived to have taken sides with Marcelino, and therefore a clear and obvious target for the owner. He has also been rumoured to speak ill of Celades, which would make it untenable to work together with Celades. The players also appear to have warmed up to Celades. For now, it might be a better move for him to leave and someone new twho can work well with the coach and team. It might be painful in the short term but possibly better in the long term. Essentially, Mateu no longer seem to have any allies in the club. Wherever he goes, he has my respect and I hope he finds another place where he gets to do what he does best.

I am not sure if there are many people out there who can replace Mateu. And I hope the club has a good backup plan, especially with the winter market and also pending renewals of some first team players.

Who will be next? I am not sure there are many who can do as good a job as Mateu. But I feel it has to be someone who has the trust of both the owner and the coach. The main reason for the crisis this summer was the breakdown in communication and trust.

Ultimately, the owner has his views and vision. Many of us might not understand or agree with it but this is the reality. The owner will have his own views. The consolation for me is that no rational businessman will undertake decisions that will ultimately mess up their business. If the owner is indeed driven by profitability, it will hopefully mean that he will invest and support in the business to ensure that it is a successful one.

For now, based on public information, it appears that the team is working well and united with Celades. That is the biggest positive for me. Atletico Madrid in Wanda will be extremely difficult. And we have a busy sequence of difficult games ahead. Team unity will therefore be extremely critical. Personally, I am greatly encouraged by the improved performances over the past few games. There are still some flaws that need to be ironed out, especially our defence. However, we have survived difficult away games including Chelsea and Bilbao. Who knows, maybe another surprise might be in store.

Amunt Valencia!


Saturday, October 5, 2019

La Liga Matchday #8: Valencia CF 2 - 1 Deportivo Alavés S.A.D Match Thread

Matchday 8 sees Valencia play at Mestalla against Deportivo Alaves. Valencia had a tough match midweek in the Champions League, in which the result and performance were both far from acceptable. In La Liga though, the last match was an unexpected hope as Valencia secured an away win against well-performing Athletic Bilbao.

This is yet another chance to show resilience by recovering and putting on a good performance at home. Deportivo Alvaes find themselves in a similar position in the table to Valencia. They sit just one point below (8) and four positions below (15th) Valencia. They will surely see this as a chance to overtake Valencia in the league.

Celades has had six games in charge so far. Two wins (Chelsea and Athletic Bilbao), two losses (Barcelona and Ajax) and two draws (Leganes and Getafe). Half of these games were low-scoring affairs, while the other half there were many goals scored and/or conceded. Valencia will be looking to secure their first home win of the season under Celades.

Valencia La Liga form:  WLDDW
Deportivo Alaves La Liga form: DLLLW

LINEUP

The lineup features only one change from the game midweek against Ajax. Guedes returns to the bench and Cheryshev is called back into the lineup.



The defense really need to show the effort today as it was very lacking last game and left a lot to be desired. As for the forward line, the movement and spaces were there last game but the finishing was a let down. As usual, Parejo and Rodrigo are expected to link up play and pick out the key passes.

Bench: Jaume, Diakhaby, Correia, Kang-In, Guedes, Sobrino, Vallejo

MATCH

10' - Rodrigo with a good chance with a header, but hit directly at the keeper.
14' - Yellow card for Valencia, Daniel Wass is booked.
15' - Double booking for Alaves, Garcia and Duarte both shown yellow cards.
21' - Early subsitution for Alaves, Pons comes on for Pina.
25' - One-two between Alaves players at the edge of the box results in a shot that it is just high over the Valencia goal.
26' - 1-0! GOAL for Valencia! Rodrigo receives the ball in midfield from Parejo, he directly thread it through on his first touch to Maxi Gomez, who control well, times his shots, and slots it past the keeper! It's his 4th goal of the season. He is now our top scorer in La Liga.
28' - Alaves try to respond quickly. Coquelin is dispossessed with a challenge leaving him on the ground, the referee waives the play to go on, Alaves play the ball to the right inside the box. The player fires but Paulista blocks the shot with a sliding tackle. Good defending from Paulista. Corner kick Alaves.
30' - Corner is headed wide by the Alaves player. Diakhaby is warming up as a precaution due to concerns about Coquelin following the earlier challenge to him.
33' - Long ball from Garay falls to Ferran who chests it down for Rodrigo out wide, he controls well, plays the ball through to Maxi Gomez who fires at a tight angle to the goal. The keeper can only block, sending the ball back into play, Maxi attempts to regain possession but is taken down. VAR is checking this for a possible penalty after significant delay. Nothing in the challenge, referee waives play on.
38' - Parejo loses the ball dangerously at the edge of the area after being dispossessed from behind, the subsequent cross if fortunately cleared by Garay.
40' - Rodrigo is showing great vision and passing today. Play is going smoothly through him, he picks out passes first time, without wasting time.
42' - Rodrigo with a great chance following a corner. He clashes heads with an Alaves defender, the ball flies up, he chests the ball down and fires, but it's just wide. That needs to be a goal. Rodrigo's face is now really swollen around his right eye from the clash of heads.
45' - Four minutes are added by the referee for stoppages.
45+2' - Great build up by Valencia, smooth passing, a dummy from Rodrigo, he plays it wide, recieves it again, he takes out the defender with a great turn, makes a run forward drawing the defenders. Cheryshev is screaming for the ball having been freed up from his defender and sitting in loads of space. Rodrigo takes on a difficult shot and it's high and wide. Cheryshev is furious, screaming and slamming the ground. Rodrigo yells back.

HALF-TIME: Valencia clearly has the upper edge this game. Alaves is simply chasing the ball and the few chances they had were from mistakes from Valencia rather than skill from Alaves. Maxi Gomez and Rodrigo linked up well to put Valencia into the lead. Rodrigo contributing a lot by dropping back and assisting in build up. He could've had a goal of his own with a header in the early parts of the half. In the final few minutes, he was brilliant in build up with a dummy and a turn that set up a great chance but he got too selfish and didn't pick out Cheryshev who would've surely been through on goal and possible scored. He was absolutely furious.

47' - Valencia frequently opting for the long-ball. They draw out the Alaves players by passing across and then play a long ball into space for the forwards and wide midfielders to run into. Ferran is picked out with such a long-ball, and has to be brought down after he gets away from the defender. Parejo's free kick misses everyone.
48' - Free kick for Alaves on the other side. Garcia makes contact but Cillissen saves.
52' - Alaves with increasing chances. A through ball takes out Wass and the shot is fired from a tight angle, but saved by Cillissen.
55' - Valencia having trouble clearing the ball. Alaves with a cross from Valencia's left is not dealt with by Wass, Joselu makes contact over Jaume Costa but heads wide. Dangerous chance.
56' - Some of the stadium lights go out, so the play is stopped by referee for a cooling break.
58' - Referee discusses with players if they are okay to proceed with this lighting. After agreeing, play is going to restart. Before it does, Rodrigo is taken off for Vallejo. Looking forward to seeing him play.
70'- Diakhaby comes as the second substitute for Ferran Torres. Formation changes to a 4-3-3 with Diakhaby sitting just behind Coquelin and Parejo, Vallejo going out to the right, Cheryshev on the left with Gomez in the center.
73' - Second change for Alaves, Vidal comes on for Navarro.
75' - Coquelin with impressive strength and perseverance, retaining possession and carrying on forward despite several challenges from Alaves.
78' - Penalty for Valencia! VAR is reviewing. Diakhaby passes to Parejo, who then passes to Cheryshev, who plays a fantastic lob over the defense to find the continuing run of Parejo. He gets into the box and is taken down by the Alaves goalkeeper. VAR confirms the referee's decision! Great build up play and well-earned penalty.
83' - And he scores this time! 2-0 Valencia! Goalkeeper Sivera is booked for the challenge.
84' - Last substitution for Alaves, Ely off, Saniz on.
89' - Alaves get a goal back, it's 2-1. Garay with a clearance that falls directly to an Alaves player at the edge of the box. He squares the ball to Joselu who fires at goal but Cillissen parries. Unfortunately, Perez reacts quickest and scores on the rebound.
90' - Final change for Valencia, Sobrino on for Cheryshev.

FINAL THOUGHTS

It's a good three points and a decent recovery following last game. This win leaves us in 8th and 2 points behind the Champions League spot currently occupied by Atletico Madrid (they have a game to spare).

Valencia dominated huge portions of the game with Rodrigo and Coquelin having a large part to play in that. Valencia took the lead with Maxi Gomez, who made himself the top scorer in La Liga for Valencia, after this goal. Valencia could have scored a few more but some chances were squandered by hitting straight at the keeper, or refusing to pass to a player in space.

Valencia did manage a second goal with a good buildup resulting in a challenge on Parejo in the area. This time, he managed to convert the penalty into a goal. Alaves managed to pull one back in the dying minutes of the game after a failed clearance from the defense.

Finally, Sobrino and Vallejo were preferred substitutions to Guedes, with both coming on. Good win, would've been better as 2-0 no doubt, but a much needed 3 points.

This is the last game before the International break. It's 2 weeks long so the next game will be away to Atletico Madrid on the 19th.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

UEFA Champions League Group Stage: Valencia CF 0 - 3 AFC Ajax Match Thread

Here we go! This will surely be an interesting game. The second game of the group stage, at home, against a formidable Ajax side. The last game in the Champions League shocked many. To get a result against Chelsea, away from home in the coach's second game (having lost the first 5-2) was shocking to many. This will be a different challenge. Valencia come into this one on the back of a 1-0 away win to a tough Athletic Bilbao side. The team is starting to find their groove and the differences in coaching style are starting to emerge but what doesn't change is that Valencia need a top performance to beat this Ajax side. Maybe even more than that against Bilbao. Both teams come in with a win in their previous Champions League game.

LINEUP

We were promised rotations every game and here we have another case of that. Cillissen remains unchanged in goal after a great performance against Bilbao. With Garay returning from injury, Diakhaby loses his spot in the lineup while Paulista and Costa appear again.



In midfield, one change. Guedes returns after spending two games on the bench. Hopefully, he will return determined and focused on earning back his spot in the team. Ferran joins him in the lineup on the opposite side, with Parejo and Coquelin in between. Maxi Gomez and Rodrigo are the forwards, with Gameiro still injured. Sobrino and Vallejo who got debuts last time, appear again as substitute options.

Bench: Jaume, Correia, Diakhaby, Cheryshev, KangIn, Sobrino, Vallejo

MATCH

8' - 0-1! Goal for Ajax from distance. Ziyech wasn't closed down and fired across the face of goal from the left-side and Cillissen couldn't save.
12' - Yellow card Ajax's Veltman for a challenge on Guedes.
25' - Penalty for Valencia, Guedes was fouled after a good build up. Parejo fires the ball into the sky missing. Valencia needed that goal.
27' - Yellow card for Tagliafico for obstructing Ferran Torres.
32' - Rodrigo with a great touch over the defender to set up a 2 vs 2, him and Maxi Gomez against the Ajax defenders. Maxi carries the ball forward and Rodrigo makes a run, but Maxi takes it too far and the cross is gathered by the keeper.
33' - 0-2 Ajax. The opposition build up play from the right with quick passing. The ball is pulled back for Quincy Promes who was left in tons of space as Wass was ball-watching and not tracking his man.
38' - Ferran Torres with a delightful cross to Rodrigo! He makes contact but hits the post. That should've been a goal, it was a simple tap-in, the team cannot afford to miss those.
41' - Ziyech fires from the edge of the box and hits the post. That was dangerous. Why does he always have the space. He's done these shots even last season, it should have been discussed to mark him more closely.
45+1' - Yellow card for Jaume Costa for a challenge on Tadic

HALF-TIME: Valencia had the lower possession of the ball for the first 20 minutes but had the majority 61-39 by the time the first half finished. Yet still, Ajax lead and they have outplayed Valencia quite frankly. The defense is looking really questionable. The forwards seem really selfish in the final third and often choosing the wrong option of shooting versus a great pass. That, or they take too many touches. The penalty decision was correct but the miss was horrendous. The shot needs to be on target at the very least and force the keeper to make a save. That was unacceptable.

46'- Corner for Valencia taken by Parejo. The ball finds its way to Ferran who shoots from the edge of the box, the ball deflects but the keeper makes a reflex save. That was close to a goal.
57' - Maxi Gomez taken off to be replaced by Kang-In.
60' - Yellow card for Martinez after he trips up Rodrigo on the edge of the box. The free kick is blocked by the Ajax wall.
62' - The opposition goalkeeper Onana is booked for wasting time. Yellow card.
66' - It got worse, 0-3. Very quick passing from Ajax and the defense might as well not have been there. Costa leaves his man in space, he picks out a pass to Tadic who delvers a through ball that takes out all four defenders who were holding a line. Van de Beek is left in space and he drives a low shot across goal into the opposite corner. There is no coming back from this. We're getting outplayed.
69' - Ziyech draws in the entire defense, giving Van de Beek space on the right to run into. He gets picked out and tries to chip the ball over Cillissen into the goal but the ball is headed clear off the line by Garay.
70' - Substitution for Valencia, Coquelin off, Correia on. Wass replaces Coquelin midfield while Correia takes his spot in right-back.
72' - Yellow card for Kang-In as he trips up Alvarez.
76' - Yellow card for garay as he pushes de Beek from behind. Free-kick. Ferran Torres is taken off for Cheryshev to come on.
81' - Yellow card for Promes for wasting time. Neres comes on for Promes.
82' - Yellow card for Blind as he trips up Rodrigo.
85' - Ziyech is replaced by Huntelaar.
86' - A cross from Ajax is headed clear to the edge of the area where Martinez claims it. He fires quickly with a powerful low shot. Cillissen gets a touch and the ball bounces off his glove hits the post and away towards the corner flag. Another close call.
88' - de Beek is replaced by de Jong.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I expected this to be challenging but not like this. All this talk of Ajax losing their best players meant nothing. They still dominated and look sharp as they did last season. Valencia got outplayed. Not to say they didn't get their chances. There were chances from Parejo's penalty, Rodrigo hitting the post, and Ferran's deflected shot. If Valencia had equalized from the penalty the tide of the game could've turned. There is no way to know for sure.

On top of the 3 goals, Ajax had several chances to make this score even more embarrassing for Valencia. The defense had taken the day off and Ajax were happy to exploit that. They were shooting from distance at every chance they got and hitting the target well. They weren't closed down. They also broke down the defense with sharp, quick passing. Cillissen looked shaky against his old team.

There seems to be this weird dynamic between Guedes and Rodrigo. In the final third, none of them looks to pick out the other. They would rather take the shot themselves or retain possession with unproductive touches. Even Maxi Gomez only squared the ball to Rodrigo in the 32 minute, after the chance had already gone.

It's interesting that both Barcelona and Ajax, who are cut from the same cloth in football philosophy, have beat us by this margin. You'd expect this from Barcelona but I don't think anyone predicted this scoreline today from Ajax. They did beat Real Madrid 1-4 at the Bernabeu, so they are capable and the fact is the performance did not respect the level of the Ajax team.

That being said, there were positive performances especially from the dynamic youngsters Ferran and Kang-In. They were always positive, moving the ball forward and creating chances. Rodrigo was good in build-up play and passing but his finishing let Valencia down when they really needed a goal. Paulista had a couple of good tackles that saved some blushes and those are recognized in a night where the defense wasn't at it's best.

Looking forward to next game, Valencia is at home again against Deportivo Alaves on Saturday. The last game before the International Break. It's the team's chance to end with a positive note. Some players will get a change of atmosphere with their national teams while others will have sessions with Celades to work on in depth. I believe Gaya and Gameiro will be back after the break. Also, Soler may be available then as well.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

La Liga Matchday #7: Athletic Bilbao 0 - 1 Valencia CF Match Thread

Another tough game. Seems like that's the word best used to describe our previous games as well as games going forward. This one is tough for the struggle the team has had, the game being played away and playing against the 3rd place team in the league.

Last game proved Valencia had fire power, scoring 3 goals in 10 minutes. But it also presented one of the worst version of defense that we've seen. The team allowed Getafe to catch up and draw the game. There was controversy with regards to two VAR decisions against Valencia but the blame cannot be shifted solely to that.

Athletic Bilbao form: DWDWD
Valencia form: LWLDD

LINEUP

Bad news is Gaya, Kondogbia and Gameiro are out with injuries, joining Carlos Soler and Piccini although not as long-term. Thierry Correia is also in the squad list after debuting last game. Vallejo and Sobrino both make the squad list for the first time, making Mangala the only player not to be called up yet.


Valencia start with a 4-4-2, with more rotations this game. Cillisssen in goal, Diakhaby and Costa retain their spots. Correia is replaced with Wass after debuting last game but is available on the bench. Garay returns to the defense and Paulista is rested. In midfield, Parejo and Coquelin are unchanged with Cheryshev and Ferran on either side. Guedes is on the bench again. Forward line is the same as the one that played most of last game with Rodrigo and Maxi Gomez.

Bench: Jaume,Correia, Paulista, Guedes, Vallejo, KangIn, Sobrino

MATCH

4' - Wass with a cross from an advanced position in midfield. It finds Maxi Gomez who aims for the top corner and the ball is high and wide.
8' - Cheryshev with a cross from the left for Rodrigo but cleared for a corner by Athletic Bilbao.
9' - Rodrigo finds Maxi Gomez at a tight angle to goal, he fires across the goal anyway, but narrowly misses.
12' - Chances are heavily Valencia's so far. The passing combinations are noticeably different from Marcelino's Valencia. Wide midfielders are providing early crosses from various positions, quickly to the forward line.
14-18' - Valencia keeping the ball in the Athletic half, with a free kick and two corners resulting from it. Athletic struggling to clear.
20' - Cheryshev with a rough challenge in the Valencia half. Yellow card.
24' - Wass having a good game so far. Sharp and aware in defense, with well-time forward runs and crosses.
26' - GOAL Valencia! 0-1! Cheryshev scores! What a counterattack! 5 passes to cross the length of the field. Maxi plays a great through ball for Ferran to run on to, who then squares the ball across goal for Cheryshev to tap in. Costa clearance to Parejo to Rodrigo to Maxi to Ferran to Cheryshev all very quick, no slowing down. VAR checking for offside on the pass to Maxi Gomez...The goal stands. The Bilbao defender's arm played him on.
33' - Rodrigo gets a yellow card after a challenge in the Bilbao half.
35' - Williams with a run forward taking it all the way towards goal but pressured to remain wide by Garay. He still manages a shot and Cillissen parries for a corner. Corner is cleared after a foul.
36' - Rodrigo playing a dangerous game with another foul. We cannot afford a red card.
43' - Parejo clears with header, Bilbao player falls down with some claims of penalty that are dismissed by the referee quickly.
45' - Two minutes added. Increasing pressure from Athletic in the closing minutes of the half but well-dealt with by the defense.

Half-time: Valencia having the upper edge in scoreline and chances despite this being a tough away game. Athletic had a few chances but they were dealt with well and they look quite average. A swift counterattack gives Valencia the goal via Cheryshev. It's important we keep up the offense and defense in the second half. Hopefully, we can extend the goal lead to 2.

46' - Second half starts with bad news. Garay injured, and Paulista has to come-on during the break. This could force Celades to use Mangala, at least as a substitute option, should this injury be long-term. Hopefully, not. Diakhaby booked for a challenge on the edge of the box resulting in dangerous free kick. It's blasted high by Bilbao.
48' - Bilbao with an inward curling cross, Cillissen anticipates and claims the ball. Wass giving his man too much space.
50' - Athletic Bilbao get their first yellow card for Unai Lopez.
51' - Rodrigo with a through ball for Maxi Gomez, he fires at goal but the keeper parries for a corner.
54' - Cillissen with two quick consecutive saves to maintain the lead after a defensive mistake from Costa.
59' - Cillissen with two more saves, one to parry a cross and then to stop a shot resulting from that.
61' - Athletic Bilbao brings on former Valencia player Aduriz and Benat for Ibai Gomez and Unai Lopez. Dangerous players coming on.
63' - Heavy challenge on Ferran Torres at the edge of the box from behind leaves him rolling in pain. The defender didn't get the ball but play goes on. Referee gives nothing.
65' - Cillissen owning his penalty box, punching a corner away to safety. Bilbao applying increasing pressure.
66' - Williams with another run and a shot across goal but it's wide.
68' - Manu Vallejo is making his Valencia debut! Maxi Gomez will be replaced.
72' - Manu Vallejo makes a fantastic run after a pass from Ferran out wide. He runs past 3 defenders and plays a delightful through ball for Cheryshev who hits it right at the keeper.
77' - Raul Garcia runs over Paulista with a jumping header. Aduriz protests and gets a yellow card.
82' - Long cross towards Raul Garcia, cleared by Paulista.
83' - Athletic take off Capa and bring on Lekue.
85' - Cillissen with a great performance today. Everything in the box is under his control, very proactive play to intercept crosses and through balls.
86' - Final substitution for Valencia: Sobrino comes on for Cheryshev. Another player debuting this season.
88' - Free kick from Bilbao following a soft challenge from Sobrino, is headed wide by Raul Garcia
89' - Cillissen shown a yellow card for time wasting.
90' - Bilbao playing with 10 men as a player is stretchered off. They have used up all their substitutions already. 5 minutes of additional time.
90+1' - Sobrino with a through ball for Rodrigo putting him through on goal, but he misses.
90+3' - Valencia almost get their second. Sobrino carries the ball forward, takes out a defender, takes a shot but it's saved. The rebound is gathered by Vallejo who who finds Rodrigo but it's saved again.
90+5' - Yellow card for Rodrigo. Referee ends the game. Second win!

FINAL THOUGHTS

A deserved win after the effort put out by the team today. It was a tough away game, against a rival, the 3rd place team in the league, and despite all the struggles the team pull out a good performance. Athletic looked average compared to their usual performances. They struggled in the first half, rallied back in the second but couldn't equalize.

Stand out performance was Cillissen for me. Everything remotely in his direction was handled well and under control. Other than that the win itself was a team effort. Great link up play and transitions. Mostly solid at the back and brave going forward. Rarely did the play slow down when moving the ball forward. The passing was smooth and accurate. The 5 passes leading up to the goal were a great example of that. Brilliant squared ball by Ferran for Cheryshev to find the goal.

Debuts for both Sobrino and Vallejo were granted by Celades, even with Guedes and KangIn on the bench. It was nice to include them but no doubt Guedes will feel hard done by that decision. The few times they touched the ball, there was danger especially with Vallejo but hardly enough to judge them. They had few touches and barely enough time.

Next game is a home game, as the Champions League fixtures return. Valencia welcome Ajax to the Mestalla in a highly contested game. I am very much looking forward to it. Amunt!

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

La Liga Matchday #6: Valencia CF 3 - 3 Getafe CF Match Thread

Game 6 of the season and we head into it sitting 14th in the table. Our opponents are one point and two positions ahead of us. This game has turned into a heated contest in recent times and it might very well go the same way today. 

There were glimpses of hope last game against bottom-table Leganes but it was also disappointing for huge portions of the game. Nobody wants to settle for a draw, especially at home, and even more so against the bottom-table team. It's still a work-in-progress and there are signs of change and this game is one step towards that. Celades's fourth game will be a challenge based on previous matches against Getafe and the goal should be a win. We need to start picking up more points to catch up to our rivals and staying in the race for the Champions League.

Valencia face two former players in Jason and Maksimovic on the opposing lineup.

Valencia CF La Liga form: DLWLD
Getafe CF La Liga form: LDDDW

LINEUP

Interesting changes in today's lineup. Celades has said that he has made rotations every game so far, and this one is no exception. It's expected since he's still looking for the ideal starting 11 to implement his vision of the team. Of course, players also need rest in a heavy schedule.


Domenech gets his first start ahead of Cillissen who has started to settle into the team. In defense, new signing Thierry Correia gets his first start in right-back ahead of Wass. After last game when asked about him, Celades said he needed more time to settle into a huge team like Valencia. It's his chance to make a good impression in front of the home crowd. Paulista retains his spot, Diakhaby starts over Garay and Jaume Costa is the left-back of choice with Gaya injured.

In midfield, Parejo starts alongside Kondogbia and Coquelin. Parejo needs to step up and provide better delivery than what he did in the second-half of last game. Kang In is the last of the midfield. The forward line consists of Rodrigo and Gameiro.

Rodrigo has said last game that they played 4-4-2 in defense and 4-4-3 in offense. This could could be the case again today.

Bench: Cillissen, Garay, Wass, Ferran, Cheryshev, Guedes, Maxi Gomez

MATCH

1' - It's disappointing that we had to concede this early. 0-1. Getafe score with a string of passes following a corner. Jaime Mata was on the edge of offside but goal stands. Kondogbia was his marker.
10' - Early substitution as Gameiro is forced off through injury. Maxi Gomez comes on.
13' - Foul on Rodrigo, yellow card for Nyom.
18' - Close call as Jaume makes a tackle to stop a dangerous play, player remained on his feet.
29' - GOAL! It's 1-1! Stunning goal from Maxi Gomez! It started with great dribbling from Parejo who then picked out Kondogiba, and then found Kang In out wide. He delivered a cross which hit a Getafe player and flew into the air. Maxi Gomez hit a brilliant bicycle kick which hit the post and went in.
31' - Yellow card for Maxi Gomez after a heavy challenge from behind on a Getafe player.
33' - Correia linking up well with Rodrigo and holds the defender away for a corner.
34' - GOAL!! 2-1! and it's Maxi Gomez again! Parejo playing a one-two with Kang In from the corner and the captain delivers a beautiful cross which is headed in by Maxi Gomez for his 3rd goal of the season! Nice comeback!
38' - WOW, it's 3-1! Kang In scores! Rodrigo with a great fake-out on the right wing which took him past the defender. He ran alongside the goal line and pulled the ball back for a great slot in by KangIn!
41' - Yellow card for Jaime Mata after a challenge on Parejo. Getafe committing so many fouls to try to win the ball back. Kang In and Parejo have been clipped at all game.
43' - Getafe being really aggressive again, free kick Valencia. It's punched away by the keeper.
45' - Two minutes added.
45'+2 - Heavy challenge from Jason on Paulista. Yellow card Getafe. Their third of the match.

HALF-TIME: what a great turn around. The first 10 minutes looked really nervy and tense, especially after the early goal and the injury to Gameiro adding to the list of injured players. Credit to the team for pulling it together after that. A brace from Maxi Gomez after great deliveries from KangIn and Parejo. Awesome that KangIn also gets a goal after a fake-out and a great pull-back from Rodrigo. More of the same in the second half. Getafe being bullies like always and it's good to see them get booked for it. Looking forward to the next 45 minutes.

45' - No changes in lineup from Valencia as the second half starts.
49' - Getafe still out to injure all of our players.
53' - Getafe with a subsitution, Molina off for Angel Rodriguez.
55' - Yellow card for Getafe as Djene hits Maxi Gomez with his studs up.
60' - Getafe substitution. Nyom out, Kenedy in.
66' - 3-2. It had to be him. Valencia player Jason, on loan to Getafe, scores.
68' - 3-3. Getafe equalize. A cross into Angel Rodriguez, who was in loads of space in the penalty area, is headed into the goal. Defense falling apart.
71' - Coquelin taken out by Maksimovic, free kick Valencia. Parejo delivers to Coquelin but its' headed just wide! He was offside regardless.
72' - Substitution for Valencia, Kang In off, Guedes on.
76' - This is ridiculous, every time play starts it stops for a Getafe foul.
80' - Final substitution for Getafe. Jason off,  Portillo on.
82' - Wass for Kondogbia will be the final subsitution, Kondogiba picked up an injury from the abuse he has received from the Getafe players. We can't afford all these injuries.

FINAL THOUGHTS

More points dropped. We had claims for a penalty near the end as well as an offside in the first minute that were really really close. But close doesn't matter, the result still says draw. The team let a 3-1 lead at half-time drop. The defense was in shambles in the second half. We made 3 rotations to our defense from last game, with only Paulista remaining. The two full-backs were being exploited by the opposition. Correia was decent going forward but showed his inexperience in defense and the opposition were aware to target it that side.

This wasn't helped by Getafe playing so rough and using every chance they had to foul our players resulting in interrupts to the flow of the game. They got booked a lot of the time but we walked out with 2 more injuries to Kondogbia and Gameiro today, adding to Gaya, Soler, and Piccini. They got booked some of the time but repeated challenges over and over again, undeterred by bookings.

The optimism lies in the performances from Maxi Gomez, Kang In, Parejo and Rodrigo. Maxi Gomez made turned around the negativity from the Gameiro injury, got in good positions and took his chances well, scoring a stunner that's surely a top contender for goal of the week. This was the kind of performance the fans were waiting for him to put forth. Kang In was dynamic, energetic, mature and had great vision. The experience of Rodrigo and Parejo is a good complement to the energy, talent and potential of the youngsters.

Next game is on Saturday, away against 3rd place Athletic Bilbao, who've had a great start to the season. It will be a tough game for that reason and the fact that it's away from home. If Celades can get a win here, it will do him really well. At this point, we need to start picking up the pace of the season. We can't fall too far behind. The game after that is home to Ajax at Mestalla, so that will be two tough challenges for Celades and the team in a row.


Sunday, September 22, 2019

La Liga Matchday #5: Valencia CF 1 - 1 CD Leganes Match Thread

Five game on the season. Last game in La Liga was a big loss but no unexpected. Our next game away to Chelsea was also tough but the team held on and went beyond expected to snatch a win. With 2 big games under his belt, Celades faces a game against Leganes and former Valencia coach Pelligrino. He has to carry the momentum of the win and the trust he's beginning to establish in the team to get another win. Especially at home. While Leganes find themselves at the bottom of the table, we're in no position to take any games for granted as a win.

LINEUP

There were reports that Celades was beginning to experiment with formation. It seems he was practicing a 4-4-2 that transitions to a 4-4-3 in attack. It will be interesting to see how this will be implemented.


Lineup is largely the same from the Chelsea game. The defense 4 maintain their hold on the positions, Coquelin and Kondogbia start together again with Parejo in midfield and Rodrigo gets another start after his goal last game. The two changes are Guedes returning to the lineup instead of Cheryshev and Maxi Gomez earning his first start over Gameiro.

Bench: Jaume, Costa, Diakhaby, Cheryshev, KangIn, Ferran, Gameiro

MATCH

6' - Leganes with a dangerous corner. Their striker breaks free of the defense and left unmarked. He connects but fires straight at Cillissen who smothers the effort easily.
14' - Wass with a cross towards Maxi Gomez but caught by the Leganes goalkeeper.
15' - Leganes return the favor with a similar effort, caught by Cillissen.
17' - PENALTY! Rodrigo takes on 3 defenders, dribbles past them into the box where he is taken down. Great run! Referee checking with VAR.
20' - The penalty is given, Parejo steps up to take it. Fans chanting Parejo!
21' - And he scores! GOAL! 1-0 Valencia! Parejo calmly sends hits the ball into the top of the net. Yellow card also given to the Leganes player for the foul.
23' - Leganes find some space at the edge of the area and Gaya tackles. He gets the ball with one leg but clips the player with the other leg. Yellow card Gaya. Free kick in a dangerous position for Leganes.
24' - Close one! He curls the ball around the wall but hits the post and back into play.
32' - Cooling break
35' - Goal for Leganes, it's 1-1. A lob into the box is not cleared by the defense. The ball falls to Garay who is dispossessed in the box and the ball finds its way to a Leganes player who slots it past Cillissen at the near post. Referee reviews the initial challenge on Garay but the goal stands. Cheap goal to throw away the lead.
40' - Rodrigo is taken out on the flank with a heavy shoulder check from a Leganes player. Yellow card given by the referee.
41' - Parejo with another training ground routine. He squares the ball to Coquelin at the edge of the box in space. He fires but the ball is blocked by the defense and deflects for another corner.
42' - The corner is fired towards the near post, headed away by the Leganes player and the ball is played to Garay on the opposite side. He fires but misses the goal.
45' - Five minutes are added for all the stoppages and VAR checks.
45+2' - Two attacks in a row for Valencia that had good build up but the crucial pass is over-hit away from the Valencia player both times.
45+3' - Effort from Rodrigo after good build up between Wass and Parejo. He cuts inside and curls a ball towards the far post but saved by the keeper.
45+4' - Coquelin fires from distance but sent into the stands.

Half time and can't say that we dominated the half. The possession slightly favors us but Leganes had more dangerous chances. The team is largely playing a 4-4-3 in attacking play with Rodrigo and Guedes on either side of Maxi Gomez. Rodrigo and Parejo are largely dictating the play. Guedes hasn't seemed that prominent in his return. Hopefully, the half-time talk addresses some of the issues, especially the defensive errors that lead to the goal.

47' - Guedes plays a one-two with Gaya out wide. He makes a run inside beating one defender, then another. He gets into the box fires at the near post but wide. That's the Guedes we want to see. More of this please. The finish will come eventually.
51' - Free kick won by Parejo and taken by him. He fires into the wall and wins a corner from the deflection. Corner causes no trouble and is cleared quickly.
54' - Kondogbia with a wonderful diagonal ball to pick out Gaya in space out wide. He squares it to Maxi Gomez but the defender does just enough to deny him the space for a shot on goal.
55' - Gaya takes a knock. He prepares to leave almost immediately and the medical staff spend no time in taking him off, as if he had prior concerns. Costa is brought on as the first substitution.
58' - Kondogbia is booked after using his arm to shrug away a challenge from a Leganes player.
59' - Second substitution for Valencia. Maxi Gomez off, KangIn on. Maxi hasn't had that many efforts and wasn't that involved. Rodrigo takes his spot up front.
65' - Parejo plays the ball to Costa in space, he crosses the ball but it's blocked for a corner. Corner hit too close to the goalkeeper.
66' - Valencia have dominated possession in the second half but nothing to show for it. This needs to translate to more clear chances and goals..
69' - The set pieces are getting frustrating now. They are either over-hit out of play or towards the keeper. These are wasted efforts. We need more technique on the delivery.
76' - Cooling break. The ball delivery hasn't improved and many efforts are wasted or give possession back easily.
80' - Kondogbia with a challenge on the edge of the area. Free kick for Leganes in a dangerous position. Hit right at the wall and deflected away.
82' - Guedes taken out at the edge of the area and free kick is given for Valencia.
83' - Ferran Torres comes on for Coquelin. Celades showing the attacking intent with this substitution. He wants the win.
84' - Parejo hits the target, the keeper parries, the ball falls to Garay who fires into a defender. Claims of handball but VAR gives nothing.
85' - Corner is taken, Ferran raises his foot too high to get the ball and fouls. Instant yellow card.
86' - Parejo plays a delightful through ball for Ferran Torres on the right. He goes past his defender and through on goal, he decides to play the ball to Rodrigo instead of shooting. Rodrigo misses the ball. Perhaps he should've gone for the shot instead.
87' - Guedes taken out yet again. Yellow card for Leganes. Free kick from distance.
88' - The ball is delivered well to Rodrigo, who nods the ball over the goal.
89' - Ferran Torres goes on a great run past his defender but taken out by Leganes defenders. Leganes trying to cling on and delay every action to slow play down and run the clock down.
90' - Six minutes added by the referee.
90+1' - Paulista with a foul on the Leganes forward in another threatening position. Free kick Leganes.
90+3' - Many stoppages due to rough challenges. Time is running out.
90'+4 '- Kang In with a good cross but punched away by the keeper
90+5' - Another over hit cross this time from Costa, out of play for a goal kick.
90+6' - Leganes with a quick counter after Guedes was dispossessed. It was 3 on 3 but the ball is parried by Cillissen for a corner.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Second draw of the season. We stand with 1 win, 2 draws and 2 losses now, giving us 5 points from 5 games. Some interesting build-up and a few sparks of creativity but overall it should've been better. First half was a lot more equal between teams. Second half we had complete dominance for the first 30-40 minutes. However, all the possession failed to materialize and impact the scoreline. Many wasted set-pieces and crosses due to poor delivery. It was quite frustrating and perhaps better delivery would have produced something else. As we went for the win in the closing minutes, Leganes had a few counter attacks and took advantage of the errors.

Rodrigo has confirmed in the post-game interview that the formation is a 4-4-2 defensively and a 4-3-3 offensively, as was reported in the news. There were 4 days to work on this between the Chelsea game and today, so probably it's far from perfect and from Celades's vision. He's still only 3 games in but many would still expect a win, especially at home and against the team at the bottom of the table.

Next game is mid-week on Wednesday against Getafe at Mestalla. This game is always rough with plenty of aggression, especially in recent times. There has been a lot of disputes on and off the field between players and even the coaches involved. Hopefully, the team continues growing and we see more evolution against Getafe. It was great to see the crowd fully behind the team today. It will definitely help to have the same against Getafe.