Tuesday, July 7, 2020

La Liga Matchday #34: Valencia CF 2 - 1 Real Valladolid SAD Match Thread

Valencia return to Mestalla to face against Real Valladolid for matchday 34 of La Liga. The players and management have changed their words to align with reality and have been talking about Europa League being the season's objective. This was even happening before the last game despite the Champions League being mathematically possible. There is still debate as to whether or not that's worth it. Regardless, the team had quite a bit of work to do to achieve even that goal.

The past three days have featured rumors of who the next coach for Valencia could be. Names included Ernesto Valverde, Mauricio Pochettino, Massimilliano Allegri, Marco Silva and Laurent Blanc.

There was also news that Kang In has specifically asked to leave the club as he feels that he will never get the minutes he wants. Voro did feature players like Mangala, Sobrino and Vallejo which were out of favor for previous coaches, so it will be interesting to see if he gives Kang In a chance as well. Correia is another player desperate for minutes.

Valencia come into this game on the back of a 2-2 away draw at Granada. While Valencia were lucky to come away with a draw based on the chances that Granada had, the team did show improvement from the previous game in one key area: they got chances in front of goal and converted them. Not many chances, but they ended up in the back of the net. This was an area the team struggled with all season. The goals came from two players who needed a confidence boost. Vallejo scored after some perseverance from Cheryshev in finding him with a great pass, cancelling out the Granada lead quickly. Guedes would get Valencia in front with a beautifully struck shot from outside the penalty area. Unfortunately, the defense had a lapse to both allow a free kick and leave enough of a gap for the shot to pass through onto goal.

Real Valladolid played out a very tight game against Alaves at home. The game was even on almost every metric and the scoreline reflected that up until the 88th minute when Joaquin Moreno managed to put the home team in front, leaving the away team no time to respond.

The first fixture between these two teams in La Liga was in December with the game ending 1-1. With the game remaining scoreless for 82 minutes, Real Vallodolid found the goal in the 83 minute. Valencia would find the equalizer late in injury time as Ferran plays the ball across the face of goal where Manu Vallejo tapped the ball into an empty net.

***FORM (all competitions)

Valencia: DLLLW
Real Valladolid: WDDDL

SQUAD

The positive news in terms of personnel is the return of Ferran Torres after missing last game due to injury. Additionally, there was worry that Jaume Costa picked up an injury against Granada as he was subbed off in half time for Guerrero. However, those worries were alleviated and he is included in the squad list for this match.


Bench: Domenech, Thierry, Costa, Mangaka, Wass, Guillamon, Cheryshev, Ferran, Coquelin, Vallejo, Sobrino

FIRST HALF

30' - GOAL VALENCIA! 1-0! Good pressure from Valencia to win the ball back in the opposition half. Guedes carries the ball forward through the middle and picks out the run of Gameiro on the right. Gameiro looks up and plays a ball between the defenders legs, across the face of goal where Maxi Gomez pokes it past the keeper.
45' - Four minutes of injury time added by the referee

SECOND HALF 

46' - Substitution for Valladolid. Ruben Alcaraz comes on for Federico Emeterio.
47' - Goal for Real Valladolid. 1-1.  A cross from Valladolid is deflected by Soler and falls fortunately to their strikers in the penalty box. Victor Garcia has his back to goal with Diakhaby pressuring him. He turns quickly and fires at the far post, beating Cillissen.
59' - Triple substitution for Valladolid. Enes Unal, Ben Arfa, and Victor Garcia are replaced by Sergi Guardiola, Pablo Hervias and Sandro.
64' - First changes in personnel for Valencia. Kang In Lee replaces Carlos Soler, Manu Vallejo replaces Gameiro and Coquelin replaces Parejo.
71' - Yellow card shown to Adrian Guerrero for a rough foul on Pablo Hervias
75' - Yellow card shown to Kondogbia for tripping Sergi Guardiola
83' - Double change for Valencia. Wass comes on for Florenzi and Cheryshev replaces Guerrero (strangely).
84' - Final change for Valladolid. Kiko Perez off, Javi Sanchez on.
88' - GOAL VALENCIA! 2-1! Kondogbia and Guedes play a one-two on the right flank before laying it off for Kang In right at the edge of the box. Kang In takes a few touch inside and fires at the near post, his shot masked from the keeper by the defender marking him and the ball sneaks just inside the post. He took a risk at a critical time and it paid off.
90' - Five minutes of injury time added by the referee
90+2' - Yellow card shown to Guedes for a a heavy challenge on Kiko

FULL-TIME

First a loss (although could've been worse), then just barely scraping a draw (although could've been worse) and finally a narrow win (although could've been worse). This has been the team's performance after Celades left. The improvement is coming in small intervals but it's there. Let's hope the next game carries this momentum forward.

The results keep improving under Voro. First off, the team had shots and most of them were on target, That's a very important step forward. The flip side of that still remains in that Valladolid were allowed the same number of shots and similar number on target despite seeing less of the ball.

Once again, a substitution made by Voro had the intended effect on the game and resulted in a positive outcome for the team. Kang In was given some play time as predicted in the preview to this game, following the pattern of Voro giving more bench players chances in previous games.

The first goal for Valencia was a very team-spirited goal. They pressured together to win the ball and then strung together quick passes to counter-attack and give Maxi Gomez the chance to score.

The goal for Valladolid was a combination of a failure to close down both the player delivering the cross (marked by Soler) as well as Victor Garcia in the penalty area (marked by Diakhaby), and a good piece of individual skill by Garcia.

Valencia's winning goal also involved some combination play between Kondogbia and Guedes to bring the ball forward. However, Kang In took on responsibility himself to set up a good angle and squeeze the ball past the keeper. masked by his marker.

Full-time stats. 8-8 shots, 5-5 shots on target, 57-43% possession.

Next game is on Sunday July 12th away to Leganes.

Friday, July 3, 2020

La Liga Matchday #33: Granada CF 2- 2 Valencia CF Match Thread

Six games remaining for Valencia to rescue the situation and achieve their goal of Champions League qualification. Phrases often heard from the club are "one game at a time" and "every game is a final for us". These were used so much to the point where they don't mean anything anymore, especially since the actions that follow contradict these words.

More words that came this week were from owner Peter Lim's family with regards to the discontent of the fans at the club. His daughter made a short statement along the lines of 'Valencia is ours and we can do whatever we want with it'. At a time where tension is high, statements like these only add to the tension and come off as combative and irresponsible.

Peter Lim's son, on the other hand, wrote a more thought out message in which he communicated sentiments of understanding and empathy with what the fans were thinking and tried to unite under a common goal of the better of Valencia CF. He also explained his father's absence from the scene and from football matches, pointing to his age (66). He says that as his father approaches 70, he cannot make these long trips frequently.

While the statement was a lot more responsible and aimed at de-escalation, in contrast with his sister's message, it still seemed to avoid taking responsibility. There are also parts that don't add up. The spirit of working together for a common goal is nice and all, but it cannot be taken seriously be a management that has demonstrated an inability to work with or negotiate. Whether that be player contracts, coaching decisions or with regards to the stadium. Also, it should be said that the few times Lim has visited Valencia, it was a stopover or detour on his way to Manchester or Paris or some other place. It communicates a lack of interest in the affairs of the club and makes it seem like Valencia isn't a top priority. Now that this was addressed, fans can only hope that this time real change comes and it's not just empty words. Now back to the match.

Granada played out a 0-2 away win against Alaves in their previous fixture. Despite having the lesser portion of possession and chances, they still managed to walk way with a win and a clean sheet. Antonin and Soldado were the two scorers for Granada, scoring mid-way into the first half and in the first few minutes of the second respectively. Soldado will look to make a statement against his former side this game, as Alcacer did recently.

Valencia, on the other hand, suffered a 0-2 home defeat against Athletic Bilbao. It was the first defeat at Mestalla this season. Both goals for Bilbao came from Raul Garcia and were the result of poor passes from the Valencia players. Twelve minutes into the game, Kondogbia's pass was intercepted and quick passes to a wide position followed by a squared ball to Raul Garcia saw Valencia go 0-1. Jaume Costa's pass out from the back in the first few minutes of the second half would also get intercepted and 2-3 passes found Raul Garcia at the edge of the penalty area. He took a touch and shot from distance and managed to beat Cillissen. Valencia would come into the game and take over for the rest of the game with the vast majority of chances going there way. Despite that, as well as changes in personal and strategy from interim coach Voro, the team could not finish despite the quality of chances. Maxi Gomez and Rodrigo were both off their game in front of goal and it wasn't to be.

Valencia beat Granada 2-0 in the earlier match between these two teams at Mestalla. Wass scored the first goal for Valencia late into the second half, being first to react after Maxi Gomez scuffed the delivery from Gameiro's cross. Ferran would score the second, 8 minutes into injury time, capping off a solo run that exploited the space that was left behind by the Granada players in their attempt to equalize.

FORM ***all competitions

Granada: WLDLD
Valencia: LLLWL

SQUAD

Rodrigo has picked up an injury (partial tear in the outside collateral ligament of his right knee) during the last game that will see him miss the rest of the season with the expected recovery time being approximate 1.5 months. Rodrigo has been Valencia's main source of goal since the return of the league. Valencia will have to explore other options such as using Gameiro, Vallejo or Sobrino to fill the void. Additionally, Ferran and Guedes have also played there for Valencia in the past, there are plenty of options.

Ferran suffers from a discomfort in his inner right thigh so he's out of the squad list. There is no estimate yet on how long his absence will be.

Gaya will miss this game also as he recovers from his injury that had him miss the last game as well. Should be about a week or so until he is expected back.

Esquerdo and Adrià Guerrero (left-back) join the first team in this squad list.


Starting XI features many changes. Costa continues to cover for Gaya's absence. Mangala rejoins Paulista in the center of defense, ahead of both Guillamon and Diakhaby. Wass is chosen over Florenzi. Cheryshev and Soler will play the two wide positions after proving useful last game as substitutes. Vallejo takes the place of Rodrigo in attack. Gameiro starts instead of Maxi Gomez.

Bench: Domenech, Thierry, Diakhaby, Florenzi, Guillamon, Guerrero, Kondogbia, Guedes, Kang In, Esquerdo, Maxi Gomez, Sobrino

FIRST HALF

14' - Parejo with a mistake that could've cost Valencia a goal. Thankfully, Daniel Wass is there to clean up.
27' - Different free kick play from Valencia. Parejo plays it short to Wass who puts in the cross first time to Mangala. Unfortunately, he is penalized for a foul and the play goes to waste.
35' - VAR check for a potential handball by Mangala. The decision goes Valencia's way and the penalty is not given.
39' - Carlos Neva puts in a cross to the near post to find the run of Carlos Fernandez. Cillissen produces a great save to deny a very good chance for Granada.
43' - A crossfield ball to the Valecnai penalty area is controlled by Soldado under pressure from Mangala. Soldado manages to win himself some space and get a shot across the face of goal. The ball goes wide.
45' - Three minutes of time added for stoppages.
45+1' - Yellow card shown to Foulquier for a take-downon Vallejo who had dribbled past a few of the Granada players.
45+2' - Parejo plays a ball into space for Gameiro to run onto on the right flank. He manages to square the ball across and almost finds Vallejo but the keeper gets there first.

HALF-TIME

Quite an underwhelming half. Many of the most potent players for Valencia started on the bench or are injured. The ones that have played haven't troubled the Granada goal too much. In fact, yet again Valencia have failed to produce a shot, let alone a shot on target, in this half.

Granada had all of the chances in the half and caused the bigger threat in general. A save from Cillissen as well as some key tackles from Wass and Paulista have helped keep the score level thus far.

Valencia's most dangerous chance came from a Gameiro cross in the final minutes of the game, intended for Vallejo. Unfortunately, Granada got to the ball first to deny the chance.

Half-time stats. 4-0 shots, 1-0 shots on target, 54-46 %possession.

SECOND HALF

45' - First substitution for Valencia. Jaume Costa is replaced by Adrià Guerrero
48' - Good chances for Granada. Cillissen commits himself to deal with the corner delivery. He gets a hand to it but Soldado gets his header on the ball and sends it towards the center. With Cillissen out of position, Domingos gets a header and hits the post. The offside flag goes up. It wouldn't have counted regardless.
54' - Machis opens up the Valencia defense with a through ball to Soldado. He strikes at goal but it's way too high.
58' - A through ball from Granada is poorly dealt with due to miscommunication between Wass and Cillissen. The Granada player carrying the ball back into the box is taken down by Coquelin and a penalty is awarded. VAR checks the decision. The penalty stands.
60' - Goal for Granada. 1-0. The penalty from Carlos Fernandez is converted, sending Cillissen the wrong way.
62' - GOAL VALENCIA! 1-1! Manu Vallejo with the equalizer, getting his second goal of the season. Cheryshev puts in a a great through ball under pressure, taking out three defenders. Vallejo, completely through on goal, quickly rolls the ball past the frozen keeper.
65' - Double change for Valencia. Vallejo and Cheryshev are replaced by Maxi Gomez and Guedes.
66' - Granada with a single change. Eteki is replaced by Vico.
68' - GOAL VALENCIA! 1-2! The corner delivery from Parejo is headed away. The ball falls to Paulista who passes back to Guedes who was waiting outside the penalty area. He hits it first time, smashing the ball into the top right corner of the net. This is the level fans expect from Guedes.
70' - Second change for Granada. Victor Diaz Miguel is taken off and Antonio Puertas is introduced.
72' - A well executed counter attack for Valencia end with a cross from Soler to Gameiro who made a run between the center backs. Gameiro goes clear through on goal and shoots it straight at the keeper. He really needs to finish from such a good position.
73' - A cross from Granada is headed down by Fernandez to Soldado. He takes a touch inside the penalty area and fires at goal from the volley but Cillissen is equal to it.
80' - Substitution for Valencia. Sobrino replaces Kevin Gameiro.
82' - Granada with their final set of changes. German Sanchez and Carlos Neva are taken off.  Jesus Vallejo and Gil Diaz come on their place.
83' - Cross from Granada is sent to the air by Parejo and falls fortunately to a Granada player in the penalty box. He plays a short pass to Soldado who is quick to shoot but he still cannot score.
85' - Goal for Granada. 2-2. Mangala conceded a free kick at the edge of the box. Fede Vico finds a gap through the wall in the space left between Coquelin and Sobrino. Cillissen cannot reach the ball as it settles into the net at the near post.
87' - Final change for Valencia. Parejo off, Kondogbia on.
89' - Yellow card shown to Guedes for dissent against the referee.
90' - Seven minutes of injury time are added by the referee.
90+4' - Yellow card shown to Herrera for a very late challenge on Guerrero.
90+6' - Yellow card shown to Wass for a shove.

FULL-TIME

While the first half was one to forget, the whole game picked up in the second half. Valencia showed up in this second half and made it a proper game. In the end, Valencia can only walk away with one point. However, it was great to see some signs of intent and life from this team as they came back into the game.

Granada took the lead with a penalty due to a rash tackle by Coquelin. Valencia responded quickly with Cheryshev and Vallejo teaming up to carry the ball forward in the final third and find the space for a goal. It was a good finish from Vallejo, especially having been away from the field for so long. Cheryshev did well to persevere in his attempts to pass the ball into space.

Voro strangely replaced both Cheryshev and Vallejo soon after their goal, bringing on Guedes and Maxi Gomez. Despite that, it wouldn't take long for Valencia to take the lead after that. Guedes showed real quality to strike the ball with such accuracy from that distance. He was always capable of such goals and it's good to see him grab another goal and continue to build confidence. This was his second goal since the restart and both goals were of high quality.

Granada would then go on to equalize after Mangala gifts a free kick at the edge of the area to Granada. That was the first mistake. Then, Coquelin and Sobrino allowed a space in the wall which Vico capitalized on to beat Cillissen. Another self-inflicted injury to Valencia.

Granada had the vast majority of shots and chances in the game. They almost reclaimed the lead and Valencia was very fortunate to see out the game as a draw.

Credit to Voro for making the most of the squad available to him. Despite the injury to key players, he was able to achieve an away draw and a come back into the game, all while using rotations and giving some players much needed game time.

Full-time stats. 14-4 shots, 5-3 shots on target, 56-44 %possession.

Next game is on Tuesday July 7 at Mestalla against Real Valladolid.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

La Liga Matchday #32: Valencia CF 0 - 2 Athletic Bilbao Match Thread

The team return to Mestalla to play against Athletic Bilbao in matchday 32 of La Liga. The team will play this game without manager Albert Celades on the sideline, having been sacked by Peter Lim on the 29th. Simply speaking, Lim's experiment failed and has set the team back a few years when they were on the rise for the past 2 years. Valencia will also be missing Ezequiel Garay whose contract expired today with no intention of renewal from the club. Garay has been one of the most solid and consistent players in his time at Valencia, and even with a lack of depth in the center back position, the club decided not to renew.

Voro has stepped in once again as interim coach to see out the season. While Valencia's target of qualifying to the Champions League is not yet mathematically impossible, it is very difficult at the current form of the team. There were many golden opportunities presented to the team as rivals dropped points, but the team did not capitalize on them.

Valencia played a derby against Villareal in the last matchday and suffered a 2-0 defeat away from home. It was one of the most embarrassing performances of the season with the team failing to get a single shot on target. Matter of fact, they struggled to get a shot period. Both goals for Villareal came from complete lack of focus, allowing Alcacer and Gerard Moreno the time and space to be picked out and volley the ball past Cillissen. The team failed to respond in the second half, allowing Villareal to continue to impose themselves on the game with no answer. 

Athletic Bilbao played and defeated RCD Mallorca in their last game, winning 3-1 at home. Despite being a relatively even game, Athletic Bilbao were the most effective in front of goal scoring two goals in the first 24 minutes of the game. Mallorca would get their own penalty in the 70th minute of the game to get themselves into the game before Bilbao put the game beyond them one minute into injury time. 

The last fixture between these two teams earlier in the La Liga season, saw Valencia grab all 3 points against Athletic despite playing away from home. It was one of the better performances of the team. Denis Cheryshev grabbed the only goal of the game in the 27th minute. Maxi played a brilliant through ball from midfield to Ferran Torres who then squared the ball across to the center for Cheryshev to finish.

One point separates Valencia and Athletic Bilbao in the league table. Valencia sit 8th with 46 points and Bilbao a point below them at 9th. It should be said that Valencia is still undefeated at home in La Liga.

SQUAD

Mangala returns to the squad after serving his suspension in the previous game. Diakhaby also returns to the lineup after being cleared by the medical team. Gaya is the notable absence in this game with a hamstring injury that was picked up last game. There is an estimate of 10 days on his return to action. 

Costa starts for the injured Gaya, Florenzi is chosen over Wass, Soler is benched in favor of playing both Guedes and Ferran, and Diakhaby is restored to the team.

Bench: Domenech, Thierry, Mangala, Wass, Guillamon, Soler, Coquelin, Cheryshev, Kang In, Gameiro, Vallejo, Sobrino

FIRST HALF

12' - Goal for Athletic Bilbao. 0-1. Kondogibia's pass in midfield is poor and gets intercepted by Munain. He picks out Williams on the wing who then squares the ball to set up Raul Garcia's shot which sends Cillissen the wrong way.
19' - Valencia lose the ball at the edge of their area. The time the culprit is Ferran. Cordoba fires at goal but Cillissen just gets a touch on it with his trailing leg. Paulista almost deflects it back it into the goal.
39' - Florenzi puts out a great cross to Maxi Gomez, setting up the best chance for Valencia. Maxi Gomez gets away from his defender and attacks the ball but the header is wide. Maxi needs more of this kind of service. He should do better with the finish though.
45' - Three minutes of stoppage time added by the referee.

HALF-TIME

Well, everyone knew that just removing Celades and having Voro take over would not be enough to cause dramatic change; especially not from the first game. There is clearly plenty of work to get this side back to where they need to be. That is not to say though, that this is even Voro's responsibility. He could've simply been tasked to see out the season and get what he can from it.

As to how the players have taken it, some players, especially Kondogbia and Parejo, seem to be lacking in confidence as they play or weighed down by the stress of this week. Rodrigo seemed to be in this camp as well. Others like Guedes and Ferran, seem unaffected.

The only clear and significant change is the absence of Soler in favor of playing both Guedes and Ferran. They also have both been allowed the freedom to swap flanks whenever they wished.

After the first ten minutes or so of the game where Valencia showed intent to change things, the team very quickly lost confidence and let Athletic Bilbao take control of the game. Guedes had the best chance during that period of time for Valencia, forcing a save from the keeper.

Soon after, Bilbao would take the lead through a dispossession of Kondogbia's pass by Munain. The ball made its way to Williams who simply had to fire the ball across goal where Raul Garcia had managed to get goal-side of Florenzi and slot the ball past Cillissen.

Valencia would be pinned in their own half for the next while but slowly over the course of the half make their way back into the game. Maxi Gomez would be involved in just about all Valencia's chances that would come. He finds the spaces well, attacks them but often the delivery to him is sub-par. The one time he did get a good cross from Florenzi, the finish was poor. This was a problem that Valencia dealt with often, regardless of coach.

Valencia finished the half with the momentum in their favor and on the rise. If they carry it forward, it is very possible to get back into the game and cause serious problems for Bilbao. Voro needs to look to lift his players and instill confidence in those that seem to be lacking it.

Half-time stats. 5-2 shots, 1-1 shots on target, 52-48 %possession.

SECOND HALF

47' - Goal for Athletic Bilbao. 0-2. Jaume Costa tried to play the ball out from the back and sees his pass to Parejo get intercepted. Two quick passes from Bilbao to find Raul Garcia, who looks up, takes a touch and fires from distance, striking it well enough to beat Cillissen. More self-inflicted misery by Valencia.
52' - Williams plays a one-two at the right edge of the Valencia penalty area and sets himself up for a good chance at goal. Jaume Costa puts in a sliding challenge to deny the shot.
54' - Voro needs to make a change soon. Athletic Bilbao are carving out the Valencia midfield and defense with ease time and time again.
61' - Double substitution for Valencia. Ferran Torres and Guedes are both replaced. Cheryshev and Soler are introduced to replace them.
63' - Both substitutions for Valencia have put the ball into the box on their first few touches of the ball. The message must've been: more service into the box.
65' - Athletic Bilbao introduce their own double change. Unai Lopez and Inaki Williams are both replaced. Villalibre and Vesga come on in their place.
67' - Another chance for Valencia gets squandered due to a poor final pass. Cheryshev had spotted the run from Maxi Gomez but overhit the pass.
69' - Cheryshev with a curling cross to the far side and this time it's spot on, finding the head of Maxi Gomez. The header is tame and off target. Needs to do better there.
70' - Cheryshev with another cross with Rodrigo as the target. He finds him but Rodrigo had stepped into an offside position.
72' - Florenzi puts in an early cross to the far post and finds Maxi Gomez. He heads the ball down to Rodrigo who takes a shot and misses. These wasted chance could've had Valencia level already.
74' - Third change for Valencia. Maxi Gomez is replaced by Kevin Gameiro.
81' - Second set of changes for Athletic Bilbao. Munain and Raul Garcia are taken off to be replaced by de Marcas and Sancet.
82' - Yellow card shown to Diakhaby for tripping up the opposition player who had passed him.
84' - Last set of changes from Voro. He replaces both Parejo and Florenzi, bringing on Vallejo and Wass. There is a change of formation to a 4-3-3 to match. Captain's armband is given to Rodrigo.
89' - Final change for Bilbao, Cordoba off, Balenziaga on.
90' - Four minutes of time added by the referee for stoppages.
90+1' - Soler delivers a free kick into the penalty area. Diakhaby contest the keeper for the ball and earns himself a punch as the keeper comes out to deal with the ball. It falls to Gameiro at the edge of the box with the keeper still out of place. He cannot hit the target as the effort is high and wide.

FULL-TIME

Valencia's 17 game unbeaten run at Mestalla is put to an end by Athletic Bilbao. Valencia failed to carry forward the momentum from the latter part of the first half and suffered a second a few minutes into the second half.

This was another self-inflicted goal as the pass out from the back from Jaume Costa was intercepted. A few passes found Raul Garcia who fired from distance and found the goal.

Valencia would remain on the back foot in the game for a while after. This would change after a double substitution from Voro, introducing both Cheryshev and Soler with clear instruction to increase service into the box.

Over the remaining time in the half, cross after cross would be put in, mainly from Cheryshev, with some from Florenzi as well as Soler. The quality of the delivery was varying but mostly positive, however the finishing could not match. It is fair to say that there were enough chances to tie the game, and even further to go for the win. The team still struggles with the finishing though.

It should be said that there was nothing special really about these substitutions, as we have seen similar changes at similar times come from Celades. The difference, however, in their impact came from the instruction to do something different. Substitutions were made to address a problem rather than making changes for changes sake. Replacing Maxi with Gameiro was a result of the poor finishing despite the good supply. The final two changes saw Vallejo and Wass come in, and even a change in formation. This was more of a last-ditch effort to change the tide of the game.

The difference in coaching experience has shown. There were still many aspects of the game that were very poor, especially the finishing. However, it would be unfair to expect these to happen from one game or for these changes to come from Voro in general. He is there simply as an interim coach. If he manages to bring about change, then the next manager can have something to build on. If he doesn't then the manager should have no problem starting from scratch. Heck, they might even do that anyway depending on the changes that come with the transfer market as well as their own vision for the team.

This result sees Athletic Bilbao leap-frog Valencia in the league standings, now sitting at two points ahead at 48 points. The gap to 4th place is now 11 points for Valencia with 6 games remaining in the season. Still not mathematically impossible is what the message will be from the team and management, yet it certainly seems impossible based on form and how many events have to go Valencia's way for it to happen.

Full-time stats. 9-7 shots. 1-4 shots on target, 51-49 %possession.

Next game is on Saturday July the 4th, played away against Granada who, with their result today, are level on points with Valencia. 

Monday, June 29, 2020

Celades sacked

Valencia have just announced that Celades has been sacked. It was fairly inevitable after a number of poor results. Our record since first of February reads 2 wins, 3 draws, 8 defeats. The 5 games since the restart have been mostly awful.


Celades did have some decent results: wins at tricky grounds like Bilbao and good performances in the Champions league in London and Amsterdam, but overall the team lacked consistency. Results away from home were generally poor. There was no defined playing style. Celades seemed to want to go to 4-3-3 but often seemed to lose the courage of his convictions and often fell back into the comfort blanket of 4-4-2. There were some imaginative set piece routines in his early stages but they mysteriously disappeared early on. He was hampered throughout with a constant everchanging injury cast, but never seemed to take steps to address it. Ultimately he seemed to be out of his depth and it remains a mystery to me why some of our fans applauded the sacking of a successful experienced coach and the appointment of such a rookie coach given our past history of disasters and mishaps with such coaches and such quickfire managerial changes. They've never worked and neither did this one. Thanks, Peter Lim.

As ever, Voro will take over, despite some reluctance on his part. Hopefully, lessons will be learned from this debacle (though I'm not so confident of that, as we have an owner who never seems to learn from his mistakes.) The club needs to put in place an experienced coach quickly. If that means appointing someone who can only take over in the new season, so be it. At least they can advise on transfers in the meantime.





Sunday, June 28, 2020

La Liga Matchday #31: Villareal CF 2 - 0 Valencia CF Match Thread

This matchday sees Valencia play against a direct rival for the Champions League positions away from home. With Sevilla dropping points earlier to Valladolid, a win this game will give Valencia a better chance at qualification. Valencia cannot afford to keep missing opportunities created by the mistakes of rivals, but must instead look to punish them.

Lots of news surrounding Valencia recently. Celades was rumored to have submitted a resignation which he has denied in his latest press conference, saying that he has not and will not do so. When questioned about the rumors of the loss of confidence and respect of the locker room, he says that he felt very supported and respected at all levels of the organization.

It is also worth noting that this is Valencia's final game before the transfer window officially opens on July 1st. It remains to be seen what changes will come with it but what's clear is that fans want real change in the team. Let's see if that will happen at all, or what form will these changes, if any, come in.

Villareal come into this game having played Sevilla at home in a 2-2 draw at home. Former Valencia striker Paco Alcacer put the home side in the lead a third of the way into the first half before Escudero evened the game 5 minutes from half-time. Villareal would go into the half-time break with a lead following a Pau Torres goal into first half injury time. Another former Valencia player, Munir El Haddadi would grab the final goal of the game mid-way into the second half, leave the two sides with a point each.

Valencia's last matchday against Eibar away from home was a sub-par performance in every way. The team failed to get a shot on target until the last few minutes of regulation time against a team that is fighting a drop into the relegation zone. While the result was only a 1-0 loss, Eibar was allowed to have complete control of the game and Valencia was left chasing the ball. The only goal of the game came from a Kondogbia own goal from a corner that was no dealt with properly. In the final minutes of the game, Mangala received his second yellow card of the game and was sent off.

Villareal currently lead Valencia by two points. They have 48 to Valencia's 46 points. With these point totals, Villareal are 6th in the league while Valencia are 8th.

FORM ***all competitions

Villareal: DWWWL
Valencia: LWLDL

SQUAD

With Mangala missing the game through suspension and Diakhaby out with an injury, one of the two youngsters, Guillamon and Jimenez, are expected to start alongside Paulista for this game. 

In midfield, Coquelin has pushed himself for a quick return and was just cleared to make this lineup. 

After an absence last game for unknown reasons, Sobrino returns to the squad list. 

All else remains the same.

Guedes returns to the bench for this game while Maxi starts. Strangely, neither Coquelin or Kondogbia start. Wass occupies their role instead.

Bench: Domenech, Thierry, Costa, Jimenez, Kondogbia, Coquelin, Kang In, Guedes, Cheryshev, Vallejo, Gameiro, Sobrino

FIRST HALF

5' - Villareal capitalize on a heavy touch from Gaya following Cillissen's pass, and take possession in an advanced position. Chukuweze cuts inside and takes a shot to the far post, which is just wide.
10' - Another chance for Villareal as Mario Gaspar puts in a cross for Alcacer to head. The effort is wide.
13' - Goal for Villareal. 1-0. It had to be Paco Alcacer. He doesn't celebrate the goal though. Gerard Moreno with a diagonal ball over the defense as Paco stays onside and volleys past Cillissen to the far post.
20' - Villareal are very dominant in this first half. Valencia need to react before they fall further behind.
35' - Ferran had two chances to put in a cross, one for Maxi and one for Rodrigo, but both times he's denied the space to do so. These are the best chances that Valencia has had in this first half which says a lot. So far, not a single shot on or off target.
39' - Alcacer taking a shot at every chance he has. Definitely trying to prove something.
40' - First change for Valencia. Jaume Costa replaces Gaya who seems to have picked up a knock/injury.
42' - Yellow card shown to Guillamon for a pull back on Gerard Moreno who had gotten past him and about to break into the box. Free kick for Villareal.
43' - Cillissen saves the header from Raul Albiol that resulted from the free kick.
44' - Goal for Villareal. 2-0. The goal keeper sends the ball to the opposite end. Santi Cazorla knocks the ball into the air in the direction of Gerard who produces a volley from just inside the box and beats Cillissen.
45' - Four minutes of injury time added by the referee.

HALF-TIME

A complete disaster of a half. The weaknesses were seen in previous games against Levante and Eibar have been amplified and exploited against a bigger team. Despite what was said in the build-up to the game, Villareal came to win and make a statement, Valencia did not. It's difficult to remember when the last time the team turned around a two-goal deficit away from home.

This is another half where Valencia do not have a single shot on target. Even worse, they don't have a single shot at all.

Paco started the game with clear intent to score and he got his wish with a volley. He did not celebrate out of respect for his former side. He did, however, continue to try to take a shot at every reasonable occasion he could, even from a free kick.

Gerard Moreno grabbed the second goal for Villareal in similar style, producing another volley to beat Cillissen.

Chukweze has been a nightmare for the defense. He lurks in the space left behind by Gaya and poses danger with his speed and dribbling.

Unfortunately, Gaya picked up an injury in the final minutes of the half and was replaced by Costa, further adding to the teams woes.

Wass in midfield, is not working and causing more defensive issues than normal. Kondogbia or Coquelin must come on first thing after the break to help stabilize things.

Half-time stats. 11-0 shots, 4-0 shots on target, 56-44 %possession.

SECOND HALF

45' - Celades takes Ferran Torres off the field and brings on Guedes.
49' - Yellow card shown to Jaume Costa for a pull-back on Chukweze who had gotten away from him.
51' - Guedes connects with the ball and puts it across for Parejo whose shot is deflected by a defender over the goal.
53' - Paco gets another shot on target from distance but Cillissen saves.
55' - Parejo managed to find a great through ball to put Soler through but it was called offside. Replay shows that it actually wasn't the right decision. Unfortunate.
60' - This is not looking any better than the first half from Valencia. Celades still holding his substitutions.
64' - Villareal replace Vincete Iborra with Bruno Soriano.
65' - Valencia uses their third change of the game. Parejo off, Kondogbia on. Hopefully, this means Soler plays more centrally and Wass plays wide.
67' - Wass puts in a good delivery from the free kick won by Maxi Gomez. The delivery is just barely behind Maxi. It is called offside anyway.
75' - Villareal comfortable just passing the ball around and having Valencia chase the ball. Valencia cannot win it back. Valencia hasn't shown enough to indicate that a comeback is possible.
79' - Double substitution for Valencia. Kang In and Gameiro come on for Soler and Rodrigo respectively.
80' - Villareal replace Gerard Moreno with Moi Gomez.
84' - Gameiro gets put through on goal from a Kang In Lee through ball. His shot is blocked by the keeper. The offside flag goes up again yet replay shows that it was a questionable decision for the second time.
88' - Three changes for Villareal. Cazorla, Chukwueze and Alcacer come off, Morlanes, Bacca and Ontiveros on respectively.
90' - Five minutes of injury time added by the referee.

FULL-TIME

Total embarrassment of a game. This game on paper is between two rivals. On the field, it couldn't be further from the truth. Villareal showed up, Valencia didn't.

After a first half in which Valencia fell behind 2-0 thanks to volley goals from Alcacer and Moreno, Valencia had it all to do in the second half. Yet, all that was seen was more of the same. No sense of urgency, responsibility or ownership of the situation.

Javier Calleja is screaming directions at his team to maintain focus, and Celades is looking lost and silent on the sidelines. You wouldn't be able to guess whose team was winning based on their reactions. The difference in coaching is clear.

It is looking really difficult for Valencia to qualify to Champions League at this point. Mathematically, still possible with 7 games remaining. But with the way the team is playing, it seems beyond grasp. The suspension of the league was an opportunity to reclaim injured players, gather thoughts and reflect on the failures and success of the season in hopes of improvement. There doesn't seem to be an improvement to speak off despite the reclaimed players.

Full-time stats. 15-2 shots. 4-2 shots on target. 52-48 %possession.

Next game is another tough match. Valencia play at Mestalla against Athletic Bilbao on July 1st. Coincidentally, it's the day the transfer market opens.



Friday, June 26, 2020

Player discontent with Celades growing

Various stories are coming through that Celades has lost the dressing room and the respect of the players after a number of incidents.

The first situation seems to have been with Diakhaby. Following his last game, Diakhaby said that he'd had a productive chat with the coach, something which the coach confirmed at the time. However, later Celades was more critical of the player, blaming him (not without justification) for costing the team 2 points. Worse, commentator Pichi Alonso released a story saying that "club sources" had told him that Celades had met with Diakhaby, shown him a video of his errors and this had ended with Diakhaby leaving the meeting in tears. Diakhaby, through L'Equipe, flatly denied this. The bigger problem was that the feeling was that the leak could only have come from Celades, meaning that he was backstabbing his players. While Diakhaby will have little sympathy among Valencia's fanbase, things like this will seriously undermine the trust of players in the coach.

The second blow-up was with Maxi Gomez. Following the Osasuna game, Maxi got frustrated with the coach, asking why he was always the first subbed off. Discussions became so heated that allegedly Maxi aimed a headbutt at Celades and had to be restrained. He turned up at the next training session in apologetic manner, but was given a cold shoulder by Celades and told to go home, further angering him.

After being told that Maxi wouldn't feature in future games, other members of the squad got angry, seeing him as a key player. Ferran Torres posted a message of support for Maxi on Instagram.

The club's captains met with sporting director Cesar Sanchez reaching agreement that Maxi would not be ostracised and would instead be fined. However, the mood following the meeting didn't seem to improve. Kondogbia posted on Instagram shortly afterwards: "¿El traidor? Es como una serpiente, pica y se esconde…" (The traitor? It's like a snake, it bites and then hides...") a message which seems to be aimed at the coach.

Celades' substitutions in general seem to be causing frustration. Guedes was visibly angry after being subbed off while having his best game of the season versus Osasuna. Another player who seems to getting annoyed is Ruben Sobrino. 4 of his last 6 appearances have seen him play 1 minute (twice), 2 minutes and 4 minutes. While Sobrino is below the level Valencia need, the player seems to be arguing, not unreasonably, that such brief cameos are pointless, as he has no chance to prove himself and make an impact on the game. His annoyance came to the fore in the Osasuna game, when the manager sent him out to warm up with 86 minutes played. Sobrino, given all the previous, got angered and Celades responded by not bringing him on.

Of course, a contrary opinion to this could be that the players should simply man up and accept the coach's substitute decisions. If it were one or two players, this would go fine, however annoyance seems to go throughout the squad now, with numerous players at odds with the coach. That never ends well. When I wrote my review of the season a few posts ago I said that Celades would probably be in the hotseat after the summer. Not only does that look unlikely now, there are serious questions over whether he can even make it to the end of the season. The team plays without direction, Celades' subs often don't make sense and the below par performances from the players are probably affected by growing dislike of the coach. Champions league is out now and even Europa starts to look like a struggle. Hopefully the owner will draw the necessary conclusions and hire an experienced coach to take us forward.

***Edit/update*** Stories that Celades offered his resignation to the club last night, but this was turned down. His days seem to be numbered.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

La Liga Matchday #31: SD Eibar 1 - 0 Valencia CF Match Thread

Valencia travel to play Eibar where they will look to build on the three points they have gathered from last week's matchday against Osasuna. With Sevilla and Villareal playing out a 2-2 draw earlier, Valencia will also looked to close the gap on their Champions League rivals.

Eibar come into this game following a 1-1 away draw to Getafe. The away team would concede first in the 30 minute, but would manage a comeback in the 6th minute of first-half stoppage time to even out the score. A fairly even game overall.

Valencia put out one of the best first half performances of their season against Osasuna three days ago. They managed to score three goals with Rodrigo scoring two goals, the first of which was ruled out for offside after a 3 minute VAR review, much to the frustration of the team who had submitted a complaint about unjust VAR rulings. Guedes scored in the window between Rodrigo's goal, displaying some of his better form by staying on his feet as he was pressured by 3-4 Osasuna players before cutting inside and firing in between two more to the top right corner of goal. Unfortunately, the second half saw a massive drop in performance. This was party due to the tactical change from Osasuna, going from 5 at the back to 4, which went unaddressed by Celades, as well as the subsequent substitution of Kondogbia who was controlling the midfield. This resulted in surrendering all control of the game to Osasuna and exposing the Valencia back line to lots of pressure. Fortunately, Paulista was there to aid Cillissen's efforts in keeping the opposition at bay. Valencia had a few glimpses of goal on the counter attack but couldn't produce the final product.

The previous fixture between these two teams in La Liga was played at Mestalla and ended 1-0 for Valencia. Maxi Gomez grabbed the only goal of the encounter, finishing with a header to meet the cross provided by Wass.

Eibar currently sit at 17th with 29 points, 3 off Mallorca who are in the relegation zone. Valencia are 8th with 46 points, 7 points off 4th place Sevilla.

FORM ***all competitions

Eibar: DDLLL
Valencia: WLDLD

SQUAD

A few changes in the squad list. Gaya and Kang In both return to the list, having served their suspensions. Meanwhile, Diakhaby has picked up a training injury (muscular discomfort) and misses this game as a result, with Javi Jimenez taking his spot. Coquelin is also still recovering from his injury, giving Esquerdo another call-up.


In the starting XI, Celades gives Guillamon a rest and calls on Mangala to play alongside Paulista. He continues his alternation of responsibilities in right-back with Wass starting over Florenzi this time. Finally, he opts to keep Maxi Gomez on the bench and will play both Guedes and Ferran in the same team, with the latter playing in the front two alongside Rodrigo.

Bench: Domenech, Thierry, Costa, Florenzi, Jimenez, Guillamon, Cheryshev, KangIn, Esquerdo, Gameiro, Vallejo, Gomez

FIRST HALF

5' - Eibar are pressing high up the pitch forcing Mangala and Cillissen into awkward position and pressuring them to make rash clearances.
10' - Valencia still having trouble getting out of their own half. Players are forced into mistakes and are giving away possession under pressure.
12' - Valencia can't afford to keep sending these long balls up the field with no target man to receive.
16' - Goal for Eibar. 1-0. Kondogbia puts the ball into his own net following an Eibar corner. The delivery had went over Rodrigo's head, past Mangala and onto the path of Kondogbia. Unfortunate goal to concede.
21' - Good chance for Valencia. Wass finds Ferran in the box with a pass from a wide position. Ferran turns and passes to Guedes who lets the ball run through to Gaya on the opposite end who had found some space for a shot. The shot is wide.
26' - Yellow card show to Escalante for a late challenge on Kondogbia.
27' - Ferran with a fine bit of skill, taking on two defenders and slipping through the space between them. He sends a tantalizing ball towards the far post but Rodrigo cannot meet it as it took a slight deflection for a corner.
32' - Another chance for Valencia as Soler finds the overlapping run of Gaya into the box. The Eibar defender tugs on Gaya's arm bringing him down. The referee ignores the claims of a penalty, signalling for Gaya to get up.
40' - Just when the team had worked up a good attacking move, Parejo's pass to Wass misses its mark, letting Eibar off the hook.
45' - Three minutes added for stoppages.

HALF-TIME

Not good enough, although kind of expected. Valencia normally do this strategy away from home, where they concede complete control to the opposition and are content with absorbing pressure. In the second half, is when the team attempts to actually starts playing. At home, the strategy is reversed where the team plays their game in the first half and sometimes gets a goal, and then they sit back and let the opposition do their thing.

Eibar had almost complete possession in the first 15 minutes or so of the game with Valencia forced to clear haphazardly when they did end up in possession due to Eibar's high pressing. Unfortunately, this strategy does not work without a target man. Maxi Gomez is on the bench, so Rodrigo tried to fill that role and not very successfully at that.

The goal for Eibar would come from a corner delivery which was not dealt with and had slipped through all the way to Kondogbia who sent it past his own keeper. Mangala was in the best position to clear but he missed the ball altogether.

The team would get more possession with some chances. However, Valencia barely posed a threat to the Eibar goal with the chances being squandered either due to poor finishing such as with Gaya's effort or a breakdown in the attacking play as a result of poor passing.

Half-time stats. 5-2 shots, 3-0 shots on target, 40-60% possession.

SECOND HALF

46' - First change for Valencia. Soler is replaced by Gameiro. Guedes and Ferran will play the wide positions while Gameiro joins Rodrigo in attack.
53' - Ferran finds Gaya's overlapping run on the left. Gaya quickly squares the ball to Rodrigo whose  shot is is just wide of goal. He seems to have lost his footing at a critical moment before striking the ball.
56' - Gaya with a sliding to challenge to deny Correa's shot at goal.
57' - Valencia is trapped in their own half just like in the first half and is suffering under the pressure.
58' - Yellow card is shown to Mangala for a late challenge. Free kick in a decent position is awarded to Eibar.
59' - The shot from the free kick was dipping just below the cross bar but fortunately Cillissen push it over.
62' - Double substitution for Valencia. Guedes is replaced by Cheryshev and Wass is replaced by Florenzi.
68' - The team cannot string together more than 2-3 passes at a time before giving away possession.
72' - Florenzi cannot hit the target despite receiving the ball at a good position in the box. Parejo had found him wide, he then plays a short pass to Ferran and makes a run into the box where Ferran finds him again. It's a shame he couldn't hit the target.
74' - Yellow card shown to Charles Dias for shoulder checking Kondogbia.
77' - A member of Valencia's technical team is shown a red card by the referee for dissent.
78' - Double substitution for Eibar. Sergi Enrich and Cristoforo come on to replace Charles Dias and Pedro Leon respectively.
80' - Yellow card shown to Sergi Enrich for a late sliding tackle on Kondogbia.
82' - Exposito puts in a good cross for Sergi Enrich who gets good contact, heading the ball towards the far post. Cillissen keeps Valencia in the game by parrying the effort with the tip of his hand.
83' - Yellow card is shown to Orellana for time wasting.
84' - Final change for Valencia. Ferran Torres is replaced by Maxi Gomez.
86' - Gaya plays the ball over the Eibar defenders to pick out Gamerio who tees up Cheryshev. The shot is too high this time and Eibar escapes the pressure again.
89' - Second yellow card shown to Mangala, followed by the red. He is sent off the field of play. It seemed like a 50/50 jump for the ball. It is a bit harsh.
90' - Six minutes of injury time added by the referee.
90+2' - Final change for Eibar. Sergi Alvarez replaces Kike Garcia.

FULL-TIME

Still not good enough. A single shot on target the entire game against a team that is fighting for survival this season. Yet again, when rivals slip up in the league, the team fails to take advantage of the situation and end up giving up points. The team remains 7 points away from 4th place Sevilla.

Exactly the same story as the first half. Control was surrendered to Eibar and any glimpse of a chance was wasted by poor finishing or a bad pass in build up. Some of the basics continue to elude this team. The result against Osasuna seems like a one-off based on the performance today, rather than a cause for optimism.

To top it off, Mangala has managed to get himself sent off in the final minutes of the second half further causing further complications to the center-back situation this season. The good that comes from this is that, baring an unexpected injuries, Guillamon and Paulista should start again next match with Jimenez providing cover if needed.

Full-time stats. 14-6 shots,  6-1 shots on target, 46-54% possession.

Next match is on Sunday the 28th, away against Villareal. An important match, although with the result today the struggle is harder regardless of a result there.