Welcome to the Batcave, aka “Peter in the house again”

valencia

In the “I could get used to this” category, here is another guest preview from Peter.

Days after it turned out that DC comics does not in fact sue Valencia for its bat image, the team’s home stadium, the Mestalla, was fronted with a giant solar-powered bat that looks orange at day and shines at night, so that lost airplanes at night know they are in Valencia.

Most La Liga teams that are not Barcelona, Real or Atletico have problems after a season that guarantees European competition. Two competitions are too much for most teams, and top clubs and clubs with too much money are forever looking for the game changer. It would be no surprise then that last season Valencia reached the semi-finals of Europa League and was defeated on away goals in injury time by Sevilla at their own Mestalla stadium. Valencia finished last season 8th in La Liga, which prevented them from entering Europa League. And that is a good thing, for Valencia.

After a turbulent and rocky road with lots of curves and turnabouts, Valencia has a new billionaire owner. Peter Lim of Singapore had desired to become at least a co-owner of a football club for a long time, and after he made Bankia a promise they could not refuse, he was sold the club, lock stock and two Mestalla stadiums. Since then Valencia has shot up like a bat on Red Bull.

It is important that Valencia has less exposure this season. It is important that Valencia wins and keeps on winning, because players in a winning team have less desire to move to greener pastures. It is vital for Valencia that the team performs well, because it will mean a happy rich owner, and happy rich owners can bring sponsors, they pay higher salaries and finance the finishing of a modern stadium. A happy rich owner is more likely to try and retain youth academy graduates with promising futures rather than sell them to the highest bidder.

Peter-Lim-Valencia

Lim brought Alvaro Negredo back from City (on loan), purchased Andre Gomes, Rodrigo, Joao Cancelo (who remain Benfica players, but play “on loan” at Valencia and are probably paid by Valencia) and reinforced the squad with young defender Mustafi to replace Mathieu. Together with youth academy graduate Paco Alcacer, this Valencia team has had its best start of the season since many years ago when the club was a real powerhouse. Like with Sevilla, it’s not just schedule that has made it so. Last year Valencia lost its away match vs Espanyol and drew at home. This season it was a 3-1 home win. Last season Valencia lost against Betis, which was mathematically relegated by Round 30.

Not having to travel and play additional matches every other week helps, but the squad is very strong, and this can be shown from other results: 3-1 vs Atletico (last season Atletico won it 0-1), 3-1 away vs Villarreal (last season newcomers Villareal won it 4-1). The team, unlike last season, is unbeaten at Mestalla, went to Anoeta and came out unbeaten, Anoeta where Atletico and Real went to get beaten and dismembered. This is the team which last season showed clearly that something wasn’t working in Barcelona’s engine when it came to Camp Nou and fought back from 2-0 to a 2-3 win.

Valencia suffered two losses this season:

Away to Deportivo La Coruña, precipitated by a Mustafi own goal in the first minutes, Away to Levante, which saw numerous opportunities for Valencia, and the winning goal for Levante was an absolute instant of brilliance by Morales just after Valencia had drawn at the other end.

So no, this is not an easy task for Barcelona, has never been, but this year it could be even more so. The Valencia team is young, with only two players more than 30 years of age – Joao Pereira and Javi Fuego, who are both … 30. They have stamina and motivation in buckets. I am not trying to be alarmist, but Barcelona has come from an away trip to Cyprus midweek and this will be an away trip as well. Alvaro Negredo warned yesterday that Valencia should and needs to take the game to Barcelona. Exactly what Nuno has in mind is something we would all want to know, Luis Enrique most of all, but signs suggest that Valencia would take advantage of the youth and stamina of the team, and the blaugranas’ lack of rest.

What are the strong points of this Valencia team? First of all, and contrary to logic, it’s the fact that there isn’t one single scorer. Alvaro Negredo has yet to score in La Liga, despite showing signs of improvement, but the best goalscorer of La Liga is young striker Paco Alcacer, sharing the chair with mid Dani Parejo, both having scored 4 goals.

negredo

Eleven players in all have scored, which means that Barcelona would have to cover not one single certified threat, but multiple ones. And yes, that includes Negredo. It’s not known whether Paco Alcacer will be available, but if he is, he will be a primary threat. Bat Nr “9” wasn’t called up for the Euro qualifiers by Del Bosque for his fun attitude, but to score goals (which he did, on three occasions). Bats manager Nuno in his media appearance stressed organized pressing as the key point, combined with possession in the forward zones, but even more importantly, he emphatically stated “Tomorrow we have to score. More than score, we have to win. We have to score and not concede. But we have to score, whatever the player, we have to score.”

Strong points are also set pieces and aerial play. Valencia has scored 24 goals this season. Almost one third of those(7) have come from corners, corner plays and crossed free kicks. Mustafi was responsible for three of those(two headers), but others like fellow defender Otamendi, Dani Parejo and Paco Alcacer have each risen to the occasion. Valencia rely a lot on crosses, because they play from the flanks, which enables the creation of one-on-one situations with a followed dash towards goal, or more frequently a cross towards a striker flying in from the blind spot of the opposition defense. Negredo almost equalized from such a position in the 80th minute against Levante. Had he scored, Valencia would´ve taken the point home.

It’s difficult to talk about the weak points of a team which has conceded a total of 8 goals in twelve matches, two of which came from penalties, but there are. Valencia play with possession and have generally played with a high line, so fast counters would generate threats. Second, Valencia play with possession: being on the receiving end of that same tactic could asphyxiate them and leave them without ideas. Third, and quite important, winning the battle on the flanks could be vital. Expect a serious duel between Feghouli and Alba on the Barcelona left if they both start. Same goes for the right flank.

From the evidence we could assume the following: Valencia may try to press and overwhelm, relying on the youngsters and going for crosses to the area, be they from open play, corners or set pieces. If they go for broke, we may see an attacking Valencia team trying to rush the flanks and fighting like mad to maintain and recover possession of the ball, knowing that doing so could put a stick in the wheel of Barcelona. One thing is certain:

This is a key match. Valencia the team know it. The fans know it. Hell, Peter Lim knows it. He announced that he will be present in the president’s box in the beginning of the week and made sure the Bats knew it. If he hasn´t arrived yet in the City of Valencia, you can be sure he is flying in his private jet towards the giant bat light, because it’s important.

Barcelona are coming to town.

barval

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Written by:

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.

42 Comments

  1. November 29, 2014

    Well, so much for that emergency signing to replace Vermaelen:

    However, Enrique told a news conference on Saturday: “There’s no intention of reinforcements in principle, but what plans the club have is another thing. We have no doubts that Vermaelen will be a good signing for us.”

    • agar2515
      November 29, 2014

      Ugh, I can’t even muster a response -_-

  2. deerwithwings
    November 29, 2014

    Nice write up Peter!

    This is a super match, but I am excited after the past two games. I’m glad LE rested Neymar and Xavi during the week, we will need them both.

    • November 29, 2014

      Thanks, but it should’ve been better. Again, too much procrastination, watching matches and just reading sports papers. Ideally I’d like to make a real pre-match analysis, analysing strength and weaknesses of individual players and how they complement one another. Of course, that means watching not just highlights, but also full games, stat analysis…

      But I think I will be able to do that for the PSG match.

      We fans love to criticize coaches, but once you really look into it, there are so many variables, it makes your head swirl.

      Just one example: Valencia use the flanks extensively.

      Do they do that because the wingers are fast and capable(Fergouli, Piatti), or it’s because the opponent’s fullbacks are lacking? Or is it because the pivotes of the opposition are vey good and cover their zones so well that the center is off limits and has to be bypassed? Is it a combination of those, and if so what combination? Then multiply that by the games played, influenced by player fitness, card accumulation, exhaustion due to minutes played…

      That’s just to scratch the surface, because then you have to take into account your own team’s performance, player availability, one-on-one comparison to a list of probable opponents. And each variable can tip the balance and then influence the balance of other variables. No wonder why Pep would stay in his office up to midnight, thinking his plans.

      I’ve just done this twice, but the more I look into it, the more I’m filled with respect.

    • Dar_vincy
      November 30, 2014

      Me too, Deerwithwings.
      Hopefully, we can have a stronger defensive personnel to complement Xavi in midfield (if he plays). Cos a midfield of iniesta-xavi-busquests might be too lightweight to inhibit Valencia’s attack at the Mestalla.

  3. agar2515
    November 30, 2014

    Nice job 🙂

  4. November 30, 2014

    An awesome Adama “La Fletxa” Traore video by @Navidjaaan

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6uWlZU6ewg

    Why are fans/journofans angry that Barcelona didn’t buy Asensio when we have Adama, Deulofeu and Munir? Does not compute.

    • Valdemar II
      November 30, 2014

      I was going to post this; haven’t ever seen a player with more physical talent. Killer touch, too. Not sure how ready he is outside of the highlight video, but in terms of excitement his a-team debut cannot come soon enough.

  5. Dar_vincy
    November 30, 2014

    Good job, Peter.
    It’ll be interesting to see what lineup Enrique will put out today. Even though he (ditto me) likes having the presence of Masch on the pitch, i’m having a feeling he might be dropped today. Except he deploys a double pivot, I doubt if LE would choose Masch over Busquests in this sort of game. In the defence, the non-involvement of Matheiu in midweek is a strong but not definite indication that he is cocksure to start. Pique- the most likely to be dropped if Masch is to play- has been is some decent form of late (good for him) and LE might be unwilling to sit him out for this one.

    • November 30, 2014

      It looks like Alves/Adriano-Pique-Mathieu-Alba to me in the back. Mathieu and Alba have extensive knowledge of Valencia’s players. I think Adriano may get the go-ahead because Dani Alves played very good 90 minutes at Nicosia, but Alves’s presence with Messi on the pitch is a very good thing to have.

      In midfield I’m thinking a combination of Rakitic, Xavi and Busquets, if Rakitic is fit and rested enough, to generate both control and pressing when needed. However, Mascherano could probably work instead of Busquets.

      It’s not just this game though. Next is Espanyol, and after that it’s PSG, both at Camp Nou.

  6. Dar_vincy
    November 30, 2014

    Yep, you’re right.
    His success is contigent upon proper managerial handling and personal desire for development.
    He naturally excites any spectator when he is in his elements, however, greatness demands much more than entertainment.
    Messi would be winning his 7th ballon dor next jan had a Ronaldo not remodelled his game from a youngster who was predominantly preoccupied with making gazillion step-overs then arrowing crosses into the box to a dude who has assiduously and astronomically
    optimized his degree of efficiency and productivity with withering consistency.
    And like Kexvin once pointed out, an improper honing of his skill might just mean that we would be having another Deulofeu in our hands albeit in the interim. I desperately hope both turn out well nonetheless.

  7. teddy
    November 30, 2014

    I just feel it is completely awkward that the images floated around the internet for DC Comic suing case doesn’t use the 1999 Batman Beyond animated series logo.

    • ciaran
      November 30, 2014

      Regardless, Valencia had used the logo since 1919 and batman didn’t show up until twenty years later. Valencia the city has had that symbol in their crest for hundreds of years.
      It’s ridiculous really that DC could try to bring a case against them for using a symbol that they adopted after Valencia did.

    • November 30, 2014

      It was a case of journalist overhearing something and blowing it out of proportion.

      Basically Valencia wanted to use a bat image(not the one on the shield, but apparently the one on the picture of the two logos) for a line of casual clothing back in 2012 and DC comics presented an objection, so Valencia dropped it.

      That’s it.
      There’s a children’s game back in Bulgaria called “broken telephone”. Basically a row of children, the first whispers something to the second, the second to the third and so on until the last one, which normally has heard something not even remotely similar to the initial phrase. It’s lots of fun.

      It’s less fun to see grown, educated people, who write about the news for a living, to play it. Actually it’s not fun at all, it’s disgusting.

  8. Valdemar II
    November 30, 2014

    Bravo – Alves Pique Mathieu Alba – Xavi Mascherano Busquets – Messi Suarez Neymar

    Tinkering! I like it.

    • November 30, 2014

      I wonder how will Xavi work as the single pivot. 😀

  9. BA
    November 30, 2014

    there’s the double pivot. awesome. very interested to see how this works out.

    • November 30, 2014

      Not necessarily double pivot. Mascherano maybe in a Keita-like role, an advanced destroyer in charge of holding and subduing the Valencia left where Feghouli and Parejo may try to overwhelm Alba.

      Mascherano is 1.75m of muscle and laser-guided sliding tackles.
      Dani Parejo is 1.82m
      Feghouli is 1.77m
      Barragan is 1.82m

      If he’s on the left side, Mascherano can help Alba with those. If he’s on the right, he may be able to neutralize Andre Gomes and create lanes for Alves and Messi.

    • Jim
      November 30, 2014

      I’m not sure that’s gonna be the plan, Peter. More likely two sitting deep and feeing Xavi to stay forward and concentrate on linking the play rather than defending too much. Or it could be Busi moved forward for a shot at CM ? Either way it’s not good news for Rakitic. It’ll be interesting to see how Masche performs. I didn’t get the chance to say I thought he did very well in the last match but this is a whole notch up in quality as Valencia won’t lie down as much as Apoel ( rather foolishly) did. The defence will have to be up for it as well but it’s nice to see LE giving the CBs a chance to form a partnership. Hope it goes well because a solid and regular defence is the only way we will win anything at this level.

  10. Jim
    November 30, 2014

    Hmm, LE is gonna have to have a word with our guys. Valencia are determined we will finish with 10! Our lot seem a little taken aback by the ferocity of the opposition. Need to get to terms with that quickly.

  11. Jim
    November 30, 2014

    I really enjoyed that first half. They were up for it and also a pretty decent team.

    However, there’s no need to panic. We’ve taken their best shot, they’ve created very little and if there are no goals in the first fifteen of the second half we’ll get more space to play our football. Strange lineup in midfield at the start though. Not sure why we need the two DMs. It’s unbalancing our midfield a bit.

    • November 30, 2014

      How long can Valencia keep that up though?

      If I could blow my own horn, seems I’ve been completely on the money in my preview. Lots of pressing (and fouling) and fighting for every ball.

  12. Jim
    November 30, 2014

    Don’t worry. They’re tiring now. The key has always been not to gift them a goal and give them something to hang on for and so far we’ve managed that. Our defence is getting a lot of work which is good from a learning on the job viewpoint. Good game.

  13. Huckleberry
    November 30, 2014

    good game indeed, from Valencia…

  14. G6O
    November 30, 2014

    That was not offside…

  15. Huckleberry
    November 30, 2014

    slow and predictable…

  16. Ryan
    November 30, 2014

    We did it!!

  17. Gekko64
    November 30, 2014

    We got lucky in the end but I feel like we deserved the win. Not sure why we needed the double pivot in this game though.

    • Jim
      November 30, 2014

      Yeah, it just didn’t look like us.

  18. deerwithwings
    November 30, 2014

    P: “96 corners in a row without scoring, but on the 97th…”

    H: “Statistics Phil, you know where you can stick ’em”

    • G6O
      November 30, 2014

      It wasn’t really from the corner, it was from the play that developed after it 🙂

  19. Jim
    November 30, 2014

    That’s exactly the sort of game we need to be able to win where we don’t concede and scrape a win away from home against a pretty decent side.

    • G6O
      November 30, 2014

      These are the games in which league titles are won. Let’s hope we will be able to look back to it in May and remember that 🙂

  20. Rami
    November 30, 2014

    We got the 3 points!!!!!, Holy shit, I can’t feel my body.

  21. Messiah10
    November 30, 2014

    Wow. What an ending. What a pass to find Messi who puts the ball on a plate for Neymar. Busi finds the lucky bounce and see ya, we’ll take the 3 pts. Have to say that Valencia deserved a point, but that’s footie! Our fowards need to start putting these chances away so we don’t become overly reliant on Messi again this year! The last few games have seen plenty of chances fluffed. No reason Ney should miss that at the end. Pick a corner. Any corner, & put it away. I almost stopped watching b/c it felt like a draw from the beginning of 2nd half. Valencia really played bravely & were everywhere on our guys. Though Enrique really got the lineup wrong with this game. Matthieu isn’t a left back. He can definitely play there, but not against speedy opposition. Busi isn’t accustomed to playing so far forward. I love that Masch was at DM, but the Rafina sub should’ve been made for Busi. I love it when Rafina & Rackitic are in the 11 together. Two tough and intelligent players with a knack for causing the other team issues. Wow. What a win. Extremely important. Great confidence booster for the squad for rest of season. Knowing they can get the win no matter what. Good to be back and post. Been a long time.

  22. TITO
    November 30, 2014

    Overall a good game from us, a lot of positive signs, where the result is surely the most important one.
    Definitely not an easy place to play football, and in end to take the three points was magnificent.
    One negativity that i have to mention is Dani’s absolute shit of form. I can only count few moments where he was decent, but everything else was way bellow his standards. Especially him going forward. He produces absolutely nothing out there. Slow, predictable, moaning, no pace, no creativity…
    And that was the case for our other right back – he doesn’t do anything forward, so he cannot get a game.

  23. Dar_vincy
    November 30, 2014

    Can’t remember the last time we scored a goal this late. Probably since that unforgettable night at the stamford bridge.
    Big credit to Bravo for keeping us in the game.
    Just like Messiah10 said, our recent habit of bottling crucial chances is proving costly, thankfully it wasn’t the case today. Suarez scores that first chance and we are we would be having a much more comfortable game.
    But hey, for games like the 3 points is always priceless regardless of performances.

    • Jafri
      November 30, 2014

      Alexis vs Sevilla in September last season, got us a 3-2 win with the last kick of the game.

    • deerwithwings
      November 30, 2014

      And also because of Messi.

    • Jim
      November 30, 2014

      You know, that was an amazing cross from the wee man. It had to be curled with the wrong body shape and inch perfect . . . . . and it was. Amazing to produce that under so much pressure. As for getting booked for being hit by a bottle ? Thought the ref was pretty average all round actually.

    • Dar_vincy
      December 1, 2014

      Thanks for the correction. Guess it was bcos i didnt watch the game.

  24. lala10
    November 30, 2014

    could not watch the match. How did the experiment fare? Had hoped for some more of the same we played against Seville and Apoel

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