Showing posts with label champions league. Show all posts
Showing posts with label champions league. Show all posts

Monday, April 19, 2021

Super league will destroy football

 I'm sure everyone will have seen the plans for a European Super League, with 15 fixed members: three to be decided, 6 English, the Milans, Juventus and the Spanish Big Three. That latter group would once have included Valencia but it's a sign of how far we've fallen in the last decade that no one questions us being absent and no one even has to ask who the big three in Spain are.

The plan is to have those 15, plus 5 extra teams each year. Whether they would qualify or just be invited is unclear. The clubs involved don't intend this to be a breakaway: they plan to participate in this as well as playing in the national leagues, gambling on the fact that the national leagues won't kick them out. They also promise a solidarity fund greater than there is at the minute for other clubs. 

The Super League idea has been around for ages. "Footballer of the year" a game I played on the MSX computer back in the 1980s included a European Super League, as did later games and it was the idea of it that caused UEFA to bring a group stage into the European Cup in the 1990s.  Ultimately, their attempts at concessions to big clubs have clearly failed. Pandering to greed has just produced more greed.

All the 15 clubs participating would get 350 million euro a year just for taking part, with prize money of around 50 million. That compares to the current situation where a team winning the English Premier and Champions league double would get 230 million. Needless to say, for clubs like Arsenal and Milan, who have frequently been absent, it's a considerable windfall.

Monday, March 9, 2020

UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Valencia CF 3 - 4 Atalanta BC Match Thread (4 - 8 agg.)

Valencia return to Mestalla to play Atalanta in the return fixture of the Champions League Round of 16. They have it all to do and just about all of the odds are stacked against them. They have to comeback from a 4-1 scoreline in the first leg while in poor form, against opposition that are in good form, with no crowd support at home, and where every goal scored against will make the situation that much worse.

That being said, Atalanta did show several signs of vulnerability in the previous game. Their commitment to playing with high attacking intensity left huge gaps in their defense; gaps which Valencia managed to get into but not punish with goals. If anything changes tonight, it has to be this. The quality in the final third has to be spot on, the opportunities that Atalanta's style of play will give are too good to pass up.

Valencia come into the game on the back of a 1-1 away draw to Alavés. Despite being dominant in the first half, the team failed to score from open play when the chances were presented. The team did manage to score albeit through a well-struck Dani Parejo free kick. The reigns of the game were surrendered to Alavés in the second half allowing them to take 10 shots, one of which ended in the back of the net.

While Valencia have had 3 games since the last Champions League fixture, Atalanta has had only 1 game which they played on the first of March. They played Lecce away from home and demolished them with a 2-7 scoreline. At half-time the game was at 2-2 and they managed to score 5 with no reply in the second half. Lecce is in the relegation spots in Serie A but it's still not easy to score 7 away from home. That being said, they did manage to score 2 in the first half alone, which yet again shows that Atalanta are vulnerable if the chances are taken.

Atalanta have scored 70 goals in 25 games in Series A. This is the 3rd highest in the European top 5 leagues, behind only PSG at 75 goals (27 games) and Bayern at 73 goals (25 games).

Valencia form (all-competitions): DWLLD
Atalanta form (all-competitions): WWWWW


According to Superdeporte, Managala, Costa and Correia are left out of the squad by technical decision and not injury. Paulista misses this game since he is served the second game of his 2-game suspension for the red card in the game against Ajax. As such, in defense it will likely be Diakhaby and Guillamon, unless Celades decides to use Kondogbia, Florenzi or Coquelin as cover for that spot.

The midfield is complete, fully fit and ready with Kang In returning the squad as well after being left out in the weekend fixture.

In offense, Sobrino also returns to the squad as an attacking alternative.

Last game, Celades opted for a 4-1-4-1 formation which had its pros and cons. It remains to be seen whether this will be the case again.

Bench: Domenech, Florenzi, Guillamon, Guedes, Cheryshev, Kang In, Sobrino

With the rest of the starting center-backs out, Coquelin will cover their spot in defense next to Diakhaby.

The team returns to a 4-4-2, with Rodrigo back in the starting XI alongside Gameiro where he will look to drop back and help with buildup. In the first leg, it was Guedes and Maxi that made up the attack.

Despite Florenzi being available and having experience versus Italian sides, Wass is preferred in this game by Celades.

Cillissen starts over Jaume for the third game in a row.


It seems that the Valencia fans showed up outside the stadium to support the team and are cheering from the outside audibly enough to hear in the stadium.

1' - Penalty for Atalanta after Diakhaby dived in and tripped up the Iličić in the penalty box. Not a good way to start by any means.
2' - Goal for Atalanta. 0-1. Iličić fires the penalty straight down the middle and Cillissen went slightly to the right. His trailing legs just missed the ball as it sailed in.
8' - Rodrigo with a good shot on target, curled towards the far post from the edge of the penalty area. The keeper spilled the effort but no Valencia players were close enough to capitalize.
21' - Goal Valencia! 1-1! Rodrigo with a great throughball for Gameiro, that's just onside. Gameiro does well to get around the keeper and slot it past him.
33' - Yellow card is shown to Francis Coquelin.
41' - Diakhaby concedes yet another penalty for a poor challenge. Yellow card is shown to Diakhaby.
42' - Goal for Atalanta. 1-2. Iličić scores yet again. Valencia now needs 5 goals to rescue something from this game.
44' - First substitution for Atalanta, de Roon off, Zapata on.
45' - Three minutes added for stoppages.


The task at half-time is more difficult that when the first team walked onto the field. Instead of 3 goals without conceding over 90 minutes, the team now has to score 5 without conceding in 45 minutes. With the way the team looked in the first half, it doesn't look like it's happening.

Atalanta have come into this game looking to add to their lead and not sitting on it and they've done just that. The nerves got the best of Diakhaby on two occasions and caused him to make two silly fouls to concede penalties that just make life easier for Atalanta.

Valencia did manage to score in between those goals and it was one of the few times that Rodrigo and Gameiro managed to link up well. The finish from Gameiro was very composed.

The team has looked quite deflated after the second goal, no doubt they see the great obstacle in front of them and the impossibility in overcoming it.

Coquelin in defense looks decent, although he has these urges to run into midfield and help out his team. He is still a midfielder at the end of the day and no doubt he will carry those tendencies with him.


45' - First substitution for Valencia, Diakhaby off, Guedes on. This change has an attacking intent clearly.
46' - Goal for Valencia! 2-2! Rodrigo sets up Parejo for a shot at the edge of the area but it's blocked and deflects wide for Ferran. He has the time and space to look up and find a a delightful cross which Gameiro meets and heads into the net. Four goals to go.
57' - Yellow card shown to Kondogbia for a late challenge on Iličić at the edge of the penalty box.
63' - Yellow card shown to Daniel Wass for a diving challenge on Gomez. The referee had waived advantage but went back and booked him.
64' - Valencia have upped the pressure on Atalanta this second half, forcing them into poor passing and loss of possession.
66' - Goal for Valencia! 3-2! Soler did well to win back possession in his own half to start. He got the ball to Parejo who had spotted an advanced run from Ferran. Parejo plays a beautiful lob over the defense for Ferran to run onto. The keeper went out to meet him and Ferran punished him with a chip over him and into the goal. Great vision from Parejo to spot the well-time run from Ferran and good finishing to match.
68' - Coquelin attempts to play Zapata offside but ends up letting him go through, although at a tight angle, on goal. He fires across goal but Cillissen does well to save his leg.
70' - Goal for Atalanta. 3-3. What was initially a Valencia attack was ended when Guedes made a mess of the ball in the opposition penalty. After some deflection, the ball landed at Kondogbia's feet and he attempted to run towards the Atalanta goal. He was dispossessed, setting up a 4 v 2 at the back for Valencia. Being outnumbered, Zapata was easily picked out and squares the ball for Iličić. He takes a touch past Parejo, cutting across goal and slots it past Cillissen at the far post for his hat-trick.
73' - Second change for Valencia. Coquelin off, Cheryshev on. Kondogbia has stepped back into defense in his place.
77' - Second change for Atalanta. Alejandro Gomez off, Malinovskyi on.
78' - Final change for Valencia. Rodrigo off, Florenzi on.
79' - Cheryshev with a brilliant cross across goal from the left. Ferran just missed the contact with the ball. That would've surely been a goal. There is potential in these crosses if there are runs to meet them.
81' - Goal for Atalanta. 3-4. Freuler drew the attention of Gaya, Wass, and Kondogbia (the entire defense), and takes them all out with a pass for Iličić who curles it past Jaume at the far post.
83' - Final change for Atalanta. Palisic off, Tameze on.
85' - Yellow card shown to Freuler for obstructing the run of Carlos Soler.
90' - Two minutes added for stoppages.
90+1' - Gameiro gets  a chance at a hat-trick after Ferran Torres produces a brilliant turn past the defender followed by a through-ball to send him through on goal. The striker could only hit the keeper.


Everyone knew it would take a miracle to turn around the first leg scoreline and there wasn't one today. Atalanta eliminate Valencia and advance to the Champions League quarterfinals. Going through tonight would have earned Valencia around 10 million euros in prize money.

Atalanta yet again showed their attacking prowess, scoring 4 goals against Valencia in the second leg just like the first. This time around though, 2 of those were gifted through silly penalties.

While there were many disadvantages this game, the team still managed a better performance than the first leg. Although this performance still had many issues, if the team played the same way in the first leg, this tie could have been very different.

This team doesn't score three goals much and yet have done it today. Makes you wonder why the same cannot be done week-to-week. The funny thing is even with no actual center backs on the field for Valencia, the same number of goals was conceded in the second half as the first.

Ferran put in another praise-worthy performance today. He has the mentality of a winner and it showed today. He ran every minute of the game and was producing moments out of nothing for the team. He was the least predictable player on the ball and caused as much trouble as he could because of it.

Full-time stats. 3-4 goals, 16-11 shots, 7-5 shots on target, 60-40% possession, 80-72% pass accuracy.

This result reduces Valencia's season objectives to just one. Qualify for the next season of the Champions League by finishing 4th in the league.

Next game is on Saturday, March 14 against Levante in La Liga at Mestalla. The next two games for Valencia will be played behind closed doors as well, as ruled by the Spanish football federation.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Atalanta BC 4 - 1 Valencia CF Match Thread

Valencia travel to Milan in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16, a position the club hasn't achieved since the 2012-13 season. Their opponents, Atalanta have never been in this position before.

Atalanta's road to the round of 16 was tough. They were placed in Group C alongside Manchester City, Shakhtar Donetsk and Dinamo Zagreb. Manchester City were the run-away winners of the group with 14 points with Atalanta narrowly squeezing in second with 7 points; 1 point ahead of 3rd and 2 points ahead of 4th. They started off with a 4-0 away loss to Zagreb, 1-2 home loss to Shakhtar Donetsk and a 5-1 loss to Manchester City away from home. They managed to turn it around in the reverse fixtures achieving a 1-1 draw against Manchester City at home, a 2-0 win over Zagreb also at home and a 0-3 away win against Shakhtar which sealed their qualification to the next stage. 

Valencia had one of the toughest groups to content with. Chelsea the Europa League winners, Ajax the Champions League semi-finalists and Eridivisie champions, and Lille the Ligue 1 runners up. In addition, they started the fixtures on the back of a change in coaching staff. They surprised and took 3 points from Chelsea away from home to start before suffering a heavy 0-3 at Mestalla to Ajax. Then they struggled to a 1-1 draw against Lille away from home. In the return fixtures Lille were beaten 4-1 at Mestalla, Chelsea were challenged in a tough 2-2 draw, and with everything to play for, the team managed to edge out Ajax to secure top spot in the group.

Coming into this game, Atalanta have been in a good run of form. Their attacking prowess become noticed by many others as they won several games by wide scorelines. A 1-2 away win against Roma this weekend earned them 3 points, 4th spot in the Series A standings and widened the gap between them and 5th place Roma. 

Valencia's weekend fixture was an intense 2-2 draw at home against Atletico Madrid. Having had a poor run of games before this game, it was important that the team showed up in this game. The first half was lacking but the second half performance had many positives to take away. The draw sees Valencia finish the week in 7th with 38 points.

Atalanta have 63 goals scored in 24 games. This is the 3rd highest in the top 5 European Leagues with PSG being ahead on 67 goals and Manchester City at 65 goals but both having played an additional game. This is the kind of fire power Atalanta hold this season. On the flip side, Valencia have generally had a better time against teams that love to come forward and attack, catching them off-guard with quick counter-attacks. It needs to be said though that Valencia's form drops away from home.

Atalanta form (all competitions): WWWDW
Valencia form (all competitions): DLLWW


Cillissen has returned to the squad list, having recovered from his injury. It remains to be seen if he will start, especially given the importance of this game.

In defense, Paulista was added to the injury list for the next 3-4 weeks after a late challenge in the game against Atletico. Mangala and Diakhaby will be expected to partner up and deal with the Atalanta attack. Guillem Molina from Mestalla B team is also available for selection, likely as a substitute to cover the center backs. 

Florenzi is still down with the chicken pox, so he is out of this game as well. As such, Thierry Correia has returned to the list, but Wass is expected to start.

Neither Coquelin or Rodrigo has managed to recover in time for this game, despite that being the goal for them. Celades will have to count on Kondogbia and Guedes to address the gap left by their absence. Rodrigo will be out for yet another 8-10 days which means he will likely miss the 2 next La Liga games as well.

Finally, it seems that Kang In has also picked up an injury in the last training session before travelling; a story that has become ever so frequent this season with different players. 

The starting XI is exactly the same as the weekend fixture with the exception of Diakhaby replacing the injured Paulista. Guedes will play upfront alongside Maxi Gomez yet again according to the Valencia website which lists him as a forward, not a midfielder for this game.

Bench: Cillissen, Molina, Costa, Correia, Cheryshev, Gameiro, Sobrino


Good to see how Domenech give each player a one-on-one pep talk in the tunnel before the game. A leader emerges in these type of games.

3' - Early free kick for Atalanta after Parejo fouled the opposing captain on the edge of the penalty area to prevent a counter-attack. The free kick is hit over the crossbar.
5' - Valencia earn a free kick on the opposite end but Parejo's delivery cannot get past the first defender.
7' - Pasalic goes clear through on goal with a through ball and faces Jaume one on one. He has the time to take a few touches before shooting but Jaume reads the shot and saves. Good save to deny a very dangerous chance.
13' - Parejo with another free kick in a similar position to the first and yet again the delivery is sub-par.
15' - Goal for Atalanta. 1-0. Hateboer was waiting at the far post for the cross across goal and fires at the far side of goal. Jaume gets a touch but cannot keep it out. Gomez was allowed to much time and space on the ball to pick out a cross. Ferran and Wass should've done better to prevent the cross.
20' - Atalanta flood the Valencia box with attackers every time they come forward but do leave spaces behind as a result. Unfortunately, Valencia have yet to find a way to exploit that.
30' - Valencia keep winning free kicks on the right flank in an advanced position. This one caught Atalanta off-guard as it was taken quickly. Ferran is through on goal but has a tight angle and hits the post. The ball falls to Guedes in the center but he cannot buy himself the space to get a clear shot under pressure from the Atalanta defense. Instead his shot is blocked and deflects to Gaya who's cross is in turn deflected for a corner. The corner is delivered poorly yet again and cannot get past the first defender.
34' - Gaya puts Guedes through on goal with a fantastic lob over the defense. Guedes shoots at the far post with Mangala and Maxi Gomez both waiting at the far post. The ball goes out of play much to the frustration of Maxi Gomez who wanted a cross. It is strange to see Mangala is up in attack in that play.
36' - Valencia loses a lot of attacking momentum with these passes. They are always played behind the receiving player or with too much strength, buying the Atalanta defenders time to get behind the ball.
40' - Atalanta are through on goal again with yet another through ball, this one played between Wass and Mangala. Gomez misses the goal entirely but it wouldn't have counter regardless with the offside flag going up.
41' - Goal for Atalanta. 2-0. Illicic receives the ball at the edge of the box from a wide position. He shrugs off the challenge from Soler, takes a touch past Mangala and Kondogbia and fires at goal straight to the top right corner of Jaume's goal.
45' - One minute added for stoppages.

HALF-TIME: Valencia hasn't gotten into the game yet. Another half with not a single shot on goal. One effort, from Ferran, did hit the post, Another close effort was squandered when Guedes went for a shot instead of squaring the ball across to his teammates.

 The game was pretty open as many expected with Atalanta being as offensively-oriented as they are. Still, with all the spaces the forwards runs and shots end up being blocked. Atalanta is given the opportunity to track back and deal with the counter attacks due to poor quality passes when transitioning. It is not ideal for players making runs to have to slow down or run back to get a misplaced pass. The priority should be to get forward with assurance that the pass will come.

In defense, the team is often double or triple teaming Atalanta forwards but failing to win the ball. Both goals came as a consequence of this. The Atalanta players can somehow squeeze passes even when under pressure from the 2 or 3 defenders. There needs to be more decisive challenges. No point in the double and triple marking if it's just posturing. Only in the final minutes of the first half did Kondogbia step up and start shutting down the midfield. This needed to come much earlier. This needed to come much earlier. Unfortunately, like with the Atletico game, this was done late. At that point, Valencia was already two goals down.

Jaume had a good early save to deny Atalanta from a goal, but could've arguably done better for the first goal and second goals; though it should be said that both efforts should've been dealt with by better closing down from the defense.

It is possible to turn this game around still but a lot has to change. Valencia need an away goal to take into the second leg from this fixture at the very least. Hopefully, this can be done without conceding further.

Half-time stats. 2-0 goals, 7-6 shots, 3-0 shots on goal, 49-51% possession. 81-83% shot acccuracy.

49' - Atalanta almost grab a third goal. Wass dropped to the ground after a foul but the referee didn't give it, leaving Valencia completely exposed on the right. Gomez runs into the space and is picked out, delivers a cross to the far post but Diakhaby gets enough on it to deflect it away.
51' - Ferran finds Soler with a curling cross straight to his feet but he cannot direct the effort at goal. It's wide.
57' - Goal for Atalanta. 3-0. This keeps getting worse. Gomez outmuscles Kondogbia for the ball and plays a short pass to Freuler ahead of him. He takes a touch, cuts inside and uses Diakhaby and Parejo to mask Jaume vision of the shot; allowing him to curl it to far post and score.
60' - Valencia with their best chance of the game. Ferran intercepts the keeper's pass, takes a touch and finds Maxi Gomez unmarked in the penalty box but the shot is hit directly at the keeper. This was the chance the team needed. Again, chances like this need to end up in the back of the net.
62' - Goal for Atalanta. 4-0. Hateboer is played clean through on goal. Diakhaby managed to catch up with him but again no decisive challenge. He runs with him into the penalty box and drives the shot into goal at the near post. Jaume fails to get a touch even at his near post. The defense is completely in shambles this game. Gaya and Mangala did not deal with the initial pass and Wass was out of line on the opposite end, playing the Atalanta player onside.
65' - First change for Valencia, Guedes off, Cheryshev on.
65' - Goal for Valencia. 4-1. Cheryshev scores straight off the bench, giving Valencia a nice away goal. Palomino made a defensive error after some miscommunication with the goalkeeper, giving away possession to Cheryshev. He takes a shot from the edge of the penalty box to the far post. It was hit low and with power and beat the keeper. Great shot!
69' - Valencia with another chance. Parejo with a fantasic through ball along the touch line for Ferran. He curls a cross for Maxi but it is deflected, falls to Cheryshev who shoots but this time his shot is blocked by the Atalanta defender.
72' - Second substitution for Valencia, Maxi Gomez is replaced by Gameiro.
74' - First change for Atalanta. Caldara is replaced by Zapata. Looks like an attacking change, a defender for a forward.
75' - Parejo's cross is headed away from Cheryshev and falls to Soler at the edge of the box. He fires on the half-volley but he cannot hit the target.
79' - Yellow card shown to Hateboer for a pull on Cheryshev
80' - Second change for Atalanta. Gomez off, Malinovskyi on.
82' - Diakhaby gets arm to the throat and is bleeding from his mouth. The medical staff comes on and his teammates call for a sub but the player signals that he can continue.
90' - Four minutes added for stoppages.
90+1' - Final change for Atalanta. Pasalic off, Tameze on.


A pretty one-sided game. The second leg needs a perfect performance from Valencia and a horrible game from Atalanta to turn this around; which is quite frankly difficult to see happening. The team did manage a 3 goal victory in the Champions League against Lille this season and will recover some players before that fixture, so there's that. However, I suspect that in the minds of many, this tie is over.

The critic for this game is the same as many other games this season. This is indicative that there hasn't been much improvement over the weeks. It's easy to blame this injuries and those do in fact excuse some lack in performance but not this much. Even when those players were fit the team still struggled.

The preview for this match detailed how good offensively Atalanta was and pointed to the fact that Valencia do better against open teams. Atalanta did show up with the fire power, did leave spaces behind but without punishment.

This game was different to the game against Getafe in that there were shots and on target. There was some effort, but no quality to capitalize. This was more similar to the game against 0-3 defeat at home to Ajax where the opposition were given to much space to take shots and crosses from wherever they pleased with being contested. On the other hand, the chances that the team got were not converted. Both of that game and today, the team lacked decisiveness - in scoring and in making defensive challenges.

No doubt in the press conference the fans will get another apology and the promise of a turnaround at Mestalla yet many will question those words having been repeated so often.

Full-time stats. 4-1 goals, 11-17 shots, 5-4 shots on target, 52-48% possession, 79-81% pass accuracy.

For now, all the team can do is focus on the next game. There is no room for sulking or complaining. The tough fixtures will continue and the team needs to step up.

Next game is on Saturday away at the Anoeta against Real Soceidad, another rival for the European competitions.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Garay injured: out for next six months

Fairly awful news, and at the worst possible time. Ezequiel Garay's injury is serious and he will miss the next 6 months.

The news sums up our lack of luck with injuries this season. If this had happened even 4 days ago, we could at least have gone for a sticking plaster solution in the form of a loan. But now with the transfer window closed, we now only have Paulista, Diakhaby and a not that good and not that fit Mangala. This comes at the most critical time of the season when the cup game at Granada will be followed by Getafe away, Atletico Madrid at home, Atalanta away and Sociedad away.

For the games against Atalanta, Paulista is suspended, so that leaves just Diakhaby and Mangala as our only available defenders. Why do we always only have four when we knew at the start of the season that two were very injury prone?

As the injury is for longer than 5 months, Valencia therefore qualifies to make an emergency signing. This must be either a player who plays in the top two divisions of Spain or doesn't have a club at the moment. We are also at the non-EU limit so it must also be someone with an EU passport. The names mentioned in the Valencian sports press are unexciting ones: bringing back Jorge Saenz, who Celta have judged not good enough. Roncaglia returning (again, wasn't good enough last season) or Fernando Calero of Espanyol. Ultimately, we're chasing scraps, but it's better than nothing. Weirdly, Garay being injured for 6 months is better for us than a 4-month injury. Another consideration is that the deadline for registering players for the last 16 of the Champions league is midnight tomorrow (3rd February.)

Monday, December 16, 2019

UEFA Champions league last 16 draw

So, the draw has just been made and the best one we could have hoped for.

Valencia will play Atalanta in the next stage. They would definitely have been top of my wishlist, ahead of Lyon while avoiding teams like Tottenham, Dortmund etc. Valencia now has an excellent chance of making the quarter-finals.

While there are no easy teams at this level and no one can be taken for granted, this is a game we should win. Atalanta have never played a competitive game before against us. They are making their debut in the Champions league this season and just about scraped through their group after losing their opening three games including a 0-4 loss to Zagreb and a 1-5 drubbing by Manchester City. Their main goalscorer this season has been Luis Muriel, who joined from Sevilla after an unconvincing 2 years in La Liga. I think most would agree they're less of a challenge than Ajax or Chelsea.

So, all the signs are good, but can Valencia raise to the challenge?

Monday, December 9, 2019

UEFA Champions League Group Stage: Ajax Amsterdam 0 - 1 Valencia CF Match Thread

Here we go, the big game is upon us. The team has a chance to reach heights that haven't been attained for a while - the Champions League Knockout Stages.

The team could not secure qualification in the last matchday, although they were very close. The 2-2 draw against Chelsea at Mestalla was a game where the scoreline could not possible tell the whole story. The chances came and they fell exactly to the players that they wanted them to fall to but it just wasn't to be. Those misses cannot be repeated here.

Ajax has beaten Valencia in the previous leg of this fixture earlier in the season. The team suffered a 3-0 loss at Mestalla, and that one was a game to forget. However, this is not the same team anymore. Celades only had a few games under his belt and not enough to time to gel with the team and implement his ideas. I think a win is a realistic goal, although the team will have to work very hard to get it.

Ajax come into this game with a 0-2 loss at home against Willem in the Dutch Eredivisie. They had dominated the possession that game but did not make the most of it. They played a day before Valencia did against Levante so they had an extra day of rest. The previous Champions League game saw Ajax win 0-2 away from home against Lille. That win leaves them top of the group table at 10 points from 5 games.

Valencia's weekend had the team play in a local derby against Levante. They had fallen two goals down in the first 20 minutes of the game and it was looking like a disappointing game. Aided by a late own goal at the end of the first half and some half-time change in ideas, they found the strength in the second half to score 3 more goals to secure a comeback and a 2-4 away win. In the Champions League, the 2-2 draw against Chelsea in the previous game leaves Valencia tied with Chelsea at 8 points. With the tiebreaker considered Valencia is currently second and would qualify.

All that is required is to match or surpass Chelsea's result since the tiebreaker favors Valencia. However, Chelsea have Lille at home and Valencia has Ajax away from home. The focus should be to go for a win and not worry about the other game. Go with the mindset that Chelsea will win their game and if they don't that's a bonus.

Ajax Champions League form: WWDLW
Ajax League form: LWWWW

Valencia Champions League form: WLDWD
Valencia League form: WWLWW


In the last game against Levante, the team had recovered Diakhaby from injury but ended the game by losing Cillissen to injury. He misses this game. Garay is suspended from this game for yellow card accumulation. In training, there was more bad news as Maxi Gomez also fell to injury. This takes one of Valencia's top scorers out of this game. It will make the game harder no doubt. However, with Gameiro playing in good fashion last game, we have a good replacement.

Rivero is promoted to 2nd goalkeeper for the game and Bernad is called up as 3rd. In defense, Mangala returns to cover Garay's absense. Esquerdo continues to feature in the squad list and is joined by Pablo Gozálbez to complete the squad numbers.

It looks like Celades will keep the 4-4-2 and not adjust for injuries. Diakhaby is preferred over Mangala as the starting CB. With the attacking players limited due to injury, the team only has Vallejo as an attacking substitution. Gaya and Correia can play further up on either side in midfield and that might free up Vallejo or Ferran to play further forward but only if necessary should this be done.

Bench: Rivero, Mangala, Costa, Correia, Pablo Gozalbez, Esquerdo, Vallejo


2' - Great chance for Valencia is missed. The corner delivery is flicked on by Paulista at the near post to Rodrigo who gets a header of his own but cannot hit the target.
6' - The Valencia clearances are looking a bit sloppy, they always fall to Ajax players.
9' - Yellow card for Ajax, Alvarez trips up Soler who was running into space.
10'  - Parejo takes the freekick but plays a short one to Gaya who tries to pick out Rodrigo but the pass was over-hit.
24' - GOAL VALENCIA! 0-1! Gaya picks out Ferran who disguises his pass to Rodrigo as a shot. Rodrigo fires the ball into the top right corner!
26' - So many Ajax fouls.
36' - Ajax with a very dangerous ball into the box, Jaume just manages to push it away.
42' - Gaya with a very good clearance after an Ajax free kick. The flicked ball was going towards goal.
44' - Gaya sets up a chance on the opposite side. Through ball from Soler to pick him out, he crosses to Gameiro in the center. Gamerio looks up finds Rodrigo, plays him in. Rodrigo feigns the defender and gets some space but his shot is blocked by another defender. Gaya with a real presence this game. Good to see after his injury.

HALF-TIME: Valencia with quite possibly one of, it not, the best first halves under Celades. The pressure applied forced Ajax into many mistakes that they don't normally make and the chances follow from them. In the first game, Ajax were allowed to keep possession with no pressure and this was addressed in some part today. Valencia almost took the lead 2 minutes into the game with an open header for Rodrigo but he couldn't hit the target. Rodrigo would then go on to score the goal that put Valencia ahead following a great build up. Gaya started the play in an advanced position, forcing a mistake from the Ajax defense. He found Ferran on the right and Ferran disguised his through ball to Rodrigo. Rodrigo would score this chance despite it being more difficult that his first.

Chelsea lead 2-0 in their game against Lille so Valencia must maintain this win to go through. Valencia usually play a better second half and if the first half was already quite good, the second half could be great. The guard cannot go down though. There were many dangerous plays by the Ajax players but the two banks of 4 have kept them at bay. Coquelin is also having quite a decent game in midfield winning possession and intercepting passes. Diakhaby is dealing with any aerial threats in defense.

45' - Half time substitution for Ajax. Dest in for the booked Alvarez.
48' - Lang draws out Paulista wide, beats him and sets up Ziyech for a change but he cannot hit the target, it's wide at the far post.
51' - Tadic clashes with Paulista and falls down on top of him, causing injury to his knee. He is getting treatment on the sidelines. We cannot afford another injury.
53' - First substitution for Valencia. Gameiro is replaced by Vallejo. Gameiro looked like he was struggling with a knock/injury. That's another player out. Paulista limps back onto the pitch.
54' - Rodrigo with a decent chance. He found the opening at the edge of the box and curled a shot at the far post but slipped in the last moment. The ball barely scrapes the top left corner of the post.
55' - Paulista putting his body in the firing range to block and Ajax shot. Possession returns to Ajax and another ball is played into the box. Jaume scrambles off his line and gathers up the ball pressured by Ajax players.
59' - Diakhaby getting to every cross and aerial ball first. Ajax struggling to get one past him.
66' - Ajax with a huge opportunity. de Beek setting up Tadic with a square ball into the area but he completely misses the target.
68' - Another linkup between de Beek and Tadic, this time from the right. The cross results in an overhead kick but it's wide again. Ajax really stepping up the pressure.
70' - Second change for Ajax, Lang off for Huntelaar
77' - Ajax getting really frustrated. Every touch on a Valencia players is getting awarded as a free kick. But Ajax doesn't learn and keeps at it.
78' - Yellow card for Jaume for time wasting.
79' - Vallejo makes a chance for him with a slick touch to pass between the left-back and the central defender. Tagliafico takes him out and gets booked. Yellow card only. Parejo with a free kick well within his range.
80' - In the protests and arguments that ensue, Parejo and Onana get booked. Yellow card for each.
82' - Parejo's free kick hit right at the keeper. Easy save.
83' - Van de Beek with a dangerous challenge on Gaya. Yellow card.
85' - Vallejo booked for a late challenge.
86' - Valencia content with playing the ball to the opposing corner flag to waste time.
88' - Ajax with their final change. Tagliafico off for de Jong.
89' - Miscommunication between Wass and Jaume running into each other. The ball is loose but Wass manages to clear, it falls right to an Ajax player at the edge of the box. He fires at the open net but Jaume reaches just in time to deny him. These saves are as good as goals.
90' - Five minutes of time added by the referee.
91' - Gaya gets beaten and the cross meets Ziyech at the opposite flank. He volleys at the near post but Jaume is up to it again.
93' - Red card for Valencia. Paulista with a moment of stupidity after a great game. He gets fouled and retaliates with a headbutt, getting sent off. Tadic gets booked for his involvement. It's a corner for Ajax.
94' - Celades still has one more substitution and he's using it. Mangala will come on to take Paulista's spot. Ferran Torres is sacrificed. Paulista will miss the next 3 games for suspension according to commentary.
95' - Mangala clears the corner in his first involvement.
96' - Diakhaby clearing every long ball that Ajax is putting in desperately. The referee blows the whistle! It's over!


Valencia held out! They've done it! They've beat Ajax, away from home, with a clean sheet and qualified at the top of the group. Chelsea finished second. Ajax is eliminated and goes to the Europa League.

The second half was pretty much all about the pair of Paulista and Diakhaby, as well as Jaume in goal. It was a barrage of Ajax efforts and their response to deny those efforts. Jaume produced some stretched clutch saves that are the equivalent of goals on the other side. Diakhaby dealt with every aerial threat. In the dying minutes of the game when Ajax got desperate and starting putting in long balls, Diakhaby was heading them away with ease, shutting down any hope. Paulista dealt with efforts on the ground. He caused a scare towards the end with his red card, reducing Valencia to ten men. It was a stupid challenge and could've cost the team, but luckily there wasn't much time left.

It was no surprise that someone was going to get sent off. The game had 8 yellow cards and Paulista's red card capped off the bookings. It was a straight red meaning he will the next few games for suspension. Hopefully Garay and Mangala will be fit enough to cover.

I think most people had written off Valencia for this game and it's good to produce this convincing performance on a night like this. Despite Ajax dominating possession, they didn't have a single shot on goal for the majority of the game. Only towards the end did they get their chance.

Valencia managed to frustrate Ajax drawing many challenges and capitalizing on them to win free kicks and disrupt Ajax's flow.

Very good game all round although unfortunate about the red card and Gameiro's injury. The effort really showed out there today.

This win will bring Valencia to the round of 16 for the first time since the 2012-13 season where they faced PSG. This win also brings 2.7 million euros for the result and 9.5 million euros for the qualification. This will help in the club's financial situation and give the club more leeway in transfer dealings.

Next game is on Sunday against Real Madrid in La Liga at Mestalla. With a win like this to take to that game, bring it on! Congratulations everyone! Amunt!

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

UEFA Champions League Group Stage: Valencia CF 2 - 2 Chelsea FC Match Thread

In the pre-match conference in the game against Lille, Celades said that it was the most important game of the season. The team pulled off a 4-1 win that day. I think it's fair to say that this game takes its spot now.

Valencia's previous encounter against Chelsea in the group stage was coincidentally Celades's first game in charge. No one expected much but the team managed to take all 3 points, walk out with a clean sheet, and win away from home. Rodrigo's goal separated the teams on that occasion, coming at the 74th minute. Chelsea have been unbeaten in the Champions League since then, beating Lille, then Ajax and then in the return leg against Ajax secured a 4-4 draw after 2 Ajax players were shown the red card.

Valencia is tied with both Ajax and Chelsea at 7 points with 2 games to play still. After tiebreakers have been settled Valencia is 3rd. A win this game is enough to guarantee qualification though since the first tiebreaker is head-to-head games. This would make it impossible for Chelsea to catch up regardless of how the final game goes since they would at best be equal on points but lose the tiebreaker. 

The team had a disappointing performance the last matchday in La Liga, losing to 17th place Real Betis away from home in the dying minutes of the game. Chelsea also come into this game with an away loss with a scoreline of 2-1 against Manchester City. Both sides carry several injuries.

Valencia Champions League Form: WDLW
Chelsea Champions League Form: DWWL


Coquelin and Garay both rejoin the team and make the squad list for this match which will no doubt be a boost. It remains to be seen if they're deemed fit enough to start the game.

Celades opted to play Wass in midfield alongside Parejo rather than Coquelin. He could still have hope that Wass can put on a performance like he did against Granada and/or Coquelin isn't completely ready to get back.

Garay returns to the defense with Paulista, Costa retains his spot as right-back and Gaya on the opposite side.

Ferran has put in several great performances and it's no surprise that he starts yet again. Soler starts on the opposite flank. Rodrigo and Maxi Gomez are the preferred strike force for Celades. 

Bench: Domenech, Correia, Mangala, Coquelin, Kang In, Vallejo, Gameiro


2' - James with a cross from the right that is not dealt with by the defense, it falls to Willian but he mishits it over the net with his head.
6' - Yellow card for Jorginho. Ferran Torres had gotten away from him into space and he was forced to bring him down. The resulting free kick is cleared for a corner.
17' - Chelsea seem to be relying on wide play to exploit the space left by full-backs.
18' - Parejo with a delightful through ball for Rodrigo, who had the time and space. He drives the ball forward, picks out Maxi Gomez but he misses the ball. That needs to be a goal. Very very unlucky.
21' - Costa from an advanced central position makes a cross to Carlos Soler who heads the ball towards goal but it's at a good height for the keeper.
29' - What is happening? Another chance for Valencia, ball falls to Maxi Gomez in plenty of space, yet it's nowhere near goal. It deflected sure, but that needs to end up in the back of the net. Great work by Soler and Ferran to press for the ball, good delivery by Parejo to find Maxi but the goal still eludes them. Come on Maxi!
32' - Yellow card shown to Daniel Wass for a body check.
35' - Ferran Torres has possession after a Chelsea mistake, he runs into the box but cannot find the space. The resulting counter from Chelsea results in a good chance. Willian crosses from the right-side to Abraham, the ball is parried, falls to Kante in space but hit over the cross bar.
38'- Another cross for Chelsea, falls to Abraham who fires at the top-right corner but Cillissen with a fantastic save to deny him.
39' - GOAL VALENCIA! 1-0! Carlos Soler with a volley from a Rodrigo cross. The chance started with a Cillissen goal kick, Ferran got the second ball, found Rodrigo in a wide position and he set up the chance for Soler.
41' - Goal Chelsea. 1-1! Kovacic receives the ball at the edge of the area with his back to goal, turns and beats Cillissen at the bottom-left corner.
44' - Pulisic goes past Garay and sets up Kovacic inside the box, but Cillissen parries the ball away for a corner.
45' - Two minutes added on for stoppages.
45+2' - Abraham collides with Garay and is forced off with an injury.

HALF-TIME: Close game. Chelsea started off well for the first 10 minutes or so before Valencia took command of the game. Two good chances in a row for Maxi Gomez should have gave Valencia a 2-0 lead but the quality wasn't there. Valencia would take the lead anyway though Carlos Soler following a Rodrigo cross. The joy would be short-lived as Chelsea respond quickly with a shot from outside the box via Kovacic.  Parejo is playing the ball forward well and with a high degree of success. When Rodrigo or Ferran receive the ball, they have created danger so far. We need the next chance that falls to Maxi Gomez to be in the back of the net. We know he can score but he's had a sub-par game in terms of scoring thus far.

45' - Batshuyai on for Abraham.
49' - Chelsea goal is struck off since Pulisic is in an offside position. It seems clear but the VAR is taking quite a while to check.
52' - 1-2 Chelsea, VAR has found one angle where the goal is not offside and has given the goal to Chelsea. Garay with a yellow card for protesting.
54' - Yellow card for Azpilicueta for a hand to the face on Jaume Costa.
56' - Rodrigo with a chance after a mistake in the Chelsea defense. The goalkeeper comes out and Rodrigo attempts to chip him but cannot find the back of the net. You can't help but feel that should have been a goal as well.
62' - Penalty for Valencia! Soler plays a through ball to Gaya in the penalty box, Gaya is brought down and the referee calls for a penalty. Parejo steps up.
63' - Parejo is denied, Kepa saves the penalty. The chances are there but the goals today are lacking yet again.
66' - Substitution for Valencia, Gameiro on for Costa. Wass slots back into the right-back position and Gameiro joins the strikers. Costa called for the change following a collision, this is possible another injury.
67' - Cillissen with a good save from a 2 v 1 chance for Chelsea to deny Willian. The flag is raised for offside anyway.
71' - Jorginho off, Emerson on for Chelsea.
72' -  Yellow card for Kante for a heavy challenge on Gaya.
73' - Celades makes a second substitution, Ferran off for Coquelin.
77' - Last change for Valencia, Kang In comes on to replace Soler.
79' - Yellow card for Kepa for wasting time. Final change for Chelsea, Mount on for Willian.
81' - GOAL VALENCIA! 2-2! Daniel Wass with a stunner. The ball was played to Rodrigo at the edge of the box, he steps over the ball, leaving it for Wass out wide. Wass does a half cross half shot and scores in the far post.
86' - Yellow card shown to Paulista for a late challenge on Jason Mount.
89' - A deflected shot from Batsuhuyai had Cillissen fooled but he managed to save it will his trailing leg. Great save.
90' - Seven minutes in additional time signaled by the referee for stoppages.
90+4' - Parejo finds Rodrigo out wide, he cuts inside, takes a shot but it's wide. Almost.
90+5' - I can't believe this. Gaya picks out Rodrigo at the back post and he somehow missed it. What terrible luck today.


I don't know what to say. This game, if it was won by amount of chances, would have Valencia superior. Parejo with a penalty, Maxi Gomez with two clear-cut chances from short-range, Rodrigo with several of his own. How has this game ended in a draw? These would all be goals any other day but not this one.

It will be rough to qualify now. Valencia will most likely need a good result against Ajax in the last game of the group stage, while Chelsea need to do the same against Lille. It's clear which one is the tougher task.

Next game is game is the derby against Villareal taking place on Saturday at the Mestalla. 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.


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


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.


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.

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.


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


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.


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.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

UEFA Champions League Group Stage: Valencia CF 0 - 3 AFC Ajax Match Thread

Here we go! This will surely be an interesting game. The second game of the group stage, at home, against a formidable Ajax side. The last game in the Champions League shocked many. To get a result against Chelsea, away from home in the coach's second game (having lost the first 5-2) was shocking to many. This will be a different challenge. Valencia come into this one on the back of a 1-0 away win to a tough Athletic Bilbao side. The team is starting to find their groove and the differences in coaching style are starting to emerge but what doesn't change is that Valencia need a top performance to beat this Ajax side. Maybe even more than that against Bilbao. Both teams come in with a win in their previous Champions League game.


We were promised rotations every game and here we have another case of that. Cillissen remains unchanged in goal after a great performance against Bilbao. With Garay returning from injury, Diakhaby loses his spot in the lineup while Paulista and Costa appear again.

In midfield, one change. Guedes returns after spending two games on the bench. Hopefully, he will return determined and focused on earning back his spot in the team. Ferran joins him in the lineup on the opposite side, with Parejo and Coquelin in between. Maxi Gomez and Rodrigo are the forwards, with Gameiro still injured. Sobrino and Vallejo who got debuts last time, appear again as substitute options.

Bench: Jaume, Correia, Diakhaby, Cheryshev, KangIn, Sobrino, Vallejo


8' - 0-1! Goal for Ajax from distance. Ziyech wasn't closed down and fired across the face of goal from the left-side and Cillissen couldn't save.
12' - Yellow card Ajax's Veltman for a challenge on Guedes.
25' - Penalty for Valencia, Guedes was fouled after a good build up. Parejo fires the ball into the sky missing. Valencia needed that goal.
27' - Yellow card for Tagliafico for obstructing Ferran Torres.
32' - Rodrigo with a great touch over the defender to set up a 2 vs 2, him and Maxi Gomez against the Ajax defenders. Maxi carries the ball forward and Rodrigo makes a run, but Maxi takes it too far and the cross is gathered by the keeper.
33' - 0-2 Ajax. The opposition build up play from the right with quick passing. The ball is pulled back for Quincy Promes who was left in tons of space as Wass was ball-watching and not tracking his man.
38' - Ferran Torres with a delightful cross to Rodrigo! He makes contact but hits the post. That should've been a goal, it was a simple tap-in, the team cannot afford to miss those.
41' - Ziyech fires from the edge of the box and hits the post. That was dangerous. Why does he always have the space. He's done these shots even last season, it should have been discussed to mark him more closely.
45+1' - Yellow card for Jaume Costa for a challenge on Tadic

HALF-TIME: Valencia had the lower possession of the ball for the first 20 minutes but had the majority 61-39 by the time the first half finished. Yet still, Ajax lead and they have outplayed Valencia quite frankly. The defense is looking really questionable. The forwards seem really selfish in the final third and often choosing the wrong option of shooting versus a great pass. That, or they take too many touches. The penalty decision was correct but the miss was horrendous. The shot needs to be on target at the very least and force the keeper to make a save. That was unacceptable.

46'- Corner for Valencia taken by Parejo. The ball finds its way to Ferran who shoots from the edge of the box, the ball deflects but the keeper makes a reflex save. That was close to a goal.
57' - Maxi Gomez taken off to be replaced by Kang-In.
60' - Yellow card for Martinez after he trips up Rodrigo on the edge of the box. The free kick is blocked by the Ajax wall.
62' - The opposition goalkeeper Onana is booked for wasting time. Yellow card.
66' - It got worse, 0-3. Very quick passing from Ajax and the defense might as well not have been there. Costa leaves his man in space, he picks out a pass to Tadic who delvers a through ball that takes out all four defenders who were holding a line. Van de Beek is left in space and he drives a low shot across goal into the opposite corner. There is no coming back from this. We're getting outplayed.
69' - Ziyech draws in the entire defense, giving Van de Beek space on the right to run into. He gets picked out and tries to chip the ball over Cillissen into the goal but the ball is headed clear off the line by Garay.
70' - Substitution for Valencia, Coquelin off, Correia on. Wass replaces Coquelin midfield while Correia takes his spot in right-back.
72' - Yellow card for Kang-In as he trips up Alvarez.
76' - Yellow card for garay as he pushes de Beek from behind. Free-kick. Ferran Torres is taken off for Cheryshev to come on.
81' - Yellow card for Promes for wasting time. Neres comes on for Promes.
82' - Yellow card for Blind as he trips up Rodrigo.
85' - Ziyech is replaced by Huntelaar.
86' - A cross from Ajax is headed clear to the edge of the area where Martinez claims it. He fires quickly with a powerful low shot. Cillissen gets a touch and the ball bounces off his glove hits the post and away towards the corner flag. Another close call.
88' - de Beek is replaced by de Jong.


I expected this to be challenging but not like this. All this talk of Ajax losing their best players meant nothing. They still dominated and look sharp as they did last season. Valencia got outplayed. Not to say they didn't get their chances. There were chances from Parejo's penalty, Rodrigo hitting the post, and Ferran's deflected shot. If Valencia had equalized from the penalty the tide of the game could've turned. There is no way to know for sure.

On top of the 3 goals, Ajax had several chances to make this score even more embarrassing for Valencia. The defense had taken the day off and Ajax were happy to exploit that. They were shooting from distance at every chance they got and hitting the target well. They weren't closed down. They also broke down the defense with sharp, quick passing. Cillissen looked shaky against his old team.

There seems to be this weird dynamic between Guedes and Rodrigo. In the final third, none of them looks to pick out the other. They would rather take the shot themselves or retain possession with unproductive touches. Even Maxi Gomez only squared the ball to Rodrigo in the 32 minute, after the chance had already gone.

It's interesting that both Barcelona and Ajax, who are cut from the same cloth in football philosophy, have beat us by this margin. You'd expect this from Barcelona but I don't think anyone predicted this scoreline today from Ajax. They did beat Real Madrid 1-4 at the Bernabeu, so they are capable and the fact is the performance did not respect the level of the Ajax team.

That being said, there were positive performances especially from the dynamic youngsters Ferran and Kang-In. They were always positive, moving the ball forward and creating chances. Rodrigo was good in build-up play and passing but his finishing let Valencia down when they really needed a goal. Paulista had a couple of good tackles that saved some blushes and those are recognized in a night where the defense wasn't at it's best.

Looking forward to next game, Valencia is at home again against Deportivo Alaves on Saturday. The last game before the International Break. It's the team's chance to end with a positive note. Some players will get a change of atmosphere with their national teams while others will have sessions with Celades to work on in depth. I believe Gaya and Gameiro will be back after the break. Also, Soler may be available then as well.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

UEFA Champions League Group Stage: Chelsea FC 0 - 1 Valencia CF Match Thread

Here we go, first game of the Champions League and it could be a tough one. We come into this game on the back of a heavy 5-2 loss to Barcelona, even missing a lot of their key players. Chelsea come in on the back of a 5-2 win against Wolverhampton. Their side has been inconsistent this season, as have we. We have 4 points from 4 games and they have 8 points from 5 games.


The coach has said that he hasn't had much time to work on something new and is going with what is familiar to the players. Again, the Valencia website release only the starting 11 with not formation given. In terms of Chelsea's lineup, Rudiger and Kante notably misses the game with injury.

The defense and goalkeeper remain untouched, it's the same 5 that played against Barcelona. In midfield, we have both Kondogbia and Coquelin alongside Parejo and Cheryshev. Rodrigo and Gameiro start in front. It appears that Cheryshev has been preferred over Guedes for this game. He did assist a goal in the short time he was on in the previous game against Barcelona. I'm sure though a lot of people would want Guedes to start. Maybe he will be brought on later to play against players with tired legs.

As for formation, It's probably 4-4-2 where Coquelin plays on the right. He does have experience against Premier League sides so it come in handy. Paulista does as well. It could also be a different formation in a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-1-2 but if the coach is sticking to what players are familiar with, this not likely.

Bench: Jaume, Costa, Diakhaby, KangIn, Ferran, Guedes, Maxi Gomez


2' - Valencia pressing pretty high up early on. Chelsea using long balls to exploit space left by our full-backs.
5' - Chance for Chelsea from the right. Build up play results in a pull-back in the box but it is cleared for a corner.
6' - Corner is headed towards goal by Chelsea but Cillissen saves.
7' - Wass makes a mess of a cross from the opposite end and it falls to a Chelsea player but cleared by Kondogbia who reacted quickly and took a knock. He got up and seems okay.
8' - Coquelin follows through on a pass and caught on Mount Yellow card.
13' - Parejo dispossessed in midfield in his own half. Kovavic runs with the ball towards goal but is stopped by a good tackle from Paulista.
15' - Mount leaves the field with an injury carried on from Coquelin's tackle earlier. Pedro comes on as a replacement.
20' - Parejo lobs the ball over the Chelsea defense to pick out the run of Gaya who heads it straight at the keeper. Assistant referee calls offside.
21' - Cheryshev picks out Gameiro with a through ball but he has no support in the box. He holds it up well before getting dispossessed,
22' - Corner from Chelsea cleared by Wass, whose block resulted in a corner in the first place.
25' - Great run from Rodrigo, on the right picked out by Parejo. Rodrigo carries it forward play it towards Parejo who picks out Coquelin but is stopped by the Chelsea defense.
26' - Quick counter from Chelsea results in a header from Abraham, saved by Cillissen.
28' - Rodrigo picks out Gameiro with a great lob, he takes a bad touch taking him away from goal and making the angle more difficult. He gets pushed off the ball by the Chelsea defender.
29' - Rodrigo is playing brilliantly, build the link that builds up every play. He plays several one twos with his team before taking a shot which is blocked by Gameiro standing in the way and the rebound is sent flying by Wass.
32' - Rodrigo again with great movement and link up and his through ball almost lets Cheryshev in on goal.
33' - Jorginho tackles Kondogbia late and gets booked. Yellow card.
34' - Willian charges at our defense past Parejo, then Kondogbia and Coquelin. His shot narrowly misses the post.
40' - Kovacic picks out Willian in space in the box but under pressure from Paulista, he cannot hit the target.
45' - Increasing pressure from Chelsea in the last 5 minutes of the game. Willian being the main culprit. Some positives to take away from the first half. It's much better than the performance last game. They struggled to get the few chances they had. They had to resort to long balls and crosses since there is no space. Rodrigo and Paulista are playing a fantastic game. Rodrigo has a free-role and everything goes through him in build up. Paulista has shut out a few very dangerous balls. Kondogbia has also had some good challenges but sometimes gets beaten easily. Look forward to the second half.


49' - Cheryshev with a shot from distance but lacking the power or accuracy to trouble the goalkeeper.
55' - Increasing pressure from Valencia over the past 2-3 minutes, trapping Chelsea in their own box. Wass draws a free kick on the right. To be taken by Parejo. It is cleared for a corner.
56' - Parejo plays the ball low to Gameiro who had made a run back towards the edge of the box and was in loads of space. Unfortunately, the training ground routine did not hit the target.
60' - Great through ball from Rodrigo deep in midfield towards Gaya but he had stopped his run too short and the ball goes out of play.
61' - Gaya with a challenge to stop Willian in an advanced position. Free kick Chelsea.
62' - Alonso curls the ball around the ball to the bottom-left corner of the goal, amazing save by Cillissen.
65' - Lob from Kondogbia to pick out Rodrigo in space out wide, who gets pressured off the ball for a corner. Wass sends the effort resulting from the corner high.
67' - Chelsea with a chance, Azpilicueta squares the ball across the box but blocked by Paulista. Corner Chelsea. Cleared and eventually ends up with Cillissen, He tries to start a quick counter attack but it is dealt with by Chelsea defenders, pushing Gameiro off the ball.
68' - Chelsea starts a counter in return, Abraham and Willian play a one two but Garay out muscles him off the ball.
69' - Pedro with another chance in the box, looking to bend one around the keeper but it's wide.
70' - Maxi Gomez will be the first substitution for Valencia coming on for Gameiro.
71' - Kondogbia picks out Rodrigo again with a diagonal ball out wide, and again Chelsea resort to a foul to bring him down. Free kick Valencia. Parejo's delivery goes past everyone and out of play.
73' - Chelsea second substitution. Zouma to be replaced by Giroud.
74' - Gaya is fouled after a one-two with Cheryshev, free kick for Valencia in a decent position.
75' - GOAL VALENCIA! 0-1 ! Rodrigo hits the ball into the ground and to the roof of the net after breaking free from the defense. Great delivery frrom Parejo, good finish by Rodrigo. He really deserves it after a great performance.
78' - Effort from Giroud saved easily by Cillissen, hit right at him.
79' - Final substitution form Chelsea: Ross Barkley on for Kovacic
82' - Barkley with a chance from the edge of the box but deflected for a corner. Punched away by Cillissen. Pedro fires the rebound at goal, deflected for another corner.
83' - Chelsea claim a handball following the clearance from a corner. Ball had hit Wass's hand but his arm was in a natural position close to his body, Referee didn't give anything.
85' - VAR asks referee to review the decision. Penalty could be given and it is. Referee overturns his decision after reviewing VAR. Barkley to take.
87' - AND HE MISSES! He hits the crossbar and gone over. The Chelsea players were debating who should take it which is not a good sign. Barkley insisted and then missed. Big chance gone!
89' - Yellow card for Giroud after a challenge on Paulista. Substitution for Valencia, Rodrigo off for KangIn.
90' - Added time is four minutes, Diakhaby getting ready to come on.
90+1' - Maxi Gomez gets taken down, foul stops play. Diakhaby comes on for Cheryshev to shore up the defense in the final few minutes.
90+3' - Gaya fouls Pedro for a free kick. Final minute! Alonso curls one towards the near post but Cillissen parries, great performance from the goalkeeper.  Resulting corner creates another chance but Christensen sends the header wide.

The game is over! Valencia CF have done it! The first game for Celades in the Champions League and he gets a win against the Europa League Champions and away from home.


The team stepped up today. Despite all that happened, they decided to actually give it a go. Celades will really appreciate this performance. This will help him build trust with the players. He looked really nervous before and during the game but he will breathe a huge sigh of relief. It was a tough game and we could've gone down on many occasions. The penalty towards the end was a great scare but thankfully they didn't score. A draw would've still been amazing given the state of the club, but a win could do wonders. Great performances from Rodrigo, Paulista and Cillissen.

Elsewhere in the group, Ajax beat Lille 3-0, putting them on top of the group, tied with us on points but ahead on goal difference. We face them next in the Champions League.

Next game is at Mestalla against Leganes on Sunday. It's a chance to continue building momentum. We were discussing that this Leganes games would be the start of building momentum, but today's game got us a head start on that. It will be interesting to see the reaction of the fans since it will be the first home game after the incident with Marcelino.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

UEFA Champions League: Group Stage Draw

The draw for the group stages for the Champions League were conducted today. The results of the draw are as follows:

Valencia find themselves in Group H alongside Chelsea, Ajax and Lille. Compared to some of the other groups, our group is quite decent actually. However, it's not easy still. Chelsea are the reigning Europa League champions and Ajax are the reigning Dutch League Champions as well as Champions League semi-finalists. Chelsea's performance this season will be turbulent as they find themselves with a new coach who has yet to achieve good results for his team. Ajax have lost 2 of their star players in de Jong and de Ligt, however they still remain a threat.

This group has a lot of wildcards and teams that could either perform really well or disappoint from week to week. It should be interesting to see how it turns out.

What are your thoughts on Group H in particular as well as all the other groups?

Monday, June 10, 2019

Valencia's future in European competitions

In this post last year I looked at how Valencia would benefit from European competition financially. The figures for that are almost in. Valencia have so far earned 40.75m from the Champions league (15.25m participation fee, 17.7m from the ten-year ranking, 3m per win and 0.9m per draw.) On top of that, the club gets 5.5m from the Europa league. TV money is yet to come on top of that, I'd guess around 8m, though the figures aren't usually released until mid-October. When you add gate receipts, merchandising and so on, our windfall from European competitions easily passes 60 million.

When you look at the breakdown, it's obvious that the Champions league (CL) is where it's at: we got over seven times as much money from that as the Europa league. Does that mean we should ignore the Europa league altogether? Not at all, without the ranking points from that we would be in pot 4, instead of pot 3, in next August's draw and would also receive 3.4m less in CL money next season.

Ensuring that that money keeps coming in and making progress in Europe are the big challenges ahead.

The news here isn't good. You would think that Valencia reaching the semi-finals of the Europa league would boost our ranking, maybe even putting us in with a chance of pot 2, but in reality we are almost unchanged from last season. This website (look under the CL tab) assumes that seeded teams win in each round. Valencia are guaranteed pot 3, but are much closer to pot 4 than pot 2. That's down to the fact that seeding is based on the last 5 years in European competition and Valencia was absent in 14/15, 16/17 and 17/18.

For ranking points, teams get 2 points for a win and 1 for a draw in European competitions. There is 1 bonus point for reaching quarters, another for the semis and another for the final. Those points are the same for either Europa league or CL. For CL, teams also get 4 bonus points for playing group stage and 5 bonus points for last 16.

Looking at the CL tab in the link above shows the problem. Valencia are 33.5 points behind the last ranked team in pot 2, Ajax. We could catch up this season but not enough. The ranking points from 15/16 then expire after next season which means that we are basically stuck in pot 3 of the CL until at least the 2022-23 season, that's the next three seasons at least playing groups of death, unless we get pot 1 by winning a European tournament. Missing a single season in Europe or failing to reach at least CL last 16 or EL quarters will prolong that. We must qualify for Europe and take whatever competition we're in seriously.

The problem with the current European competitions is that no one is happy with them. UEFA's tendency to give increasing numbers of guaranteed places in the group stages to a handful of top countries has forced most federations to play a ridiculous number of qualifying rounds, up to 6 for the smallest federations and 4 for most. For clubs in The Baltics, for example, that means that usually 2 or 3 of 4 entrants fall at the first hurdle, with any survivors usually culled off a round or two after that and facing unsexy ties against clubs from Scandinavia, Poland, Czechia, Belarus or The Balkans. It's hardly a way to promote interest in football in countries where ice hockey seems more interesting.

To cater for the concerns of smaller clubs, UEFA is establishing a new third-level competition, provisionally called Europa league 2 until they can think of a better title. That will start in the 2021-22 season and will feature the last qualifier from Spain, could be us if we finish 7th. The winners of that only qualify for the Europa league and the money is likely to be even worse than that so it's one for us to avoid.

Of far more interest to us are the proposed changes to the CL for 2024. Richer clubs like Manchester United are annoyed at missing out on the CL and UEFA themselves recognise the $$$ that they can earn by having them in. UEFA has suggested a more closed arrangement for the CL. Under that, there would be four groups of 8 teams instead of eight groups of 4. The bottom 8 teams would be relegated to the Europa league, with the other 24 continuing for the next season. After the inaugural season, the only way to get into the CL would be by winning the domestic league then being one of 4 teams winning play-offs between 40+ champions or finishing in the last 4 of Europa league, which would likely be a tougher prospect as all teams would take that far more seriously.

With a guaranteed 14 games instead of 6 in that, CL prize money would more than double. Valencia could potentially be looking at 100+ million a season for participating in that. A few seasons of that would more than wipe out the club's debts and leave us solvent for the first time in 30 years. But only if we get in. It's not yet been confirmed how the teams will be selected for that but the general thinking is that it would be done on the basis of UEFA's 10-year ranking, with maybe the top 32 from that or top 30 and the Europa league and CL winners from the season before. Valencia are currently 23rd in it, but more recent lists start to put us lower: 27th in the last one I can find.

It has to be said that the changes are only proposed and due to be discussed in August. Valencia and other clubs have already expressed opposition and there's a good chance the changes will be rejected, but I really think some change like that is inevitable. The idea of a European super league has been around since the late 1980s and you only have to look at recent developments to see this. Winning the domestic league is now usually not enough. In recent times, PSG have parted company with Emery and Juventus with Allegri despite domestic league success, while Valverde is under heavy pressure at Barcelona. In all cases, it's because of failings in the CL. Among major leagues, England is the only exception to this. All that suggests that a super league will happen, likely through reform of the CL and Valencia has to be in that.

Interesting and challenging years ahead.