Saturday, October 10, 2015

FC Barcelona interested in Shkodran Mustafi

FC Barcelona plan a big wave of reinforcements in the winter transfer window in order to strengthen and deepen their squad and be able to stay competitive even with major injuries to Lionel Messi, Iniesta and others.

FC Barcelona are not pleased with their defense, as Pique is inconsistent, Mathieu is not good enough for that level of play, and Vermaelen is too injury prone to be a reliable choice so they have identified Valencia's Shkodran Mustafi as their defensive reinforcement in the winter transfer window.

Shkodran Mustafi has a buyout clause of about 45 million euros, something that FC Barcelona will avoid paying, but they are reported  to be willing to pay as much as 30 million euros for the German international.

Shkodran Mustafi has a long term contract with Valencia CF and just recently publicly spoke that he is happy at Valencia CF and he is not interested in other clubs. That could change though as FC Barcelona have deep pockets and the real possibility of trophies can sway everyone to join FC Barcelona.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Athletic Bilbao vs Valencia CF Match Preview

Athletic Bilbao vs Valencia CF Match Preview
Stadium: San Memes
Date: 04.10.2015 16:00 CET
7th matchday, La Liga
Coaches: Ernesto Valverde and Nuno Santo

Valencia CF are up against the always tricky opponent Athletico Bilbao and these two teams have been rivals in the past several seasons as both teams have fought over those top 4 positions that lead to the Champions league.

Athletic Bilbao have done okay in the past few years, looking at it historically they've technically been improving in modern history, getting higher and higher finishes on the table in the last 7-8 years, culminating in a Champions league position once, but that has been their highlight and they haven't stepped up from that.

They've also sold a couple of key players the past two seasons, so any sort of momentum they've had before has definitely been stopped and you could see it this season as they are struggling to get any results and are struggling at 18th position on the table with only 5 goals scored and 9 conceded goals.

Former Valencia CF player Artiz Aduriz has been a key player for Athletic Bilbao ever since he joined them, instantly becoming a crucial part of their team and scoring a lot of goals for them, in fact he has been their top goalscorer for three seasons now, after replacing Fernando Llorente.

Another key player for Athletic Bilbao is Markel Susaeta who's been their top assistor the last several seasons in a row, while their overall play has been to control the midfield and then with mixed passing get the ball to Aduriz who can score through headers and just the standard poacher way.

Valencia CF play has been slowly improving over the last couple of matches, it hasn't been any sort of significant improvement of any kind, but just slight improvements like making less mistakes in passing, less individual mistakes in midfield and defense and just try and play more cohesively overall.

Daniel Parejo has been solid in that playmaking role, spreading the ball effectively and contributing a lot in defense, something that he's improved immensely at since his arrival at Valencia CF. Big blow to Valencia CF is the injury to Enzo Perez who will be out for few weeks with a muscle injury of some sort, but good news is that Andre Gomes is back yet again and is ready to be included in the starting eleven, in fact judging from the training sessions its going to be Fuego, Parejo and Gomes in the midfield.

In attack its most likely going to be Paco Alcacer who didn't play against FC Lyon, though Nuno has been sticking with Negredo a lot, even though I don't think he's warranted it that much, so who knows, I wouldn't be surprised to see Negredo again, but most likely its going to be Paco. Feghouli has been having great games this season and I think he'll definitely start, unless he has bigger issues with fatigue, since he's been playing without long rest for a while now, but I think he is going to start, he usually has good stamina.
Since we are back in La Liga I think he is going to start Bakkali, the player has warranted his inclusion and has done well so far for us, so I think he is going to get the nod over Piatti.

Valencia CF Squad:
Goalkeepers: Doménech, Yoel
Defenders: Cancelo, Barragan, Mustafi, Santos, Vezo, Orban
Midfielders: Javi Fuego, Danilo, Parejo, Andre Gomes, Piatti, De Paul, Feghouli, Bakkali
Forwards: Rodrigo, Negredo, Paco Alcácer, Santi Mina

Technical Details Valencia CF (probable setups):
Formation: 4-3-3
Line-up: Jaume; Barragan, Mustafi, Vezo, Orban; Fuego, Parejo, Gomes; Bakkali, Paco, Feghouli.
Tactics: Low defensive line, own half pressure, mixed passing, counter attacks, attacking triangle.

Result Prediction:
Athletic Bilbao 1-1 Valencia CF
I know Athletic Bilbao are in bad form and they haven't look good on either end, they haven't scored a lot of goals and have conceded their fair share, but they've always been a tricky opponent for Valencia CF and they tend to play better against tougher opposition, so I'm sure they'll be much improved against Valencia CF and I expect a close match with both teams having several chances to score and each of them scoring once, with the ultimate result ending in a 1-1 draw.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

FC Lyon 0-1 Valencia CF Match Report

Valencia CF won a tough match against FC Lyon and now sport 3 points from 2 matches in the Champions league. This was a positive surprise, I was expecting a loss in this match and then try and turn it around against Gent with two wins against them and get at least one more win at home, but this is just amazing, a positive result finally.

I predicted a 2-1 loss for Valencia CF, but the team surprised and managed a win against a very tough Lyon side playing on their home terrain. Lyon definitely had their fair share of chances and came close to scoring on several occasions, but what was luck, what was good saves by Jaume, they just couldn't place the ball in the net.

The match started with Lyon more on the offensive, though generally both teams were interchanging in attack and defense, it was one of those games where Lyon would attack for a while, then Valencia CF will get the ball and attack for a while and back and forth like that.

Olympique Lyon had one great opportunity through a free kick, the ball was heading into the net, but a wonderful parade by Jaume saved the goal barely. Lyon had few more chances, mostly through some mistakes by Mustafi who lost several one on one duels when coming a bit forward, but Valencia CF were lucky that Lyon couldn't capitalize.

Valencia CF had few chances as well, with Aymen Abdennour coming close to scoring on two occasions as he headed the ball just wide the first time and then headed the ball into the post, though unfortunately the rebound was ultimately cleared.
Pablo Piatti also had a shot on goal, but he sent the ball directly towards the goalkeeper, makingit easy for Lopes to make a save.

After breaking up a Lyon attack, Valencia CF would get a quick counter attack opportunity with Pablo Piatti moving the ball forward, he sort of moved in centrally, looked at who was available and sent a pass to the oncoming Feghouli who released a powerful long range effort that managed to beat the goalkeeper and end up in the net, giving Valencia CF the lead.

The second half was mostly Lyon attacking relentlessly and Valencia CF defending almost all the time, with the exception of few occasional forward drives, mostly counter attacking tries. In fact Lyon came close to scoring several times, they had several shots barely blocked at the last moment, with Aymen usually barely making that final block. Unfortunately Aymen got injured and had to be replaced by Santos who right off the gate made a crucial mistake as he lost his target and allowed a dangerous chance for Lyon, that thankfully wasn't converted on.

Lyon's most dangerous player was definitely Valbuena, causing all sort of troubles for the Valencia CF defense on both sides of the pitch as he was playing all around the pitch and changing positions often.

There would be a huge scare in the final minutes of the match as Lyon had a header and a shot saved by Jaume one after another, all coming from corner kicks from the left side. Thankfully the danger was cleared on the third corner in a row and Valencia's defense had a slight breathing room.

Ultimately Valencia CF would win the match 1-0, thanks to the goal from Feghouli in the first half. This is a crucial win for Valencia CF and one that gives the team good chances of making it through the group, though for this result to count the team would have to win twice against Gent.

Technical Details:
Olympique Lyon: Lopes, Jallet, Bisevac, Morel (Ghezzal, min 78), Um, Darder (Ferri, min 43), Gonalons, Tolisso, Valbuena, Kalulu, Lacazette (Beauvue, min 74)
Valencia CF: Doménech, Cancelo, Mustafi, Abdennour (Santos, min 59), Orban, Javi Fuego, Enzo Pérez (Danilo, min 84), Parejo, Feghouli, Negredo (Rodrigo, min 71), Piatti

Sofiane Feghouli 0-1, 42 min. Assist Pablo Piatti

Player Ratings:
Jaume 8 - Make one great parade in the first half to keep the ball out of the goal, after a dangerous free kick and then made several saves in the second half, including two saves in stoppage time one after another to give Valencia CF the win.
Cancelo 7 - Improving with every game, was secure and confident when defending and went forward to a great extent in the first half.
Mustafi 5.5 - Was overall okay, but lost few one on one battles when coming out of the penalty area and that created danger for Valencia CF
Aymen 6.5 - Once again great one on one marking and tackling, had much better positioning and crucial with few blocks in defense before leaving injured.
Orban 6 - Was fairly good defensively and had one or two good forward movements.
Fuego 6 - Had a good game and his positioning was spot on all game, covering defensively superbly.
Enzo 6 - Mixed performance, had some good runs forward and some nice passes, tactically sound, but unable to play with Parejo in order to control the midfield.
Parejo 6.5 - Accomplished performance from the captain, led the front line and always tracked back and defended firmly.
Feghouli 6.5 - Scored a nice long range goal and was dangerous on occasions, but his forward drive was a beat weaker than usual as he wanted to slow down the game often.
Negredo 4 - Might as well been playing without him, barely touched the ball few times.
Piatti 6.5 - Good performance overall, made the best he can out of his runs and provided the assist for Feghouli's goal.
Santos 4.5 - Made two giant mistakes both when he covered at the left back position as he lost the man he market twice. Don't know if he wasn't fully warmed up as Aymen had to be quickly replaced, but this wasn't a good performance.
Moreno 5 - Didn't really one up Negredo in any way, though he did track back a lot more and was playing in a more midfieldish role.
Danilo N/A - Not enough time

FC Lyon vs Valencia CF Match Preview

Olympique Lyonnais vs Valencia CF
Stadium: Stade de Gerland
Date: 29.09.2015 20:45 CET
2nd fixture, Champions League group stage
Coaches: Hubert Fournier and Nuno Santo

Valencia CF has a lot of work to do in order to move on to the next round of the Champions league, after an unexpected loss to FC Zenit int he first match. Now Valencia CF is arriving in France at the Gerland stadium to face Olympique Lyon. Technically this is a must win match in order to compensate for the loss against FC Zenit, but this is a tough opponent, playing at home and its going to be a tricky match.

Olympique Lyon once a top team in France and champions numerous times is now in a similar situation to Valencia CF this season, sitting 8th on the table with 12 points and struggling to get better results. They've also had no chance in the past few years as PSG has dominated the French league and winning the title.

Both Lyon and Valencia CF are the top 2 finishers in this group on paper and this would be a telling match for both teams as to where they stand. Theoretically they should be relatively evenly matched, but in practice it could be different and we'll just have to wait and see how this match plays out.

Valencia CF is still without the injured Gaya and Gomes, who were supposed to recover by now, but their injuries turned out bigger than initially thought. Good news is that goalkeeper Mathew Ryan is back with the squad and he's available for selection, but Nuno is likely continue with Jaume and give time for Ryan to find his full form and fitness before returning him to the starting position.

Valencia CF won the last match in the domestic league against Granada by one goal to zero, but it was a hard fought victory and didn't look too convincing, similar to how the team has been all season. The good news is that Ruben Vezo looked good at the defensive position and he's been impressive in all of his showings this season, so it will be interesting if Nuno Santo chooses to select him to start alongside Mustafi or Aymen who has been rested last matches supposedly to start fresh against Lyon.

Aymen hasn't convinced so far, he clearly has potential and seems strong individually in the tackles, but his positioning has been suspect and he is still clearly adjusting tactically how Valencia CF defend, so personally I wouldn't mind seeing Mustafi and Vezo paired as the central defensive duo.

Valencia CF Squad:
Goalkeepers: Doménech, Yoel, Ryan
Defenders: Cancelo, Barragan, Mustafi, Santos, Orban, Vezo, Aymen, Orban
Midfielders: Javi Fuego, Danilo, Enzo Pérez, Parejo, Piatti, De Paul, Feghouli
Forwards: Rodrigo, Negredo, Paco Alcácer, Santi Mina

Technical Details Valencia CF (probable setups):
Formation: 4-3-3
Line-up: Jaume; Barragan, Mustafi, Aymen, Orban; Fuego, Enzo; Parejo; De Paul, Paco, Feghouli.
Tactics: Low defensive line, own half pressure, mixed passing, counter attacks, attacking triangle.

Result Prediction
FC Lyon 2-1 Valencia CF
I think Lyon are going to use their home advantage good and score two times against us, especially since Nuno said that the team are coming to compete and win, so the team will be open for the attacks and Lyon having the home advantage can score two goals. I think Valencia CF are going to score as well, probably make it 1-1 and give us hope, but then concede again and lose the match!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Valencia CF 1 - 0 Granada La Liga 25/9/15

When you are playing at home with an expectant crowd against a team near the bottom you are expected to win and win well.  Especially when the value of your players is way beyond your opponents who are made up of cheap buys and free transfers.  When you have so many chances to score but miss each time then it is time for a change.  Does the manager go or is it the players who need changing.  That is what the Real Madrid supporters will be asking themselves tonight as they cry in their beer.  But who cares about them we are here to talk about Valencia.

The game began at a fast pace with both sides looking for the early goal but the play was scrappy and it was obvious that there was a lot at stake for both teams for different reasons.  Valencia were playing a 4.4.2.  with Paco and Negredo up front where a lot of people have been calling for for a long time.   Bakkali was being used on the left flank and was  causing all sorts of problems for the defence with his speed and agility and it was from his cross from the right that opened the scoring.
A corner was cleared and when it was returned to him he crossed for Mustafi to open the scoring with his first goal of the season with a powerful header into the top of the net.

The goal was welcomed by the players and fans with the enthusiasm of a last minute goal in a cup final, I think with relief as much as joy.  It wasn't to be all one way and Malaga had their fair share of chances with Jaume needing to be at his best to keep them at bay.

The wide players were being used well with Feghouli and Cancello on the right and Orban showing a bit more of his old self linking well with Bakkali on the left.  Parejo was showing his skills in the middle spraying the ball about well and Perez biting a few legs in the middle and picking up his customary yellow card for his efforts.

The team was showing good commitment and some good football was being played, well at least an improvement from earlier games this season.  Bakkali was replaced just after half time as he seemed to have run out of steam and Fuego came on for Perez who was nearing his second yellow but also looked to have not much energy left having given a good  display.
Alcacer looked to have increased the lead in the second half but replays show he was correctly ruled offside by the officials.

To be fair Granada looked a poor side but we just seemed to drop down to their level which we have seen too many times before and considering we beat them 4.0 last season shows that we have a lot to do. Their lack of skills though was made up by their hard work and non stop play.  They obviously fancied their chances of picking up some points from us after our poor start this season

The game ended with the single goal but as usual it could and should have been a bigger margin but we have got used to saying that now.  Another game without conceding though is also a positive to take considering the positional changes we have been making.


A very welcome 3 points to keep us in the running but still work to be done, however I think we are beginning to look a bit improved and with Gomes soon to return it is not all bad news.  

Player Ratings

Jaume  7  Another great game pulling off a couple of  first class saves particularly one from a free kick. A decision soon to be made on the goalkeeper situation but surely he has to stay in place for now.
Cancello  6.5  Had a good game and his defending is improving, has a good understanding with Feghouli and made some great crosses.
Mustafi  6.5   Did well as usual but a couple of little mistakes which fortunately didn't cost us.
Vezo  7   This guy just never lets us down and is becoming a real star in my opinion.  I think we have never been beaten when he has played in a league game. Became a bit more confident in the second half with his passing out of defence.
Orban  6   I thought he did OK but is still below last years standard probably through lack of game time.  Certainly an improvement from the Espanol game 
 Parejo 7   Played really well and kept our game going with his accurate and clever passing.  Almost spoiled it though near the end with a lazy back heel in front of goal which could have cost us a goal.
Perez  6.5  I think we are seeing the real Perez now and his work rate is really high.  I think he is much improved but just seems to tire near the end. I don't think it is a problem though as we just bring on some fresh legs.
Bakkali  7   Always looks dangerous with the ball and made the only goal.   A real star for the future and hopefully will be able to do a full game when he gets up to match fitness.  He just adds that bit of extra to the attack that we have missed.
Feghouli 7   Obviously putting in the extra effort at the moment while his contract is still being discussed.  Maybe they should not rush it too much if he keeps playing like this.
 Alcacer 5.5  I expected a bit more from him with Negredo with him but he was disappointing again, very close to scoring but he needs one to help his confidence I think.
Negredo 6.5   Works hard all over the pitch but still not looking  like he is ever going to get more than a goal every few games.


Piatti  5  ( 61 mins for Bakkali )  Tries hard but !, well, just but !

Fuego 6   ( 75 mins for Perez )   Did OK with his fresh legs.

Rodrigo ( 88 mins for Negredo )  Not enough time but I thought the booing and whistling when he came on near the end was not good.  That is not going to help his confidence and it is not his fault that we paid 30 million too much for him.

 GOAL   27 mins   Mustafi

Yellow cards   PEREZ,  MUSTAFI,  ORBAN.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Valencia CF vs Granada CF Match Preview

Valencia CF vs Granada CF Match Preview
Stadium: Mestalla
Date: 25.09.2015 20:30 CET
6th matchday, La Liga
Coaches: Nuno Santo and José Ramón Sandoval

Valencia CF is in a sort of mini crisis and I say mini because its still very early in the season, but on the other hand the start has been so bad that there is a genuine fear that the bad results are going to continue and that we've already lost too much momentum that we aren't going to be able to make up for it even if the team started getting results consistently.

Last match was a must win for Valencia CF to kick start its season, but the team slipped up again and couldn't even get one point from it, as Espanyol managed to achieve a small 1-0 victory. This much the stakes are even higher, the team is playing at the Mestalla, in front of the home crowd and arguable against an weaker opponent that the last one. 
We know that opponents form and results don't matter much though, as teams that have conceded quite a lot of goals against other teams have conceded zero against Valencia CF, so past results and form of other teams seems meaningless when they face Valencia CF as Valencia's issues of scoring goals keep on persisting.

Granada CF are bottom of the table after 5 matchdays and while that doesn't tell us too much, by the end of the season they might even end up in the middle of the table, it does tell us that they are in a poor form, it does tell us that they are playing bad and it does tell us that winning in this game is absurdly important and anything else, but a comfortable win would be a gigantic disappointment.

Valencia CF coach Nuno Santo can't count on the injured Jose Luis Gaya and he's likely going to miss the match against Lyon in the Champions league as well, he still can't count on Andre Gomes as he is out injured as well, while Barragan, Aymen and Santi Mina have been given a rest. Back in the squad in Ruben Vezo who was injured for a while, though I'm not sure if he was injured all this time, it could have been or he just might not have found himself called up.

I'm certain that he'll field the strongest squad that he can, considering some of the injuries and stuff, but I'm expecting Parejo, Enzo, Feghouli, Negredo and Paco all in the squad. The issue is he's been playing Javi Fuego almost every match and I don't know if he can avoid not playing him tonight, since Enzo Perez also played last match and he always seems extremely tired at around the 60th minute, he obviously has huge stamina issues.

Valencia CF Squad:
Goalkeepers: Doménech, Yoel
Defenders: Cancelo, Mustafi, Santos, Orban, Vezo
Midfielders: Javi Fuego, Danilo, Enzo Pérez, Parejo, Piatti, Bakkali, Feghouli, De Paul
Forwards: Rodrigo, Negredo, Paco Alcácer

Technical Details Valencia CF (probable setups):
Formation: 4-4-2
Line-up: Jaume; Cancelo, Mustafi, Vezo, Orban; Feghouli, Danilo, Parejo, De Paul; Paco, Negredo
Tactics: High defensive line, own half pressure, short passing, counter attacks, long shots.

Match Prediction:
Valencia CF 2-1 Granada CF
Don't know how the match is going to play out, I'm hoping out for a win, I'm hoping there will be more fluid play in attack and we'd score more goals, but I've been thinking that for so many matches now and it hasn't happened.
I'm going to be optimistic here though and predict a hard fought 2-1 win.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

3 things we learned from last match

Valencia CF suffered its first defeat in La Liga this season and while that doesn't sound too bad, the fact that the team only has 1 win is really worrying.

1: The new arrivals don't really improve the squad. I've mentioned this from the start, some of the additions to the team like Santi Mina, Bakkali, Danilo while talented and possibly future stars, they are  not ready to help this team right now. These are players that need to be developed and groomed and in 5 years time to have results with them, so why did we purchase these very young players when our team already had the youngest squad last season. Why make it even younger? There is barely any experience and barely any real reinforcements to boost the squad instantly.

So we are in a situation where we literally have no real replacement for Fuego, no replacement for Parejo, no replacement for Feghouli, no replacement for Piatti and with some of the players on a bad form like Pablo Piatti who hasn't contributed anything this season, unlike last season when he was scoring goals, providing assists and having big impact in games.

2: Nuno Santo doesn't really have a different style than counter attacking football. Last season it was counter attacking football most of the time and like or hate that style it worked, the team wasn't built to dominate games, the players were new and starting over and that style worked perfectly, allowing for the players to win games on their own individual talents.

This season though with some of the players misfiring a bit and having bad form and we see how hard it is to score goals, especially from open play. So I'm thinking the way Valencia CF goes back to winning ways is to start playing counter attacking football once again. Just sit deep in their own half, defend and when an opportunity presents itself do quick counter attacks and try and score from those.

3: The big money reinforcements at Valencia CF have been big disappointments. I'm talking about Alvaro Negredo, I'm talking about Rodrigo Moreno, I'm talking about Enzo Perez, all these expensive signatures have been big disappointments. I wouldn't call them failures, they've contributed their fair share and have had good games, but overall their contributions are not at the level of their price tag, meaning we overpaid for them by a significant margin.

Alvargo Negredo is not worth more than 10 million euros on his play from this and last season, Rodrigo Moreno is not worth the 35 million euros, again maybe 12 million worth for him, a bit more than Negredo as a potential future star and Enzo Perez somewhere in the region of 15 million, possibly even less.