Sunday, March 17, 2019

Valencia 0-0 Getafe post-match

Bye bye to Champions league football next season then, unless we can win the Europa league.

Games like these are why I doubt this year's tactics. There is nothing to be gained by trying to play Getafe at their own game as we saw in the first half. We created very little and they were happy to sit back and cancel us out. They were closer to scoring than us: Jaume producing a good one handed save from a header to keep us in. VAR also helped, it looked like they had a good penalty shout, but nothing doing according to the referee. Good first half from Coquelin and Piccini, though they would fade a bit in the second.

Now, here's what I'm talking about. Valencia came out in the second half with a lot more energy and attacking purpose and created a lot more. The key incident was when a cross was whipped in, the keeper pushed it away and Guedes slotted home. The celebrations ended a minute later when VAR showed that it was offside. Gameiro got caught offside quite a lot. But ultimately, we looked much more likely to score when playing this way and this is where "luck" comes into it. You make your own luck. A team that has 20 shots on goal is far more likely to get a "lucky" deflected goal than a team that has 2. The team looked far better when trying this way than the dour first half performance. Guedes looked back to his best and we have flair players like him, Rodrigo, Ferran, Parejo etc and we should use them, by using our better players to outgun teams like this, not let ourselves be stalemated. I really feel that if we had played with the attacking intent that we saw in the second half, we'd have won.

16 draws, just 2 needed to equal the record. Over and out from me.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Krasnodar 1-1 Valencia

Another lame and boring draw then.

In truth my throat is sore, firstly from shouting in anger at some of the tame and timid play we witnessed in much of that game, anger that the inevitable happened when they scored and then relief from celebrating.

Make no mistake, though, we really rode our luck there and, I get tired of saying this, we can't keep on that way, as we are very soon going to get found out by one of the tougher opponents up ahead unless we change it around.

Line-up went mostly as expected

except up front. I expected at least one of Rodrigo or Gameiro to start, but Marcelino gambled on resting them for the Getafe game. A very dubious decision, I thought, and events certainly didn't justify it.

Marcelino said before the game that the team wouldn't be playing for 0-0. He lied. Instead the strategy was to play Russian roulette.

For most of the game Valencia lacked ambition. Passing was sloppy, there was too much blasting the ball aimlessly up front (I counted 4 times in the game when Neto simply kicked the ball up front to the opposing goalkeeper.) All the lost possession gave them ample time to attack.

Valencia's main chances came from a good ball across the box in the first half, which neither Mina nor Soler were able to capitalise on, and 2 headers from Gabriel. He really should have hit the target with one of them.

Trying to defend a single goal lead the whole game is a very high risk strategy and it looked like Valencia had been punished in the 84th minute when they scored an excellent goal.

Only then did Valencia finally wake up and the team's habit of scoring at the death was seen again. Gameiro getting to the by-line and cutting the ball back to Guedes, who finished an excellent team goal to put us into the quarters.

In conclusion, overjoyed as we may be at this, it's hard not to have mixed feelings. Apart from the last few minutes of this game and the first 30-35 of the first leg, the team produced a below average performance in this round and was lucky that we didn't have a harder draw. Coquelin was poor tonight and the front two ran around like headless chickens and certainly did their claims for a starting place no favours. Sobrino was mostly invisible while Mina nodded the ball on aimlessly, stood waiting for the ball coming to him and got dispossessed quickly. Neto also had an off day and was fortunate not to be tested more. No clue what Soler was doing but it wasn't helping. Marcelino's strategy of hoping for a 0-0 didn't work and nearly had the team knocked out. I said it last match report and I'll repeat: the team should not sit on one goal leads. We are not Atletico Madrid and should be putting games to bed.

On the plus sides, what a week for Guedes. After going off close to tears just 7 days ago he is now in his best moment of the season. Also, as I said last time, the team's morale is obviously good: this is the 7th time just in 2019, that the team has scored in the 90th minute or later. Draw for the quarter finals tomorrow. Chelsea and Napoli are definitely through, with Villarreal looking highly likely.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Girona 2-3 Valencia

Valencia made a strong and determined effort to keep up their push for the most draws record today, only to fall at the last hurdle, Ferran spoiling the team's efforts with a last minute goal to give three points when all seemed lost.

I expected more changes, but the only ones were Gaya replacing Lato, Roncaglia in place of Diakhaby and Ferran instead of Soler. All those changes would play their part for good or bad.

Most importantly, Marcelino kept faith with Guedes, despite the latter's personal problems and poor performance last game.

An even start saw Girona force a save low from Neto. Valencia broke the deadlock in the 13th minute, Gameiro challenging well for a header, Rodrigo picking up the ball and threading an excellent pass between the defence for Guedes to run on to and slot home for his first goal of the season.

Valencia blundered away the lead 8 minutes later. Stupid challenge from Gaya gave them a free kick at the edge of our area and we always seem to be weak at defending them. Girona hadn't scored at home in the league since 12 January, but not to worry, Valencia are in town. Poor marking from Kondogbia and they equalise. 1-1 at half time.

Valencia started the second half stronger and a shot from Guedes rebounded off the keeper, but a defender cleared it off the line. Guedes was involved in the next action, when his shot was blocked, Parejo hit a crisp shot inside the keeper's near post to restore our lead.

In the 61st minute the ref made a poor decision which nearly cost us the points, booking Roncaglia after a defender had kicked the ball against him. Free kick was fair, the booking wasn't and it made the difference 10 minutes later when Roncaglia overbalanced and stuck his foot up to bring the defender down, getting a second booking and reducing us to 10 men, which put us on the back foot.

Marcelino had taken off Rodrigo and Gameiro to rest them for next Thursday, so during the game our forward line went from Rodrigo-Gameiro to Rodrigo-Cheryshev to Cheryshev-Guedes before finally Ferran was playing in an unfamiliar position as lone forward. I understand the need to rest players, and to his credit, Marcelino has generally managed it well, but I'm not a fan of these makeshift and ever changing forward lines.

Diakhaby came on for Guedes and conceded a penalty which gave them the equaliser. Down to 10 men, with Girona attacking and Ferran as lone striker it didn't look good and looked more a question of whether we could hold the draw. However, Girona lost the ball, Kondogbia threaded the ball through to Ferran who used great pace to round the keeper, who seemed indecisive and caught in no man's land, to score and give Valencia a victory that had seemed unlikely.

Girona are the only team apart from Juventus to win at Mestalla this season, so beating them at their own patch gives us revenge against an annoying team. 4 wins in a row for Valencia in all competitions, unbeaten in 9 with the last defeat coming at Getafe in the cup in late January. A hard fought win but one which pushes Valencia to sixth temporarily. Sevilla are currently drawing with Sociedad at half time. If it stays that way (hopefully) Valencia will end the round in our highest position of the season, 6th with a 6-point gap separating us from Getafe in fourth. 2 huge games in the next week: the second leg with Krasnodar and then Getafe at Mestalla. At least the team is in winning mood and seems to have figured out how to score more than 1 goal in a game.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Valencia - Krasnodar match thread

Valencia's non-stop push on three fronts continues tonight. By the time of the Getafe game on 17 March, the team will have played 21 games in 72 days (!) Luckily, the team is now largely injury free. Garay is the only one out, while Roncaglia and Kondogbia are suspended. That leaves a squad of

As I said in a previous post, Parejo and Gaya have played against another Krasnodar team, while Roncaglia and Wass came up against Krasnodar 2 years ago while playing for Celta, Wass scored in the first game. Despite that, they're an unknown quantity. Doing well in the Russian league and could win it. Russia's winter break ended last weekend and they achieved a decent draw at Spartak Moscow. The break could go two ways, it could mean they're fresher, but could also mean they're rusty. They usually play 4-1-4-1 or occasionally 4-2-3-1, so Valencia will have to be solid in the middle.

Marcelino said this week that Europa league is a priority so I would expect a strong line-up. Likely Neto;
Gaya - Diakhaby - Gabriel - Piccini;
Guedes - Parejo - Coquelin - Soler;
Rodrigo - Gameiro.

The considerations that could affect that are that only 2 central defenders are available and Parejo needs rest, in which case we could see Coquelin starting on the bench to conserve him in case we need a reserve defender, then replacing Parejo at half time.

A good win to nil is essential. If the team wants to have a good chance of progressing 2-0 or 3-0 is needed and that won't be easy.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Valencia - Athletic Bilbao preview/match thread

A giant of Spanish football, having a disappointing season. A brief flirtation with relegation due to too many draws and serious difficulty in scoring goals, with the 25 scored the second lowest in the division. Nonetheless, some improved performances in 2019 have pushed the team up the table to the fringes of the European places, with one of the tightest defences in the league helping.

All said, Bilbao's situation will sound very familiar to Valencia fans. After an opening day win at home to Leganes, 8 draws and 5 defeats left the club in the bottom 3. Since Christmas, they've rallied, with a 6-4-1 record putting them 10th, one place behind us. Today's game is therefore crucial, we need to win to put distance between us and a challenger for the Europa league places and to capitalise on the slip-ups of teams ahead of us. Sevilla lost yesterday to bottom club Huesca. While Valencia fans will enjoy their travails, it's pointless if we can't capitalise. If we have any ambitions of 6th or higher, we need to win the home games. Especially when we consider the schedule ahead:

Girona (A)
Getafe (H)
Sevilla (A)
R.Madrid (H)

Bilbao will be tough, since a defeat in the Basque derby at the start of last month, they've won 2 and drawn 1 without conceding. Aduriz, who always seems to score against us, is injured. Inaki Williams will be the main focus of their attack, though he hasn't score in the last 6 games and is having a disappointing season overall. Other players who will pose a threat are central midfielder Raul Garcia, who has scored all their last 3 goals and left winger Iker Muniain.

Marcelino, at least can call on nearly a full squad. Kang-In, Lato and Sobrino have been left out, leaving

Neto will return, with Gaya on the left. In the centre, Diakhaby's rest means he'll likely start and probably with Gabriel. I'd expect Piccini to start on the right instead of Wass. In midfield, Chersyhev, Kondogbia and Soler all had some rest on Thursday, so expect to see them, with Parejo ever present and, at best, subbed off late in the second half if the game is going our way.

Up front, again, Mina's rest makes him favourite to start and it's a toss-up which of Rodrigo or Gameiro will partner. (I'd guess Rodrigo.)

A critical game. If we don't get the three points today then top 4 seems gone.

Some quick comments post-game due to the late hour. Selection mostly as I predicted, I forgot that Roncaglia is banned for next two European games, so he started. A typical first half and not in a good way. Too many mishit passes, too much diddling around when we have the ball. The team lacked decisiveness. Good to see the tandem of Parejo and Kondogbia controlling the midfield. Diakhaby mostly secure, though Bilbao had a very good penalty shout turned down when he brought down their player. Looked like it to me.

Roncaglia probably his worst game so far but not awful. Disappointing half from the front four, there were numerous times when Parejo or Kondogbia or Wass had pushed up but had no through ball  available.

Great goal after the break, nice one two between Mina and Rodrigo and excellent volley from the latter. Still not secure but the team wrapped it up at the end with good link up between the three subs, Guedes finding Soler and great ball across the box for Gameiro to finish. Our forwards are finally starting to produce: 7 goals in 10 games for Rodrigo and 4 in 9 for Gameiro. Another home game coming up on Thursday against Krasnodar, but good to see the team back in European positions.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Valencia 1-0 Betis (Copa del Rey semi-final)

Valencia have done it! First cup final in 11 years

Marcelino went with a risky enough game plan, trusting Valencia's defence to hold out, while aiming to steal a goal on the counter. It worked. Betis had very limited opportunities, mainly a couple of shots from distance. The Valencia goal was well worked. Piccini burst through and played a nice pass to Gameiro who had made another intelligent run. As usual, he showed his unselfishness, chipping it to Rodrigo, who couldn't miss an empty goal.

Rodrigo came off to protect him for the final, since he was on a yellow and Cheryshev, Soler and Diakhaby came on, with Guedes ending as the lone striker up front. If there's a minor grumble, it's that we fluffed a number of chances to kill the game with a second goal on the break.

This is a quick post, since I have to sleep, but I was happy with the performances of the team particularly Roncaglia, Piccini and Jaume among others.

Next cup game on the 25th....

gives us the first chance of silverware since 2008. Just a reminder, cup runners-up no longer qualify for Europe, so we have to win it and doing so would guarantee a place in Europa league group stages, whereas finishing 7th would mean sacrificing our late summer playing 3 qualifying rounds of Europa league.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Leganes - Valencia match preview / Europa league draw

After an uninspiring win on Thursday, Valencia learned their Europa league rivals the following day...

Krasnodar would probably have not been one of the top 8 teams that Valencia wanted to avoid, so it's a middling to easier opponent than what we could have got, but also one that can't be underestimated, since they beat an in-form Sevilla in the group stage and overcame Bayer Leverkusen on away goals in the round of 32. While the place seems obscure, and it is only the 16th biggest Russian city, weirdly, this is the second time in 6 seasons we'll have gone there. That was to play a different Krasnodar team, Kuban, who went bankrupt last year, in the Europa league groups in late 2013. Parejo played on that occasion with Jaume an unused sub, with Gaya featuring in the Mestalla leg. Bankrolled by a Russian billionaire oligarch, they're 2nd in the Russian league and will provide a tricky test and an annoyingly long journey.

Sevilla's were top of the table in early December but defeat today to Barcelona means they have now a record of 1-1-5 in their last 7 games and have slipped out of the top 4. It's imperative that we take advantage by winning tomorrow. Winning games like these against Leganes are exactly the type of games that make the difference between top4 and also rans. It won't be easy: Leganes haven't lost at home in over 5 months.

At least Marcelino has a nearly full squad to draw on at last. Garay and Mina are the only absentees, and the latter's injury is minor. Piccini, Rodrigo and Gabriel all return, with Diakhaby available again after serving his 4-game suspension.

I suspect Marcelino will have one eye on Thursday's Copa del Rey game, so predicting the line-up is difficult. But I'd expect Neto in goal. In defence, we'll likely see Gaya-Diakhaby-Roncaglia-Piccini, though it will depend on the fitness of Piccini and Gabriel. In midfield of Cheryshev and Kondogbia, who didn't play on Thursday, should play, with Parejo ever present. Right wing will be interesting: I think Marcelino may go with Ferran and save Soler for Thursday, or we may see Wass there. Up front, I'd expect Rodrigo to be eased back in as a second hand sub. Gameiro should definitely start and then the interesting thing will be if Marcelino tries Guedes there, or sticks with Sobrino.