Saturday, November 9, 2019

La Liga Matchday #13: Valencia CF 2 - 0 Granada CF Match Thread

Matchday 13 of La Liga sees Valencia taken on Granada at home. Following the Champions League game against Lille in which Valencia took a 1-1 scoreline to 4-1 in the last 10 minutes or so of the game, Celades will look to build on that. That always has to be the message, move forward and not back.

The team is capable of showing glimpses or sparks of great play but consistency has been lacking. Players show up one match and are missing the next game and so on. Even within the same match there are players that fade in and out of the game. Celades has to harness those glimpses to make a solid team. Discipline and consistency are the key.

Granada is a team that has started this season well. They found themselves sitting in the top 4 for 5 weeks in a row, even ending week 10 as league leaders. They currently sit at 6th at 20 points, 3 points ahead of Valencia who are 13th with 17 points. 

Last matchday Granada lost at home to Real Sociedad in the final minutes of the game.

Valencia La Liga form: WDLDW
Granada La Liga form: LLWWL

LINEUPS

With 7 players out with injury, Valencia's first team of 24 players is left with 17 players. Of course, we need 11 players and 7 on the bench, 18 players total. Celades had to call in Esquerdo from the youth team to complete the squad list. Mangala also is called up again, yet to play a minute. 


It looks like the same 4-4-2 set up we saw last game. There are two changes though. Celades starts Ferran Torres over Kang In Lee on the right. Manu Vallejo starts out on the left where Cheryshev started last game.
Bench: Domench, Mangala, Correia, Jaume Costa, KangIn, Esquerdo, Gameiro

MATCH

6' - Ferran Torres taken out with a rough challenge from behind. Free kick Valencia in a good position. Parejo uses the run of Vallejo as a dummy, and picks out Ferran wide but the resulting cross misses everyone in a white shirt.
9' - Maxi Gomez pressures a Granada player in the Granada half, he wins the ball and makes a run forward, struggling to stay on his feet. Rodrigo makes a run ahead but Maxi decides to shoot on his own to the far post. Tame effort in the end. Rodrigo looks on with disappointment.
12' - Rodrigo receives the ball deep in midfield and drives the ball forward, he spreads the play out wide to Maxi Gomez on the left and continues his run expecting the ball back. Gomez makes the cross but chooses the run of Wass instead. The ball is too close to the goal line and Wass cannot keept it in.
20' - Maxi Gomez seems to always be drifting to and receiving the ball in wide positions. I don't know if that's really effective.
22' - Parejo with a corner but misses everyone. Vallejo manages to take the ball off the Granada player at the edge of the box and tries a shot but it's wide.
36' - Kondogbia picks up an injury and is subbed off, Jaume Costa comes on. We now have no CDM's. Wass moves to midfield, in right-back.
38' - Yellow card for Granada's Gonalons for a late challenge on Maxi Gomez. Free kick in a decent position if we can get good delivery. The delivery is to Paulista but he collides heads with a Granada player, leaving them both on the ground.
44' - Another yellow card for Granada for Azeez. Late challenge on Dani Parejo.
45' - Three minutes of additional time.
45+1' - Gaya makes a run forward, passes to Wass in the center. He takes one touch and fires from distance forcing the keeper to stretch and save the shot. Good effort.

HALF-TIME: Pretty even half so far. Neither side had the edge. Lots of back and forth but lack of clear chances. Granada is letting Valencia play wide all they want but packing the central area with defenders. It will be tough to break down. It's a shame that Kondogbia left the field with injury but it will be an interesting opportunity to test out Jaume Costa in right-back. The struggle so far is the final ball. Parejo's delivery from set pieces hasn't been all that good recently. Rodrigo and Maxi Gomez can't seem to find each other on attacking transitions either. Second half performances are usually better so let's hope that happens again today.

46' - Two half-chances already for Valencia, one from Rodrigo, one from Maxi Gomez. Both were dealt with by the Granada defense.
50' - Rodrigo takes a knock and tells the medical team he cannot continue. He leaves for the tunnel, and Gameiro is brought on to replace him.
55' - GOAL Valencia! 1-0! Build up starts with Wass. He controls and makes a short pass to Parejo who finds Ferran out wide. Ferran plays the ball to Gameiro who has his back to the defender. He shields the ball and then returns it to Ferran. Ferran finds Parejo at the edge of the box who passes it into the net. VAR is checking if Maxi Gomez is interfering with play from an offside postion by blocking the keeper's vision.
58' - OVER-RULED. Referee checks the decision and overrules his initial goal decision. 0-0.
60' - Quini blocks Gaya's cross with his arms. Free kick but strangely no yellow card. It's a good position from the left edge of the box. Parejo goes directly for goal but it's easy for the keeper.
63' - Change for Granada, Gonalons off, Montoro on.
65' - Valencia with long periods of possession in the Granada half but the goal still eludes them.
71' - Vallejo with some quick feet tries to pass between two defenders but they obstruct him and he wins a free kick. Valencia getting so many set pieces around the box.
72' - Parejo's free kick hits the wall and out of play for a corner. The corner is headed out for another one.
73' - GOAL Valencia! 1-0! It's Daniel Wass's goal. Gaya's cross is headed away but falls to Gamiero on the opposite side. Gameiro puts in a cross of his own, Maxi Gomez can't get to it but Wass controls it and beats the keeper at his near post by firing the ball into the roof of the net. Good goal but VAR is checking again for a Maxi Gomez interference from an offside position as well as a potential handball from Wass. VAR gives the goal this time.
76' - Yellow card for Quini for a hand to the face on Vallejo. If he received a yellow for the handball earlier, he would be off.
79' - Granada keeps resorting to fouls to stop play. With all these stoppages and VAR checks, there will be quite significant additional time.
80' - Final change for Granada, Carlos Neva off for Carlos Fernandez.
83' - Great link up between Gameiro and Vallejo. Gameiro receives the ball and takes out a defender with a pirouette, plays a short ball ahead of Vallejo and continues his run. Vallejo returns the ball to him but he is pressured off it by the Granada defense.
84' - Final change for Valencia. Vallejo goes down and signals to the bench that he wants to come off. It seems he's fine to walk. Meanwhile Cillissen comes out and punches away the Granada free kick.
86' - Vallejo goes down again. He walks off and Kang In Lee comes on his place. All substitutions used for both teams.
88' - Yellow card for Montorro for dissent against the referee.
90' - Corner for Granada following a deflected shot from Soldado. The delivery is to the near post, it's flicked towards the far post and it's going in but Wass clears it away from goal. Seven minutes of additional time.
90+2' - Another yellow card for Granada, this time for Herrera for a raised arm on Dani Parejo as they were both contesting an aerial ball.
90+4' - Even this late on, Valencia is pressing for the ball and frustrating Granada. Maxi handles the ball in midfield, free kick for Granada. It is launched into the penalty area but cleared.
90+5' - Valencia move on the counter, 3 on 1. KangIn on the ball, Ferran and Gameiro making runs. Kang In plays a throughball for Ferran, the keeper comes out, Ferran finds Gameiro who walks the ball into the net. It is ruled offside for the initial pass to Ferran.
90+7' - GOAL Valencia! 2-0! Ferran Torres scores yet again. Cillissen launches the ball out wide to him with a throw right to the half-way line. He makes a sublime run, cuts inside taking out the Granada defenders one by one and fires from the edge of the box right into the top left corner. That's what this young man can do. That's why he's on the 10-man short list for the U-20 Golden Ball.

FINAL THOUGHTS

That second half sure brought the intensity that was needed. This half Valencia looked great. They gave Granada nothing and frustrated them over and over. Granada resorted to fouls in their frustration and got booked over and over.

While moving Wass to midfield was done through necessity due Kondogbia's injury, he would prove instrumental in this second half. He looked good in midfield and found himself in the right position to receive the ball and produced the quality to beat the keeper at his near post. He also a good defensive contribution, clearing a shot on goal in the last minute following a Granada corner.

Valencia kept up the intensity and with Granada seeking an equalizer they left many spaces behind. Valencia would score again but the pass from KangIn to Ferran in the build up was slightly offside.

Ferran would then go on a fantastic solo goal, started by a quick throw from Cillissen to him on the half-way line. He showed real speed, agility, technique and great quality to score.

This is the 4th clean sheet for Valencia in 17 games in all competitions. Mallorca, Bilbao, Chelsea were the fixtures this season where this has happened before.

On top of this, the game finished without a single booking for Valencia. No disciplinary issues.

The team had to make all 3 substitutions due to injury/discomfort. Luckily following this there is an international break to rest some of the players and recover many others.

The play certainly is improving and I would say this second half performance is probably the most convincing performance so far by the team. At no point did I feel that Granada posed a major threat. Their only real chance was the corner effort which was cleared by Wass. The next step would be to extend such a performance to the whole game.

As of this post, this win leaves the team on 20 points and in 7th place. There are still games left in this matchday of course, so this is subject to change.

Next game is on Saturday, the 23rd of November away to Real Betis. Amunt!

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

UEFA Champions League Group Stage: Valencia CF 4 - 1 LOSC Lille Match Thread

Celades called this game the "biggest match of the season" for Valencia CF. A win here would put the team in good standing to qualify from this group. Anything else, would make qualification increasingly difficult. Valencia have three games left in this group. Lille then Chelsea, and finally Ajax. Home, home again, then away.

Cheryshev's goal that game was a beautiful team effort: Wass to Parejo to Gomez to Gameiro to Cheryshev goal. Then, Diakhaby picked up two yellow cards in the span of just as many minutes, got sent off, and Lille put the pressure on. With the red card and a 6 minutes of additional time in which Lille equalized in the 90+5th minute and rescued a point. This game should be different. Playing at home, and barring any red cards, I think Valencia can win.

Lille come into the game with a 2-1 away loss to Marseille. Valencia come into this game following a 2-1 comeback away from home against Espanyol.

LINEUP

The biggest surprise on the matchday lineup? Mangala has finally been called. It's difficult to say though if that means he's fully ready or this is just a precaution. After all, with Diakhaby out due to suspension, only Paulista and Garay are available as center-backs. Coquelin has played there under Marcelino, but he is also out with an injury. That only leaves Mangala. Then again, there were reports that the plan was always to have him ready by November, and here we are. We'll see but I don't expect him to start.

Alright, so Diakhaby is suspended, Coquelin is injured. Other players still recovering from injuries are Piccini, Soler, Sobrino and Guedes.

Returning from injury, Gameiro joins the list of forwards. He is a very welcome addition, especially having set up a few goals for his fellow strikers this seasons including in the last game against Lille.



Minor changes in the starting XI this game compared to the game against Espanyol. Gaya starts this time, after being rested last game. He did come on but only in the last few minutes due to an foreseen injury to Sobrino. Ferran, who started last game, finds himself on the bench, with his spot occupied by Kang In. It's looking like a 4-4-2 to start.

Bench: Jaume, Mangala, Costa, Correia, Ferran, Vallejo, Gameiro

MATCH

6' - Handball claim on Kondogbia at the edge of the Valencia penalty area. Referee correctly calls it as not a handball.
8' - Lille with a tame shot on goal from distance, easy for Cillissen.
11' - Gabriel with a rough challenge on Kang In, referee whistles for a free kick. Parejo goes for a short ball to Gaya out wide, who then crosses to Kondogbia. He couldn't make a clean contact but referee says he was offside anyway.
13' - Lille player jumps with great momentum and slams right through Rodrigo from behind. Foul but no booking.
15' - Kondogbia dispossesses a Lille player and drives the ball forward, he picks out Cheryshev who has Rodrigo making a supporting run. The Russian decides to fire from distance rather than pick out his teammate. The shot is easily claimed by the Lille keeper.
18' - Dangerous early cross from Lille into the box, Paulista got a slight touch taking it away from the opposing player. The counter was started after miscommunication and mistiming in the linkup between Wass and Kang In on the right flank.
20' - Parejo is dispossessed, setting up a chance for Remy in the penalty box. Kondogbia with a great sliding challenge to block his shot.
25' - 0-1. Goal for Lille. Parejo with a terrible causal pass that is blocked by a Lille player and falls to Osimhen who found space between the Valencia defenders. He beats them for pace and slots the ball past Cillissen.
30' - More bad news for Valencia. Cheryshev is forced off the field of play after being examined by the Valencia medical team. This adds to the injury troubles this season. Ferran Torres is the replacement. He quickly wins a corner.
31' - Parejo's corner finds Gabriel Paulista, but his header is headed away from goal by the opposing defender. Kondogbia tumbles to the ground during that corner. Garay due to dissent against the referee. Yellow card.
34' - Handball against Lille, free kick Valencia. The keeper claims it before anybody else.
35' - Ferran linking up with Wass. The latter puts in a cross to Kang In. The header is on target but the keeper smothers it. Rodrigo was waiting for any spills by the keeper.
37' - Kang In and Andre clash as they challenge for the ball. Kang In gets there first and they both falls to ground as they collide. Andre gets booked. Yellow card.
38' - Rodrigo's through ball to Maxi is blocked, the ball falls to Kang In who tries at an angle just inside the box. It's blocked again.
40' - Valencia with another give-away this time Wass is the culprit. Soumare intercepts his pass, finds Remy. The shot comes from distance towards the top left corner but Cillissen keeps it out. Valencia creating many of their own problems, as the commentator puts it.
44' - So close. The best chance for Valencia. Parejo to Rodrigo to Kang In, he fakes the defender with a shot but picks out Gaya instead. The cross is for Rodrigo but his effort is right at the keeper. The ball is spilled back to Ferran, whose shot is deflected. Corner.
45' - Rodrigo with another chance from the corner but again the keeper saves.

HALF-TIME: Possession is being wasted so much this game with these tame crosses, and others that go straight towards the keeper. Lots of individual mistakes and carelessness giving away possession as well. This resulted in the Lille goal. Valencia could have rescued an equalizer and a confidence boost in the last 2 minutes of the half with 2 chances for Rodrigo but both shots were claimed by the keeper. Play needs to improve big time in the second half. This is not good enough. Kondogbia and Lee have been the source of the good in this half. Rodrigo is very involved also but is really missing the final touch.

54' - Second change for Valencia, Kang In off for Vallejo.
63' - Handball from Jose Fonte in the penalty box! Referee calls penalty! VAR check, and it's confirmed penalty for Valencia and yellow card for Fonte.
65' - GOAL Valencia! 1-1! Parejo equalizes with a penalty kick.
67' - Wass booked for a push on a Lille player. Yellow card.
74' - First change for Lille, Yazici for Renato Sachez
80' - Bradaric is booked by the referee. Another yellow card for Lille. Andre off, Araujo on for Lille.
81' - 2-1! Valencia are back in front! Paulista with a fantastic ball over the defense to Gaya. The defender made a mess of clearing it. Gaya gets into a good postion and his low cross finds its way into the net! The goal is recorded as an own goal though.
83' - It's now 3-1! Kondogbia with an absolute beauty. Parejo plays the ball to him in midfield he takes a few touches towards the box and smashes into the top left corner.
89' - Would you believe it's now 4-1? When is the last time the team scored 4 in one game. Rodrigo picks up the ball in midfield and plays a fantastic through ball for Ferran. He takes one touch, looks up and finishes to the top left corner. 
90' - 2 minutes of additional time. Final change for Lille, Bamba on for Soumaoro. Valencia bring on Gameiro for Rodrigo.

FINAL THOUGHTS

This was quite a strange game. No one could have expected this scoreline at all, especially not after the first half.

There was a huge difference between the team that played the last 10 minutes and the one that played the game prior to that. 

This scoreline is kind of misleading for the way the team played. There still remains huge areas of improvement. The wasted possession, misplaced passes and miscommunication in the first half were way too frequent and some even in dangerous positions. For a game described by the coach as "the most important" of the season. Those first 80 minutes were far from the performance that such an occasion deserved. 

This could also be a moment where the team clicks. Another comeback, a vengeance for last game of some sorts, and 4 goals to boot. 

Kondogbia had a great game. He helped his defense when needed and also helped drive the ball forward. He scored goals in previous seasons from distance but recently he barely even attempts shooting. This one was amazing and much needed to lift the whole stadium. 

This game leaves Valencia in a 3-way tie on points with Ajax and Chelsea, 7 points each. With tie-breakers, Valencia still sit at 3rd. The team has a good change to go through but it all depends on the next two games which will both be tough. The home game against Chelsea is the one that people point to being the game to qualify. 

Next game is on Saturday, at Mestalla, against Granada.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

La Liga Matchday #12: RCD Espanyol 1 - 2 Valencia CF Match Thread

Three wins, five draws, three losses, that's Valencia's record so far, producing a total of 14 points from 11 games. At the middle of the table in 11th position is where the team finds itself. 15 goals for, 17 goals against.

Last game against Sevilla managed to be an even game. The substitute Ruben Sobrino, who barely gets time on the pitch, makes an appearance off the bench to score a fantastic glancing header to cancel out Ocampos's goal and rescue a draw.

Today's game is against a team that hasn't performed this season. They also sit far from they want to be or where they usually are. Espanyol find themselves second-last with 8 points from 11 games.

In their last game, Espanyol visited Athletic Bilbao were they suffered a 3-0 defeat.

Again, we cannot plan on this being an "easy" game as there have been none for the team recently. Every game is a challenge. Teams in relegation have everything to play for and can put one hell of a game.

Espanyol form: LWLLL
Valencia form: DLDWW

LINEUPS

In terms of lineups, Guedes and Gameiro are still recovering from previous injuries. Coquelin picked up an injury in the last game and was ruled out of this game. Carlos Soler is also out with an injury and further adds to the list of players to miss the game. Piccini still has 2-3 months of recovery to deal with, while Mangala is yet to be up to standard to get a start.

On the other hand, Rodrigo and Cheryshev return from their suspensions that made them miss the last game. They will be good additions to the lineup.

Finally, both Sobrino and Vallejo earned call-ups after their performance during the last game, with Sobrino managing to snatch the goal needed for a draw.


In defense, Diakhaby is brought in for Gabriel Paulista and Gaya is rested, giving Jaume Costa another start. Wass and Garay retain their spots in the lineup.

With Coquelin injured, the start goes to Kondogbia to partner Dani Parejo in midfield. Cheryshev and Ferran play to either side of them in this 4-4-2.

While Sobrino did have a great game last game, Rodrigo and Gomez are still preferred by Celades as the starting strikers.

Bench: Jaume, Paulista, Gaya, Correia, Kang In, Sobrino, Vallejo

MATCH

6' - Nice move from Maxi Gomez, dispossession the defender on the right flank. He makes a run and finds the run of Cheryshev who controls under pressure from two defenders, fire at goal but it's just above the crossbar. Good chance!
8' - Dangerous chance on the other end. A corner from Espanyol finds Darder at the edge of the penalty area, unmarked. He hits the volley into the ground and the ball bounces into the top left corner but a great save from Cillissen!
19' - Pretty even looking game so far, chances for each team.
20' - Parejo with a corner that misses everyone and curls straight out of play on the opposite goal line.
25' - Kondogbia with a great challenge to deny the run of Lei, who was about to go through on goal
30' - Penalty for Espanyol. The ball is headed down following a corner onto the arm of Kondogbia. Yellow card.
31' - 1-0. Marc Roca sends Cillissen the wrong way and slots it into the bottom right corner.

HALF-TIME: Unfortunate to be down 1-0. The penalty against Kondogbia was headed down onto his arm. Other than that the defense had a decent game, clearing everything that came their way. Kondogiba himself helped out a lot with that. In attack the transitions are there, but the final product is still lacking. The best chance has to be the one early on for Cheryshev. Hopefully, the team can be more productive in the final third in the next half.

53' - The referee blows the whistle for a challenge on Diakhaby in the penalty box following a corner. The Espanyol players protest and the referee checks with VAR. The referee is told to check his decision on the video screen and he takes all but 2 seconds to overrule the decision. It looks like Diakhaby handled the ball in the lead up to that challenge.
56' - Lei goes down in the box from just a touch of Kondogbia and appeals for a penalty, referee correctly waves play on.
58' - Garay takes out Sergi Dader to stop his run with a shoulder charge sending him to the ground. Free kick at the edge of the box for Espanyol. Cillissen guess correctly but Victor Sanchez's shot was just wide anyway.
62' - Double substitution from Celades. Ferran and Cheryshev are taken off, Vallejo and Sobrino are brought on.
64' - Rodrigo dispossesses the Espanyol defender in an advanced position. He makes the run and leaves the ball to Maxi Gomez. He tries to return the ball to Rodrigo but he overplays it and Rodrigo cannot reach it.
65' - First change for Espanyol, Lei off, Vargas on.
67' - Penalty for Valencia. Rodrigo is shoved in the back in the penalty box following a cross from Wass.
69' - 1-1! Parejo scores! Diego Lopez dives down to his right but Parejo sends it at a height that is too high for him to reach. Right direction, wrong height from the keeper.
71' - Brilliant build up play for Valencia. Parejo plays the ball to Rodrigo who plays it to Sobrino and continues on his run into the box. Sobrino attempts to return the ball but it again has too much weight on it.
72' - Parejo with a corner. He finds Ruben Sobrino but his header is hit straight at the goalkeeper. He had the chance to do again what he did against Sevilla.
73' - Ferreyra off, Campuzano on for Espanyol
76' - Kondogbia with a great strike following a run where he dummied out a defender to find the  space. The effort is just wide. Close chance.
77' - Last change for Espanyol, Darder comes off for Granero.
80' - GOAL for Valencia! 1-2! Rodrigo and Kondogiba team up to dispossess the Espanyol player on the left flank. Kondogbia plays the ball to Vallejo who finds the wide run of Rodrigo. Rodrigo plays a delightful cross for Maxi Gomez on the near post who heads it past the keeper. Great service, and great goal.
86' - Jaume Costa clears a dangerous ball out of the box by twisting his body and hooking it out of play. He's gone down in pain. Meanwhile it appears Sobrino picked up an injury in the build up to that play.
88' - Jaume Costa returns to the field of play, Sobrino is taken off for Gaya.
90' - Six minutes added by the referee for stoppages.

FINAL THOUGHTS

This was a decent game. Espanyol had their chances but they dealt with one way or another, pretty or not, and contained by the defense, with some help from Kondogbia.

In offense, our three best chances were from Cheryshev early on, from Kondogbia from distance, the penalty from Parejo and from Maxi Gomez for the goal. Half of those were converted to goals. The linkup play and build up and transition is there for a lot of the attacks but the final ball is really the missing piece here. Rodrigo could've had 2 goals if the passes from Maxi Gomez and Sobrino were weighted correctly.

It's a shame that Sobrino had to be taken off due to an injury. It seems like every game the team picks up at least one more. Hopefully, its a quick recovery.

The handballs, penalties and booking are a persisting issue with the team. Need to get it under control. This game was surprisingly low booking with only 1 yellow card. There were many challenges that I felt deserved one such as the elbow to the back of Maxi Gomez's head or the dive in the penalty box from Lei.

Picking up points away from home is always good. It was even better for the team's confidence to manage a comeback from behind. Might not have been the prettiest of games and perhaps made harder than it should've been but a win nonetheless.

The team has a big game against Lille next in the Champions League on Tuesday at the Mestalla. This game was good for the confidence to take into that game. The game on Tuesday will be a challenge but it's also the best chance to stay in contention to qualify from the group. We cannot count on other team's slipping up but rather must be proactive and take charge, especially in the two home games we have.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

La Liga Matchday #11: Valencia CF 1 - 1 Sevilla FC Match Thread

This is a true test. Sevilla is perhaps Valencia's main rival for the Champions League positions. Every year, the two teams fight for fourth place. This will be a measure of how far off Valencia is from their rival.

In terms of league positions, Sevilla sit at 5th with 19 points, while Valencia is 12th with 13 points. That's a two-game difference. A win here will close the distance and bring Valencia within distance of them. The home crowd at Mestalla will surely want a win, especially against Sevilla.

Last game was a disaster for Valencia. The team took the lead early away from home through the recovered Rodrigo after some great persistence from Kevin Gameiro to keep the ball in play and find the cross. Soon after that the game transformed when Rodrigo was sent off with a straight red card for an elbow on the Osasuna player. With 10 men Valencia were overwhelmed and conceded three goals to throw away the three points. Sevilla played at home against Getafe and after a 70 minute deadlock, found the net twice to secure the win.

If this game wasn't challenging enough based on current form, Valencia has to do this without Guedes (injury), Rodrigo (suspension), Gameiro (injury) and Cheryshev (suspension). The latter three have played an important role in either setting up or scoring goals.

Valencia form: LDWWD
Sevilla form: WWLWL

LINEUP

With those key injuries and suspension, Celades has to adapt and try a different lineup. He has Kang In return after suspension, who should play some role tonight, you'd expect. Manu Vallejo and Ruben Sobrino, who've barely had a chance in previous games, are both called up to fill the void in attack. Who will start still remains to be seen.

Soler seems to be adjusting more and more every game after injury and hopefully Gaya does the same cause he has a big job ahead of him today.

Cillissen will return to being the starting keeper after some dizziness kept him out of the previous game, moments before it started.



Celades opted to play both KangIn and Ferran to address the gap left by Rodrigo and Cheryshev. This lineup should have a lot of energy.

It remains to be seen if this is a 4-3-3 or a 4-4-2 or even a 4-2-3-1. This lineup is flexible across all those formations. If Ferran is partnering up with Maxi Gomez up front, it will be an interesting to see if he can be as lethal as he is for the Spanish U21 side where he regularly scores a lot of goals. 

Bench: Jaume, Diakhaby, Costa, Correia, Kondogbia, Vallejo, Sobrino

MATCH

1' - It looks like a 4-4-2 with Kang In playing upfront alongside Maxi Gomez
3' - Interesting also that Soler is on the left and Ferran is played on the right side of midfield.
10' - Sevilla creating a few dangerous half-chances but the Valencia defense seems up to it so far.
12' - Kang In with great skill taking on 4 defenders and managing a cross but deflected for a corner. Parejo's corner is met with a glancing header from Soler but off-target.
14' - Ferran with great skill of his own on the opposite wing, taking out 2 Sevilla defenders and winning a corner. Parejo's corner is met by Paulista this time but he couldn't hit the target either. 
16' - It's great to see the ball being carried forward directly. Players always looking to make a run and driving the ball towards the opposing goal.
18' - Throughball for Chicharito gives him a chance at goal, but he hits the side-netting.
19' - Wass with a wonderful lob over the defense to give Ferran the ball in space, he crosses and finds Kang In whose volley is just over the cross-bar. Good chance.
21' - Ocampos fires from distance but it's wide of the far post.
23' - Ferran fights for the ball and wins a corner. This results in long stoppage as Escudero is elbowed to the face by his teammate in the process. 
27' - Escudero is stretchered away and Guedlj is brough on.
28' - Play resumes with a corner. It is parried away, falls to Wass, who fires from distance and it's narrowly wide.
32' - Late challenge by Joan Jordan on Dani Parejo. First booking for Sevilla and it's a yellow card.
36' - Gaya's crosses so far have left a lot to be desired, there are always played over everyone. 
38' - Ocampos, Gaya and Coquelin all go down. Replay shows Gaya tackling Ocampos off the ball, but VAR deems it only obstruction with not an act of aggression. Meanwhile Coquelin is taken off injured, this was unexpected and the substitution is taking a while.
40' - Kondogbia is brought on to restore Valencia to 11-men.
45' - 6 minutes of added time by the referee for all the stoppages.
45+1' - Yellow card for Ocampos after he a tackle on Gaya. Questions about whether it was really a yellow.
45+2' - Ferran steps on Ever Banega's foot and gets shown a yellow card. Free kick for Sevilla.
45+3' - 0-1, goal for Sevilla. And it's Ocampos. Totally unmarked, given the space to hit the ball low and it beats Cillissen from distance.
45+4' - Navas is pressured off the ball by Soler and the referee deems it a yellow card offense. Second booking for Valencia.

HALF-TIME: Sevilla lead with a goal on the edge of half-time. Valencia played a really good game for the majority of that first half with lots of energy and some chances from Soler, Paulista and Kang In. However, the team failed to capitalize and were lucky not to have Gaya sent off for an off-the-ball challenge on Ocampos. He would have an intense battle with Gaya after that, and would go on to score the goal. The referee began to lose control of the game towards the end and his lenient approach was soon after this incident transformed to booking left, right and center.  Kang In and Ferran were the stand out players of the half for Valencia.

46' - Valencia starting the second half in good fashion. Nearly a goal for Maxi Gomez after a mistake from the Sevilla defense. The goalkeeper produces a save out of nowhere to parry the ball for a corner.
51' - Garay booked for a challenge on Chicharito. Late challenge. Yellow card.
57' - Vallejo is the second substitution for Celades. Carols Soler off.
59' - Banega with a shot from distance. It's wide of the goal.
66 ' - Paulista has a few rough minutes. He falls down from dizziness, is restored but seems totally out of it. Now he earns a booking after a challenge on Chicharito is exaggerated to draw the booking. Yellow card.
68' - Kang In is taken off for Sobrino, clearly Celades wants more offense and brings on a conventional striker to partner with Maxi Gomez. All Valencia's substitutions have been used up.
73' - Maxi Gomez taken out at the edge of the box by Fernando. Yellow card. This is an excellent chance for Parejo. 
75' - The shot is fired straight at the wall and deflects out wide to Daniel Wass. He puts it for a cross but it's claimed by the keeper.
76' - Vallejo finds the back of the net but he is clearly in an offside position. The goal is disallowed.
80' - Parejo is taken out on the right wing by Chicharito. The linesman takes a while but eventually raises his flag for a foul. 
81' - GOAL Valencia! 1-1! Ruben Sobrino meets Parejo's cross and heads the ball into the back of the net. His first chance at goal and he scores!
88' - Valencia really pushing for goal. Great cross from Wass almost finds Maxi but it's cleared for a corner as the defender gets to it first. Parejo's corner is claimed by the keeper.
90' - Parejo tugs on Vazquez's shirt. Yellow card for the captain. Free kick for Sevilla. Joan Jordan with the delivery, its headed back in by the receiving player but Cillissen claims. Four minutes of additional time.
90+2' - Free kick for Valencia for a challenge on Sobrino, Valencia players rush forward. Nothing comes of it as Sevilla clears. 
90+4' - Valencia with one final free kick for a challenge on Maxi Gomez. Everyone forward but Wass and Gaya. The header is met by Sobrino but he can't score this time!

FINAL THOUGHTS

I really thought we would clinch the win. Even with all these players that are injured/suspended Valencia still managed to make it an even game. Speaking of injuries, Coquelin can now be added to that list. Why is it that every year we rack up this list of injuries?

I like some elements of the first half but it still bugs me that we struggle to score. I thought the whole plan to move away from Marcelino's defensive tactics was so that the team can give more in offense. It seems that the team concedes every game and always scores quite a few goals. The goal Valencia conceded was totally avoidable. 

Gaya almost got red carded and that was too close. If it were to be 4 games in a row where this happened, it would be really really frustrating. Luckily he escaped.

Next game is Saturday, away from home, against Espanyol.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

La Liga Matchday #10: CA Osasuna 3 - 1 Valencia CF Match Thread

Following the away trip to France for the Champions League game against Lille, the team returns to Spain for another away game, this time against Osasuna. The reactions from last game were mixed. Some thought the team deserved to win but was unlucky, others felt that Valencia were outplayed.

In La Liga, we can already see some fruits of Celades's labor as we are in quite good form recently. But it's games like today that can take that away. If Valencia don't get a positive result, a convincing win, there will be complaints. Looking at the table though, you would say that this is a close game.

Valencia is 11th in the table with 13 points and Osasuna is 13th with 11 points. Based on that the game looks even. Also, with this being their home ground, they cannot just be dismissed as an easy game.

Osasuna form: LWDLD
Valencia form: DWWDD

LINEUP

Rodrigo finally returns to the squad list following 2 absences due to injury. Some pointed to his absence as an explanation for some poor transitions to attack in recent games. We will see today. Also Gaya who was sorely missed in the past few games should be ready to start. Corriea also retur s to the squad list.


In terms of missing players. Guedes is still recovering from the injury he sudfered during the international break. Kang In misses the game through suspension due to his red card challenge last game. Piccini is still recovering but has moved on to the next stage. Vallejo and Sobrino are out of the squad by technical decision. Mangala is still in his recovery program.

Bench: Cillissen, Diakhaby, Costa, Wass, Coquelin, Ferran, Maxi Gomez

MATCH

14' - GOAL Valencia! 0-1! Carlos Soler passing back and forth with Gameiro using their heads before Soler plays the ball into space ahead of him. Gameiro is persistent, keeps the ball in play and takes out the opposing defender. He sees Rodrigo make a run at the back post and picks him out for an easy tap in.
29' - Red card for Rodrigo. Valencia down to 10 men. An aerial battle between Rodrigo and an opposing player causes both of them to tumble. As Rodrigo hits the ground, he slams down his elbow and hits the defender in the head. Referee deemed it an intentional act of aggression and dismisses him. Second game in a row now Valencia go down to 10 men.
34' - Goal for Osasuna. 1-1. That didn't take long. Jaume did well to save the shot from the edge of the box, but the ball made it's way to the opposing wide player who crossed it back into the box. Oier makes a long run into the box unmarked and heads the ball into the net. Poor defending.
42' - Yellow card for Valencia. Cheryshev will miss the next game due to accumulation of bookings.
48' - Goal for Osasuna. It's 2-1. Another headed goal, this time by Ruben Garcia following a Roberto Torres cross to the back post.
55' - Osasuna's Oier gets booked. Yellow card.
58' - First substitution for Osasuna, Adrian Lopez off, Marc Cardona on.
65' - Celades takes off Cheryshev and brings on Maxi Gomez. It seems he wants to try for an equalizer.
69' - More attacking reinforcements for Valencia, Kondogbia off, Ferran Torres on.
77' - Second change for Osasuna, Roberto Torres off, Castellano on.
80' - It's 3-1. No chance now. Jaume leaves his line to parry a cross, but the ball falls to Estupinan who fires into the top right corner of the net. Jaume got a hand to the shot but couldn't keep it out.
85' - Changes for each team. Avila off, Perez on for Osasuna. For Valencia, Gameiro is taken off for Coquelin. Celades probably wants to see off the match without any more goals conceded. Defensive change.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I missed the game and it seemed like it's a good one to miss. The game started off well. Rodrigo comes back into the lineup from injury and manages to score. Great play between Soler and Gameiro and such persistence from the latter to keep the ball on, take out the defender, and find Rodrigo at the back post. How many of these goals has Gameiro set up in recent games?

Then the red card came and practically killed the game. I've seen a few clips of it and a lot of them show that it was just a casual landing. Only the Bein Sports clip shows an angle that could be interpreted as an intentional act of aggression. The defender clearly made a meal of it, that's for sure. I don't think Rodrigo had ill intent but it's hard to say that it's a clear and obvious error so that VAR could over-rule. It appeared like he was just dropping his elbow on the ground so that he could get up and the defender happened to be in the way.

The equalizer came quickly from Osasuna. They quickly took the lead, 3 minutes into the second half. Despite Celades bringing on Ferran and Maxi Gomez to attempt to salvage something from this game. Osasuna held on and went further ahead 10 minutes from full-time.

It's a game to forget. I would say that Celades needs to address some disciplinary issues within the team. That's 3 red cards over the past 3 games. And they have directly cost us all three games.

Next game is Wednesday against Sevilla. They hold 5th place and lead Valencia by 6 points. Good new is Valencia if finally back at home. Bad news is both Rodrigo and Cheryshev will miss the game due to suspension. It's a good chance to recover. If they manage to remain with all 11 players on the field, they should be able to contest the 3 points.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

UEFA Champions League Group Stage: LOSC Lille 1 - 1 Valencia CF Match Thread

We're back to the Champions League for the 3rd game of the group stage. Today's the chance to show that last Champions League matchday against Ajax is all in the past. The team has a chance to play at least to cement their position as 2nd and within distance of 1st.

Valencia sit 2nd in the table at 3 points, tied with Chelsea on points but ahead on head-to-head. Today's opponent, Lille, sit at the very bottom with no points from 2 games.

Valencia come in having taken a point off a tough Atletico Madrid away from home. Lille come in on the back of a 2-1 loss to Toulouse away from home.

Both Valencia and Lille have lose 3-0 to Ajax. Valencia took 3 points off Chelsea in a 1-0 victory while Lille had a tight contest with Chelsea and just managed to lose out with a 2-1 scoreline.

While Lille is in last place, Valencia cannot afford to take the game lightly. Last year's results against Young Boys should be an example of what not to do. It is perhaps the most winnable game on paper in the group though. And, Valencia play Lille in the next matchday as well. This presents an opportunity to really collect points and get ahead while Chelsea and Ajax clash.

LINEUP

The lineup is largely unchanged from last game against Atletico Madrid. Cillissen retains his spot in goal as it seems that Jaume will be the designated keeper for Copa del Rey and Super Cup.

While Gaya has returned to the squad following injury, Jaume Costa starts this match probably as a precaution still. Garay is rested this game with Diakhaby as his replacement. Paulista and Wass complete the defense as usual.


Kondogbia and Coquelin start together once again with Parejo, who was instrumental last game, especially in the second half. Soler who is still being eased into the game after injury starts on the bench. Gameiro gets a start, having come off the bench last game, over Rodrigo who is still out with injury. Cheryshev earns the start yet again with Guedes still out to injury. Maxi Gomez retains his spot as striker.

Celades started last game with a 4-3-3 and did well to adapt to the game and revert to a 4-4-2 when that wasn't working out for him. We saw last game that Maxi Gomez playing as a lone striker was isolated for huge portions of the game. This lineup looks like it could be either formation. If Celades came to the same conclusion about Maxi as we did, it would be a 4-4-2. In attack, this could still transition to a 4-3-3, with Coquelin moving towards the center and Cheryshev joining the attack.

Bench: Jaume, Gaya, Garay, Kang In, Ferran, Soler, Vallejo

MATCH

21' - Jaume Costa fouled by Celik. Yellow card for the Lille player.
41' - VAR check for a penalty following claims that Jaume Costa handled the ball. The ball rolls up his side and to the bottom of his shoulder. VAR rules no penalty. Araujo is booked for dissent against the decision. Yellow card.
46' - Celades brings on Soler for Kondogbia. This makes more sense. Valencia was having trouble getting the ball forward. Soler can do that.
63' - GOAL for Valencia! 0-1! Maxi Gomez with a wonderful through ball to send Gameiro through. He looks up, sees the run of Cheryshev and plays a great ball across to him. Cheryshev controls and fires to the far post, the ball passes through the keeper's hand. One of Valencia's only chances and it's a goal! Great build up and great finish.
65' - Gameiro comes off for Kang In. For Lille, Araujo is take off for Ikone.
71' - Yazici is replaced by Loic Remy.
82' - Diakhaby is booked for time-wasting. Yellow card.
84' - Barely two minutes later and Diakhaby manages to get himself a second yellow. Red card is shown Valencia is down to ten men. Diakhaby received the ball in an advanced position, losses possession and cuts across the Lille forward, taking him out in order to stop the dangerous chance.
86' - Djalo receives a yellow card for a challenge from behind on Maxi Gomez.
87' - Celades sacrifices Cheryshev to bring on Garay to complete the defense and see out this game. Lille go for more offense, taking off defender Djalo (who is also carrying a booking) for midfielder Bamba.
90' - Referee adds 6 minutes of time for stoppages.
90+4' - Yellow card for Maxi Gomez for a push on Andre.
90+5' - Lille goal. 1-1. So close. Two minutes from time and the lead is gone. An aerial ball is headed back into the box, the Lille players beats Garay to it and heads it down to Ikone. Ikone takes out Paulista and Jaume Costa with a slick touch and fires the ball into the roof of the net. Cillissen was well positioned but the ball just went over him.
90+9' - Foul on Maxi Gomez by Lille's Gabriel. Yellow card.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Well, this was exactly what I was speaking about in the preview. Lille played better. With Ajax losing to Chelsea earlier, Valencia could've set up a 3-way tie for first place. Instead Valencia barely showed up, especially in the first half. So many misplaced passes and possession periods wasted. The ball just couldn't get past the final third. This made me think of the impact and role Rodrigo has on our attacking transitions and what a difference it has been in the games without him.

Second half was definitely better especially with the introduction of Soler at half-time. This managed to earn Valencia a good chance, started by Gomez, carried by Gameiro and finished by Cheryshev. It was good at that point and Lille were getting frustrated. You could see them protest every action and every decision. Then, in the span of two minutes, Diakhaby manages to get booked twice and sent off. With 6 minutes of time to play and 6 additional minutes, plus Lille taking off a defender for a midfield player, it was a tense ending. Lille got a goal that left our defense looking the weakest it's been. Watching the goal over, three defenders were on Ikone and he takes them all out with a single move. Cillisen was set up well but was expecting a lower shot and that was not the case.

This was one game where it's hard to find positives other than the goal really. That was the only moment where it felt that the team were switched on.

Next game in the Champions League will also be against Lille, this time at Mestalla. As for the team's next game, it will be this Sunday away to Osasuna.


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.