Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Valencia - Celta (Copa del Rey)

So for the second time this season, Valencia face Celta at Mestalla in the Copa del Rey. Celta must be very annoyed by the change in the Copa format: since their 2-legged game versus Sociedad on 1 November 2018 they haven't played a single Copa game at home at Balaidos. 

Deja Vu

Valencia come into the game in very good shape with 4 wins in a row, a feat not achieved since December 2021. The performances have been solid and the players clearly know what to do. Even if the opponents like Cartagena, Cadiz and Villarreal haven't been that great, we still need to beat whoever is in front of us.

We have most players available for this one bar Almeida, Diakhaby and Amallah. Both Paulista and Gaya had slight injury worries last time so are a little doubtful and we may see Yarek and Jesus Vazquez in their place. Other than that, I don't expect many changes since last game. Jaume will obviously start and Yaremchuk is due some minutes. 

After a poor start (1-5-8) which saw Rafa Benitez close to the exit door, Celta have stabilised. Since losing in Bilbao in late October Celta have lost just once in the league (2-4-1) with 2 wins against lower league teams in the Copa as well. That included a 0-0 stalemate at Mestalla in a dull game. They have Cervi and Aidoo out, with Bamba on Afcon duty. Celta's new danger man is Anastasios Douvikas who was the top scorer in the Dutch league last season. He's on 7 goals this season, though 4 have been in Copa. Iago Aspas is fit and though he hasn't featured yet in Copa, should get some minutes as this is when it starts to get serious.

Possibly the only surprise is Mari in the line-up.

17 minutes in and disaster. First Jaume messed up with a corner allowing them to score and then a few minutes later Diego Lopez made a clumsy challenge and conceded a penalty to put us 2-0 down. A mountain to climb.

Valencia however have come more into it and cut distances in the 28th minute when we pulled one back from a penalty. What has been missing has been the final ball and we've struggled with their press. Half-time. Neither keeper has impressed me in this one so I think there are more goals. The question is: will they be ours?

They scored a third. I did say that Douvikas was the danger man. So now it's focus on the league time. A comedown after the good performance against Cadiz. The fact is we never looked good in the Copa this season. Even against lower tier sides we struggled and this was as favourable a draw in the last 16 as we could have hoped for. The stats for tonight tell the story: we were wasteful and they weren't.