Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Copa del Rey Round of 32: UD Logroñés vs Valencia CF Match Thread


The fourth competition for the season begins for Valencia in Wednesday’s fixture against UD Logroñés. With the new format of the competition, there is only one leg, meaning the winning of this match goes through to the Round of 16. Valencia come in as the reigning champions to defend their title.

The result of the new format is that Valencia will probably field a better squad than what they would do otherwise. Instead of providing a rest opportunity for the main squad and some game minutes for the bench players, this is just another load onto the main team to take on. It must also be said that its another opportunity for players to get injured in a season already riddled with injuries. As the team moves into the crucial part of the season, these cannot be afforded.

Logroñés plays in the Segunda División B of La Liga. While this would be a simple game for many other team, recent results indicate that there could be a tricky game. Fixtures against Eibar and Valladolid who are closer to the bottom of the table proved challenging with tight scores. Just 3 days ago, humiliation against RCD Mallorca, a relegation side, with a 4-1 scoreline.

This competition always draws mixed responses, some people, including the owner himself, simply do not value this competition (at least according to Marcelino). They would rather efforts be focused on the main sources of revenue and prestige – La Liga and the Champions League. Extra-time and penalty shoot-outs are also possible in this competition, adding to the exhaustion and could result in a tired squad for an important weekend fixture against Barcelona. Others want Valencia to be competitive in all matches, to have the mentality of a big team and believe they can win it all. Regardless of which camp they’re in, I think most would be upset with a bad result here.

While Valencia suffered a 4-1 defeat away from home in their last game, Logroñés pulled off a comeback away from to Haro scoring two goals into the second half to win the game 1-2. 

Logroñés form: WDDWW
Valencia form: LWDDW

SQUAD

Garay is available for selection, having missed last game with an ankle injury. Hopefully, his reintroduction provides some structure back to a defense that was largely absent the previous game.
Rodrigo remains in recovery with the goal to play in the weekend match against Barcelona. 

Paulista and Kondogbia are missing from the squad list due to suspension from accumulated bookings in the last season's Copa del Rey. This leaves room for both Mangala and Esquerdo in the squad as their replacements. 



***Starting XI and match details will be posted when available.


Sunday, January 19, 2020

La Liga Matchday #20: RCD Mallorca 4 - 1 Valencia CF Match Thread

Valencia return to La Liga to officially start the second half of the season. The team travels away to play Mallorca at the Iberostar Stadium.

During the break Valencia had a chance to recover some of the players on the injury list. These players have been the only reinforcements so far for the team with the transfer activity remaining fairly quiet since the window opened. The break also featured Valencia travel to Saudi Arabia to participate in the Spanish Super Cup, as the Copa del Rey champions. The result was disappointing with low effort and energy amidst a crowd that made their favorites clear from the get go. The team suffered a 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid with the only goal coming from a Parejo penalty in the dying minutes of the game. It would've been nice to win but I doubt the fans, players or club management is that upset about this competition.

In La Liga, Mallorca's last game had them travel away from home to play Granada. A game that they lost 1-0 with a goal in the first half.  For Valencia, the last matchday was a home game in which the team delivered a 1-0 win against Eibar. Maxi Gomez scored mid-way into the first half with a great header assisted by Wass.

The last game against Mallorca earlier in the season ended in a 2-0 home win for Valencia with Dani Parejo scoring both goals. That game was Marcelino's last game in charge of the team despite the result. 

Mallorca are in the relegation spots at 18th with 15 points from 19 games. They are tied for the 2nd worst defense of the league conceding 33 goals. Valencia are 7th with 31 points from 19 games. 

A win for Valencia would take them to 5th place, 1 point behind Sevilla.

Mallorca La Liga form: WDDWW
Valencia La Liga form: LLDLL

SQUAD

The most notable addition to the lineup is KangIn who returns from a long-term injury. Ferran is also included in the list, after his injury estimate of a false flag with original estimates of injury between 3-4 weeks. 

Garay is out of the list with an ankle discomfort that he suffered during the game against Real Madrid. As a result, Mangala returns to the squad list.


Bench: Cillissen, Mangala, Costa, Kondogbia, KangIn, Ferran, Sobrino

MATCH

6' - Yellow card for Dani Parejo. He will miss the next match against Barcelona due to accumulated bookings.
7' - Goal for Mallorca. 1-0. Raillo gets onto the end of the free kick delivery, unmarked. Wass was supposed to mark him but he seems to have slipped, giving him a free shot at goal.
12'- Yellow card for Coquelin. Two early yellows now for Valencia.
22' - Goal for Mallorca. 2-0. Budimir gets onto the end of a ball across goal and taps it past Jaume. The defending is atrocious, it's like the players are just training ground cones. Coquelin and Diakhaby who are usually solid, giving way too much space to Mallorca.
38' - Yellow card for Raillo.
41' - Goal for Mallorca. 3-0. This is getting really bad. Three goals down against a relegation side is just embarrassing. A through ball from Salva Sevilla splits the defense and isolate Budimir against Diakhaby. Diakhaby trips over his own feet and Budimir uses the opening to fire across goal to the far post and Jaume can only grasp for air as the ball sails past him.
44' - Celades with an early substitution. Ferran Torres replaces Cheryshev.

51' - Red card for Valencia. Parejo receives a second yellow card. It is surely all over at this point. The tackle itself looked clean, surprised that this was given. VAR didn't think this was a clear and obvious error?
55' - Yellow card for Salva Sevilla.
60' - Yellow card for Reina.
61' - Second change for Valencia. Kang In comes on to replace Gameiro.
64' - Mallorca with their first substitution. Pozo on, Hernandez off.
69' - Another change for Mallorca, the booked Salva Sevilla is replaced by Febas.
79' - Goal for Mallorca. 4-0. In a game like this, even this goal goes in. A long range effort from Dani Rodriguez rockets into the bottom right of Jaume's net. Jaume can do nothing about it. Mallorca play around Coquelin and Diakhaby like there not even there. What's going on?
82' - Goal for Valencia. 4-1. Ferran gets a consolidation goal. Even in the worst of games, he manages to get something. Wass with a simple ball into the box. Ferran is unmarked with space inside the box. The keeper is frozen as the shot sails into the net.
87' - Yellow card for Ferran Torres.

FULL-TIME

Where did this come from? The team looked very complacent against Real Madrid in the Super Cup but this is something else. What other team fighting for the European spots would let Mallorca walk away with this scoreline?

There really is no excuse for this. The players had time to rest, there was plenty of time between the previous game and this game to train and prepare, and the squad is more complete than it's ever been.

Players that are normally reliable showed up this game with minimal effort. They could not be bothered to close down the Mallorca players or apply any pressure whatsoever. The passing was very simple and nonchalant. There was a lack of intent today.

It's weird how even in earlier games against relegation sides, the team cannot find its way. They seem to do better in general against stronger teams. It's not like Mallorca or Valladolid parked the bus exactly, they actually went for it. Valladolid was a struggle. Mallorca ran over Valencia and could have had 1 or 2 more goals off of good chances as well.

Rodrigo's absence explains some of the woes in attack since he was the vital link in the chain in transitioning to offense. In defense, Garay was missing sure. But does his absence warrant 4 goals? The team will be screwed if he leaves then. Surely, there the team cannot be that different with these two players.

Valencia had been in good form in terms of results, not necessarily good performances though, before the break. Since then Celades had two games in a row where the team looked like a relegation side. Against Madrid is one thing but Mallorca is a different thing, not to take away anything from them.

Some will say these is an indication that the team is in desperate need of signings. The signings were needed regardless but this performance is more about character, intent and effort. Even the basics were lacking. It could just be a short-term lull in performances but Celades will start to feel the pressure if more of these occur.

Next game will be on Wednesday the 22nd against UD Logroñés in the Copa del Rey Round of 32.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Copa del Rey draw

The draw has just been made. In the last 32, Valencia will be away to UD Logroñés of Segunda B.

UD Logroñés are the successors to a former La Liga club which went bankrupt over a decade ago. They were second in Segunda B last season, missing out on promotion after losing a play-off. This season they are repeating the achievement, currently top of their group.

Unlike recent seasons, this isn't two legs. In the past, we could put out a weaker team to give our prospects some experience, safe in the knowledge that, if we screwed up in the first leg, as we did last season away to Gijon, we could put out a stronger team for the second leg. Now, we have to get it right first time.

The game will be next week on either 21st or 22nd with extra time and penalties if level at 90 minutes.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Injury Update

We got more news coming in terms of the injury situation.

Ferran Torres has picked up a bone injury after receiving a kick in training. He will be out of action for 3-4 weeks as a result. We said before that these injuries should be investigated and dealt with in some way on the medical, fitness or coaching levels but they seem to keep happening.

Rodrigo is still estimated to be out for a bit less than two weeks and has already missed the Super Cup game against Real Madrid.

Piccini's return has been set/planned to be the Champions League fixture against Atalanta.

Guedes is progressing well and should be back in the final week of January in the best case or the first week of February.

Manu Vallejo should also be back in the start of February.

Going the opposite direction, Kang In has recovered and is in the final stages of getting match ready. He should be available for next week's match against Mallorca in La Liga.

No news yet with regards to the transfer market activities incoming or outgoing. Just Paco rumors here and there since the start.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Spanish Super Cup Semi-Final: Valencia CF 1 - 3 Real Madrid CF Match Thread

The third competition of the season starts for Valencia with this match. With decent performances in the league and a qualification to the Champions League Round of 16, this is another competition in which Valencia can make a mark.

The format of the cup is 1 game knock-out, meaning both the semi-finals and finals are only 1 leg with no home and away tally or aggregate scores. The top 4 of the 2018-19 La Liga campaign all take part in the tournament. Valencia play Real Madrid in this semi-final while Barcelona face-off against Atletico Madrid in the other. The games will be played on a neutral ground but in Saudi Arabia, not in Spain. Two games separate each of the teams from winning a trophy.

Valencia faced off against Real Madrid earlier in the season and did very well. In fact, Real Madrid, having started the first 15 minutes or so on the front foot, struggled for the remainder of the game to deal with Valencia. Ferran and Rodrigo caused all sorts of problems for their defense while their own defense controlled Real Madrid's front line.

Valencia come into this game on the back of a 1-0 victory at home against Eibar, while Real Madrid beat Getafe in a convincing 0-3 win away from home.

The results left Valencia in 6th at 31 points and Real Madrid in 2nd at 40 points.

The form in the past 5 games is similar with Valencia having getting 11 points from the last 5 games and Real Madrid getting 9 points in the same number of games.

Valencia La Liga form: WDDWW
Real Madrid La Liga form: WDDDW

SQUAD

A very misleading squad list was released ahead of the game. There are several players who are on the injury list that cannot be part of this game but were included anyway.

Guedes and Piccini for sure will not be a part of this game as they are both still in recovery. Both will be expected back in the next month or two.

Rodrigo and Manu Vallejo will both also miss this game. Rodrigo is carrying an injury that will take him out of the lineup for the next 2 weeks, while Vallejo's return is set sometime in February. Rodrigo, especially, will be a big miss as he was very important in the last fixture between these two teams, helping with the quick defense-to-offense transitions for the team.

KangIn could be part of the list as this was his expected recovery time but still no confirmation on that. Mangala will likely not be a part of the game with other defenders available.

In Real Madrid's camp, the big news is that both Benzema and Eden Hazard will miss the game through injury.



Domench is preferred yet again over Cillissen due to a good run of form. We will see what kind of role Cillissen will play from now on, especially with more competitions starting.

This could be either a 4-4-2 or a 4-3-3 since both Kondogbia and Coquelin are starting the game. Coquelin has been used in a wide position many times but he could also play in a double pivot with either Parejo or Kondogbia. Coquelin had some discomfort earlier and so he was a doubt to start but Celades counted on him nonetheless.

Maxi Gomez also had a bit of discomfort and he doesn't start the game but is available on the bench. It looks like Ferran and Gameiro will take on the responsibility of driving the attack and scoring.

Bench: Cillissen, Costa, Diakhaby, Esquerdo, Cheryshev, Sobrino, Maxi Gomez

MATCH

5' - Real Madrid with a great chance following from a free kick. The ball was crossed for Varane who had beat both Soler and Garay for the header at goal but Jaume saves.
10' - It seems Valencia is content with letting Madrid keep the ball and attack similar to the opening minutes of the previous game. Madrid doing the same play over and over without much success.
14' - Goal for Real Madrid. 0-1. Kroos with a quick corner while Jaume was off his line and he curled directly into the goal. Jaume tried to save but couldn't keep it out despite getting a hand to it. Unusual goal to concede when Madrid had been contained well prior to that.
25' - Valencia starting to get more into the game in the past few minutes but nothing threatening yet. Both Ferran and Gameiro are not being allowed space to play. Coquelin has been the stand-out player so far with the effort he's putting in.
28' - Great chance for Valencia. Ferran squares the ball to Coquelin who controls, shields it from the defender and sends Gameiro into the box with space for a shot. Gameiro fires but it's over the cross bar. You have to hit the target from that position at the very least.
38' - Goal for Real Madrid. 0-2. Carvajal plays a through ball past Gaya and Soler to find Valverde, who pulls it back for Modric. His shot is blocked by Garay but the ball falls to Isco who slots it into Jaume's bottom right-corner.
41' - Another chance for Real Madrid from a corner. Isco's glancing header hits the far post and falls to Jovic. His shot is is saved by Jaume but the ball is loose in the penalty box and it's cleared haphazardly. Almost a third goal there.

HALF-TIME: Valencia haven't put the same effort against Real Madrid as they did in the previous game. Of course, that was a home game so they had extra support from Mestalla. This game seems like a Real Madrid home game since the crowd made clear from their cheers and boos who their favorite is. The game can still be saved in the second half but there needs to be changes. Madrid's first goal was very unfortunate to concede. I guess you could say that there was no reason for Jaume to be so far off his line if this is a legitimate play.

Ferran and Gameiro barely get any space to work with and when they do they haven't linked up all too well. Our midfield is getting outmatched by the opposition midfield with only Coquelin putting up a fight. Soler and Coquelin are getting drawn into central positions and leaving the flanks completely exposed for Gaya and Wass to get outnumbered.

Madrid is pressuring high up the pitch and to good effect. The Valencia defense has scrambled to clear and Jaume is forced to punt the ball across the field but there is no way Ferran or Gameiro is getting to the ball ahead of Ramos and Varane in an aerial duel. Possession almost always returns to them. 65% possession with 3 shots on target, 2 of which are goals for Real Madrid. 35% possession for Valencia with no shots on goal.

48' - Maxi Gomez and Cheryshev are both warming up. It remains to be seen whether Celades will make an early substitution.
56' - Maxi Gomez will come on now, Kondogbia is taken off. Coquelin will move back into midfield, Ferran will return out wide while Maxi joins Gameiro in attack.
59' - Yet another close effort by Real Madrid. Through ball to Modric in the penalty box. He draws the defenders and pulls the ball back for Valverde who's shot is just wide of goal.
65' - Goal for Real Madrid. 0-3. Well it's all over now. Parejo with a horrible pass that is intercepted by Isco. Isco plays a through ball to Jovic who then does the same to find Modric just inside the penalty area. Coquelin and Paulista step up in front of him and he squeezes a shot past both of them that curls past Jaume at the far post.
70' - Second substitution for Valencia, Cheryshev on for Gameiro. He has been very ineffective so far. For Real Madrid, Marcelo comes on for Mendy to huge applause from the crowd.
72' - Chance for Valencia from a corner. The delivery is headed on to the far post by Coquelin where Ferran competes with Ramos for the header. He gets a slight touch on it but not enough to divert it towards goal. Goal kick for Madrid.
74' - Maxi Gomez receives the ball in space at the edge of the penalty box and decides to take a shot. It's hit really well with a lot of venom on it. Courtois parries the effort. At least there is a shot on goal now.
76' - Second change for Real Madrid. Modric is replaced by James Rodriguez.
78' - A second shot on target this time from Parejo, again from just outside the penalty area. Courtois saves but spills the ball. Cheryshev is first to it, tries to play Maxi Gomez. Maxi leaves the ball expecting someone is behind him but possession returns to Real Madrid.
79' - Another shot on target from distance, this time from Cheryshev and yet again saved by Courtois.
81' - Last change for Madrid. Mariano on, Jovic off. Celades will bring on Sobrino. Another attacking substitution. Coquelin is the player replaced.
87' - Yellow card for Casemiro. Sobrino was running into space and he took him out from behind.
89 ' - Parejo with a good delivery from a free kick. Ferran heads it into Maxi Gomez and the ball bounces back to Soler, giving him a free shot. He doesn't get any good contact on the ball, scuffing the effort and Courtois gets to the ball slightly before Maxi Gomez who was lurking nearby.
90' - Three minutes of time added for stoppages. VAR tells the referee to review the footage. He decides to give Valencia a penalty for a handball in the previous play. Parejo steps up.
92' - Goal Valencia! 1-3! Parejo smashes it into the top right corner.

FULL-TIME

Valencia are eliminated and Real are through to the finals. A goal from a Parejo penalty in the dying minutes of the game was hardly enough to salvage a quite poor performance. It's easy to say this after the loss, but losing in this tournament isn't that big a deal. The prize money isn't significant and the trophy hardly has any importance compared to the others. I wouldn't be surprised if Lim made a call saying to not bother playing seriously in this competition.

This could've been an opportunity to win over fans in another region with a surprising performance. But the performance was very disappointing. I would've at least wanted Valencia to push Madrid like last time. Hopefully, this doesn't carry on to other competitions.

Rodrigo was missed in attack, with the remaining players hardly able to provide what he does when he's on form. The midfield was outmatched by the opposition and the defense crumbled under the high pressure from the Madrid players.

Coquelin has been the sole positive for me in the absence of others. Even though seeing him being played in a wide position was already a bad sign for me going into the game due to past experiences, he at least put in the effort.

This loss does also give us an 11 day break to the next game. We return to La Liga on Sunday the 19th of January to play Mallorca at the Iberostar Stadium. Amunt.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

La Liga Matchday #19: Valencia CF 1 - 0 SD Eibar Match Thread

The break is over and now the team is back for the final game of the first half of La Liga. With the player's rested and some recovered for this part of the season, the team will be optimistic and hope ot get a win. However, there is no doubt that some mind will wander to Wednesday's Spanish Super Cup game against Real Madrid.

Valencia's final game before the break was a 1-1 draw away from home to Valladolid. Valencia would actually go down a goal 7 minutes from the full-time whistle. Manu Vallejo, who had been introduced as a substitute in the second half would rescue the point in the fourth minute of additional time, getting on the end of a Ferran cross across goal to the far post.

Eibar played at home in their last matchday and beat Granada in convincing fashion, scoring 3 goals and keeping out Granada for a clean sheet. Granada sit higher than them in the table so that an even better result.

Valencia come into this game at 8th position in the table with 28 points, 4 points away from the Champions League spots. Eibar, on the other hand, are two spots away from the relegation spots (16th), gathering 19 points from 18 points so far in the season.

Valencia La Liga form: DDWWL
Eibar La Liga form: WDLLL

SQUAD

In terms of the transfer market there is yet to be any news any player transferring in or out of the club. In related news, we know that Lato has ended his loan term in the Netherlands with PSV Eindhoven and has returned to La Liga for another loan spell, this time with Osasuna. He was barely getting any game time and was harshly criticized by the coach with some reports claiming that he was sent to play with their B-team as punishment. Furthermore, Paulista is on his way to claiming Spanish citizenship which would allow him to play for the Spanish national team should Luis Enrique want him to play. This is made possible since Brazil has not called him up. What really matters here to Valencia is that this will free up a non-EU spot on the team, meaning that Valencia can sign a player from a country not in the European Union, opening up even more possibilities for signings from those markets.

The squad looks a lot more complete now that some players were recovered during the break. Cheryshev rejoined the team during the last matchday. For this game, Cillissen, Gameiro and Maxi Gomez have all made their returns to the squad list.

The unfortunate news it that Manu Vallejo has moved the other way into the injury list alongside KangIn, Guedes, and Piccini. The later is expected to return in February while the former two are expected back sometime this month. Hopefully, we get to see improved performances when Celades has all his pieces to play.





Despite Cillissen's return, Domench is still given the start in goal. In defense, Garay is rested for Diakhaby, probably with an eye to the Super Cup game. Finally, Maxi Gomez returns to start.

Bench: Cillissen, Garay, Costa, Kondogbia, Cheryshev, Gameiro, Sobrino

MATCH

4' - Early chance for Valencia following a corner. Parejo delivers to the center of the box where Maxi Gomez gets enough on it to find Rodrigo in space but his shot is fired straight at the keeper. The linesman raises his flag for offside anyways.
6' - Another chance for Valencia, this time from Ferran. He fires across goal but the shot is wide.
7' - Eibar get their own chance after Diakhaby loses out in an aerial battle, the play is offside so the shot into the goal does not count. This was too close for comfort however. 
15' - Parejo with a corner straight to the head of Rodrigo but again the header is off-target. Heading is not his forte.
23' - Best chance of the half so far. Ferran passes to Rodrigo in a central position who plays it first time to find Maxi Gomez's run. Maxi Gomez crosses across goal in an attempt to return the ball to Rodrigo at the far post but Rodrigo cannot make contact with the ball.
27 ' - GOAL VALENCIA! 1-0! Maxi Gomez with the header on his return. A quick string of passes. Rodrigo to Soler on the left, Soler switches play to the other flank. Ferran receives and plays it back to Parejo who finds Wass's run. Finally, Wass with a well-timed, accurate to find Maxi Gomez. He was marked but towered above his marker and heads it down into the bottom-right corner. Valencia have been the dominant team and deserve the lead.
37' - Pedro Leon with a shot from distance to the far side of goal but Jaume is equal to the effort, parrying it away from goal.
43' - Ferran appeared cornered at the opposition corner flag but he goes through both defenders with some great skill, attempts a cross but it's blocked.

HALF-TIME: Valencia clearly look the better seem far, a good first half. The period of rest seems to have a visible improvement on the players. They are full of energy and move the ball quickly and directly to the opposition goal. The lead up the goal was an example of a string of these quick passes that ended with well-delivered cross from Wass to Maxi Gomez. It's great for him to get a goal on his return from injury as we really need him to be back to form quickly for upcoming games. Maxi has been involved in another chances as well, finding both Rodrigo and Ferran with through balls. Unfortunately those chances did not result in goal but that doesn't take away from his good performance this half. Wass had superb delivey on the cross to set him up, more of the same and Maxi should score plenty more in games to come. Looking forward to the second half where the team usually play better.

50' - Eibar with a chance from the corner. Jaume punches the delivery into the head of an Eibar player and towards goal. It hits the cross bar and deflects back out. What a way that would've been to concede. Luckily it stays out.
55' - Wasted opportunity for Valencia, Soler receives the ball and is in a 2 v 1 situation against the Eibar defender with Rodrigo in support. He cannot see a good pass for Rodrigo and takes a few touches, finds Ferran but by then the defense had reformed to deal with the effort. Corner kick results.
56' - Ferran is first to the corner with a glancing header across goal but its narrowly wide. 
57' - Rodrigo faces off with an Eibar defender in a race on the left-flank for the through ball. Rodrigo gets between him and the ball, leaving him on the ground. He runs into the box, plays a pass across goal but Maxi cannot make contact. Similar set up to the chance in the first half but the roles are reversed between Maxi and Rodrigo.
60' - Soler receives the ball in the penalty box, takes a touch and then a shot but the defender's hand blocks it. The Valencia players protest for a penalty but the referee denies. VAR agrees with his decision.
61' - Kondogbia, Gameiro and Cheryshev are warming up on the sidelines.
62' - First yellow card of the game. It's for Eibar after Charles trips Parejo.
65' - Eibar with their first substitution, Atineza comes on for Sergio Alvarez.
66' - Valencia denied a penalty claim from the referee and VAR. Soler had crossed the ball to Maxi Gomez and the defender got his foot to the ball, tripping him up. Maxi Gomez did a few rolls on the ground to sell the decision but the referee wasn't buying it.
69' - Diakhaby and Charles are both left on the ground following an aerial duel. Temporary stoppage in play.
70' - A change for both sides. Eibar take off Inui for De Blasis. Gameiro will be the first substitution used by Valencia. Maxi Gomez is taken off. Valencia need to put this game to away, this scoreline is never safe.
76' - Yellow card is shown to Daniel Wass for impeding a player with arms.
77' - Jaume with another save to deny Eibar. A cross from midfield was met by Charles in the penalty box, he headed it towards goal, just under the cross bar but Jaume tips it over.
79' - Sergi Leon with a shot from distance but it's just over the cross bar.
81'- Final substitution for Eibar. Charles leaves the field to be replaced by Quique 
83' - Celades brings on Kondogbia and takes off Rodrigo. This is probably with Wednesday's game in mind but I hope it doesn't mean the strategy will just be to defend for the next 7+ minutes.
84' - Yellow card for Eibar's Paulo Oliveira.
85' - Eibar get in a good position in the Valencia penalty area but the player hesitates instead of shooting. He pulls it back hoping that a teammate await but he only finds Coquelin who starts the counter-attack the other way.
87' - Gameiro and Ferran lead the counter chased by 3 Eibar defenders. Gameiro runs the ball to the goal line and attempts to cut across but the ball goes out of play for a goal kick.
89' - Valencia make their final substitution, Coquelin is replaced by Cheryshev.
90' - Second yellow card for Paulo Oliveira for a heavy challenge on Parejo. He is shown a red card and sent off. Four minutes added for stoppages.

FULL-TIME

A good win for Valencia on their first game post-break. The players looked rest and full of energy. This reflected in the performance as Valencia were the dominant team, especially in the first half.

This was a case, however, were the second half performance wasn't as good as the first. The second half was more even than the first. The chances that came weren't taken despite Eibar leaving plenty of space behind in their quest for an equalizer. 

This was also another case where the game should've been put to bed earlier rather than defending a narrow lead for 60+ minutes. With both Maxi and Rodrigo off for the final minutes of the game, Celades opted to defend the lead and rest the players rather than go for the second.

This win would leave Valencia 6th with 31 points but most games of the matchday are still yet to be played. An important 3 points nonetheless.

Regardless, this will be a confidence boost for the team to take into the mid-week. A lot of heads were undoubtedly thinking of that game already. The team has to travel a long way to Saudi Arabia where the cup will take place. It's even better that Maxi Gomez would start off with a goal ahead of that game.

Next game will be on Wednesday at King Abdullah Sports City in Saudi Arabia for the Copa del Rey Semi-Finals against Real Madrid. Amunt!

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Valencia's mid-term report

There's one game left until the first round of fixtures has been played so now is a good time to look at where the team is at, through player ratings.

The season had a turbulent start, overshadowed by limited activity in the transfer market as a result of the ongoing internal feud. The team then started in the worst possible way. Missing a 92nd minute penalty at home to Sociedad which would have given a two-goal cushion, then conceding a 98th minute penalty to throw away 2 points. After a defeat in game two, a dour 2-0 win over Mallorca was achieved which proved to be Marcelino's swansong. Celades had his doubters and they seemed to be proved right when the team went down 2-5 to Barcelona in his first game. Results since that, however, have improved and the team is in a good, but not excellent position, with a tough fight against teams like Sevilla, Sociedad, Bilbao and Getafe to repeat 4th place. The big achievement so far has been reaching the last 16 of the champions league for the first time in 7 years.

So, here are the manager and player ratings and comments, 6 was the default score.

CILLESSEN 6 - arrived in a swap for Neto with most of us seeing him as a minor improvement. So far he's been no better. There have been a number of quality saves, but also real gaffes, against Barcelona and Levante for example. Mixed evidence. Jury is still out.

JAUME 6 - has proved as always to be a capable back-up but 6 goals conceded in his first two games and suspicions about his weaknesses in the air and at set pieces prevent him from getting a higher rating.

WASS 6.5 - has mostly played at right back, where he started his career. Hasn't excelled there but his experience and versatility have proved useful for the team. A well taken chance against Granada and a somewhat lucky equaliser against Chelsea have been his highs.

PICCINI  (N/R = no rating) was never that amazing, but is missed as a squad player. 

THIERRY 1.5 - when some of us complained about the coaching change, it wasn't out of love for the previous manager's style of football. It was because we saw the bigger picture: more meddling by Lim and Mendes was sure to happen and that rarely goes well. This season's exhibit A for the prosecution is this guy. 12 million splashed out for a player with only a handful of club games. Predictably, it hasn't gone well and all his three appearances have seen the team concede three goals (Ajax, Getafe and Osasuna.) A loan looks inevitable. Him playing a key role at Valencia in the future doesn't.

MANGALA (N/R = no rating) bringing him back was another clear Mendesism. In fairness, he did well against Betis, but that was cancelled out with an iffy display against Villarreal.

GARAY 5 - this very well could be his last season and he looks a fading force to me, so replacing him wouldn't be the worst thing.

PAULISTA 7.5 - has really done well this season, looking a solid defender, but needs to curb his temper, with the sending off against Ajax a clear example.

DIAKHABY 6 - gets criticism from the fans, but is a solid third choice at the back and proved vs Chelsea that he can double as defensive midfielder too. Still needs more experience, as his nadir vs Lille proved.

GAYA 6.5 - has generally had a decent season so far, while not hitting the heights of previous seasons, especially in attack.

COSTA 5 - with Lato pushing for more game time (which he hasn't got) Costa returned as the replacement to scepticism. He's done okay so far, without being amazing. It's noticeable when he's playing on the right that teams target that side.

FERRAN 8.5 - is enjoying his breakout season with high level performances. Ended the year with 3 goals and 3 assists from the final 8 games. The big question: can the club renew his contract, which expires summer 2021?

SOLER 6 - unlike Ferran, his breakout hasn't quite happened and a 2-month injury layoff didn't help. A valuable player, but can he realise his early potential in 2020?

ESQUERDO N/R - somewhat fortunate to make the first team due to the incessant injuries. Haven't seen anything so far to suggest he'll be more than a bit player at Valencia.

PAREJO 7.5 - remains the engine room of Valencia, how he manages to hold on to the ball is a thing of wonder and still scares opposition keepers from free kicks. Just ask Oblak. Now, if only he could score penalties in the Champions league.

COQUELIN 7 - brought in as a back-up, has established himself as probably main choice after Dani with solid performances. Just lacks the box to box abilities of the next guy...

KONDOGBIA 4.5 - after an excellent debut season when he rivalled Guedes for player of the season, he has been a let down, with constant injuries and the feeling that he's only playing at 50%. Like Guedes, fans will hope to see a return to his best next year. Speaking of which....

GUEDES 3 - Oh Goncalo, where art thou? If you were to summarise a Guedes season at Valencia, it would be: 2.5 months where he's on fire and looks like Ronaldo reborn. 3 months injured. 3.5 months mediocre, where he runs into dead ends, loses the ball or falls over and gets dispossessed easily. So far this season, we've just seen the injury and mediocrity. For 40 million, more was expected than half a great season out of 2.5 seasons. His return to playing is said to be the end of this month. When he does come back, he really needs to step up, otherwise he'll go down as yet another expensive flop of the Lim era in the mould of Abdennour, Enzo, Negredo etc.

CHERYSHEV 6 - a good player when he's not injured. That's the problem, isn't it? He seems to spend half the season on the sidelines with injuries, which is a shame, because as he showed with the goals and performances at Bilbao and Lille, he's a useful player when fit.

KANG-IN 5.5 - like Ferran, it was hoped that this would be his season. Just hasn't happened and not only due to injury. He got a good goal against Getafe, but needs more regular playing time, which would probably come through a loan.

VALLEJO 6 - though mostly limited to sub appearances so far, has proved a handy player, with an ability to dribble at defenders. Question is similar to Kang-In, how can he get the game time necessary to improve?

SOBRINO 4 - the coaching change provided him with a second opportunity which he hasn't taken, good goal against Sevilla notwithstanding. Just doesn't look to have the level for Valencia.

RODRIGO 6.5 - forever a player who divides and polarises the Valencia fanbase. Supporters point to his link-up play and assists, which he's currently joint top of La Liga for. Critics lambast him for his lack of goals: just four in 21 games. Needs to seriously improve the latter, though we say that every season.

MAXI 6.5 - has been a good addition so far, offering something different to the attack with strength and aerial power. Needs to sharpen up his finishing, though.

GAMEIRO 6 - a combination of the comments about Cheryshev and Rodrigo. Not a bad player when he's not injured, which happens too often and also needs to work on finishing.

CELADES 7 - has done a very good job since coming in at a difficult time. Won over the dressing room and improved some aspects of Marcelino. We no longer see players ostracised, the team are better to watch and there's some tactical flexibility. On the negative, the defence really needs to improve, the injury situation needs to be investigated and the number of penalties conceded and missed needs to be reduced. Lastly, the team could to with some coaching on avoiding conceding late goals. If he can sort out those flaws, there's no reason why he shouldn't stay coach after this season.