If Real Madrid is a lesson on how to run a club, Valencia CF is a lesson on how not to run a club. Valencia fans are currently at loggerheads with their management.
There have been sales of several first-team players with no reinvestment to smoothen the ground. Anil Murthy and Peter Lim are on the verge of destroying a prestigious club, and then there is Javi Garcia, just trying to do a good job and restore his reputation after a torrid time in England. He set-up a squad crying out for quality but in the words of the philosopher Damini Ogulu, “Wetin man go do?”
With Jasper Cillessen out with a muscle injury, Jaume Domenech was the goalkeeper of the day. Javi Garcia put Daniel Wass back in the right-back position and Hugo Guillamon was the partner to Gabriel Paulista in the heart of the defense.
Captain Jose Gaya started in the left-back position. 17-year-old Yunus Musah played on the right with Denis Cheryshev the former Real Madrid boy opposite him. Uros Racic and Carlos Soler was the pivot of the day as the Serbian picked up his 2nd start of the season. Kang-in Lee and Maxi Gomez were the two strikers in the 4-4-2 formation that is now synonymous with Valencia.
Real Madrid Preview
This Real Madrid team is suffering with a few injuries and virus cases of their own but they have enough quality to weather that storm on a good day. Thibaut Courtois is the undisputed number 1 of the Royal Whites. The Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane combination is the standard pairing for Real with Marcelo coming in for Ferland Mendy. With Alvaro Odriozola, Carvajal, Nacho (a central defender that can do a job as a full-back) and Eder Militao (another central defender but he started his career as a full-back) all out with injury, Lucas Vazquez has been starting in the right-back position for Madrid. He is inevitable.
Every once in a while, Zinedine Zidane loves to spice things up. His go-to trick is to drop Isco somewhere in midfield on matchday and today was one of those days he was feeling risqué. Isco, Luka Modric, and Federico Valverde the matchday squad reads. Well hello there sexy.
With Casemiro down with the virus and Marco Roca in Germany, there was no holding midfielder in the team so Valverde and Modric had to take turns. Eden Hazard cannot catch a break, can he? The attacker is out with the virus after dealing with many ankle injuries so Vinicius Junior started on the left-wing. On my mother, I am still wondering how awkward communication must be between him and Karim Benzema.
Speaking of the formula one striker, he started in his usual position with Marco Asensio to his right. The game that played out was a thrilling yet bizarre contest that The Bats won. The score-line flatters the entire play but the game is the game. We need to talk about Raphael Varane’s form by the way which has been costing Madrid for a while now.
Real Madrid spent the first 15 minutes trying to gain a foothold in the game while Valencia tried to see what they were up to before making a move. There was a Marcelo cross that Guillamon had to deal with around the 7th minute. A few moments later, Benzema and Marcelo combined to set up a shot for Modric which Domenech saved in the 13th minute.
Domenech held unto another Benzema effort from a corner. Valencia and the kids were still figuring out what to do but Carlos Soler made the smart decision to slow the tempo of the game. From this point, they started to cause Madrid problems.
Jose Gaya’s attacking runs were frequent and Madrid could not handle it but nothing super dangerous was happening. Gaya soon cut out a dangerous cross from Benzema that was heading towards Ramos who stayed up for a free-kick on 21. Benzema is too good these days.
The French striker squirmed out of the box like he loves to do and as Marcelo set up a shot for him outside the box, he lashed his shot into the back of the net in the 23rd minute. 0-1. A Cheryshev cross is too easy for Courtois and one begins to think they need to do better from these sorts of positions. A few moments later and Gaya finds himself around that are and he does better. His cross hits Vazquez in the arm and the referee gives a penalty to Valencia. Soler to take.
Courtois saves the penalty by diving to his right but he cannot hold it. Soler hits the woodwork with the rebound and then Musah lashes it home. VAR calls the referee to see encroachment by Musah before the penalty and the ref decides it needs to be retaken. Soler fires to the same spot and Courtois gets a hand to it but it is too fast. 1-1. Soler collects a yellow card for a tactical foul and kicking the ball away on 39. Madrid keeps overloading the left with Vazquez keeping the width on the right. Asensio was either in front of the box or in the box depending on Benzema’s movement.
On 43 Maxi Gomez drifts out wide the way strikers do in a 4-4-2 formation. He flashes a cross which Varane lofts into his own goal with his left-footed clearance and the ball’s trajectory beats Courtois. 2-1. The Frenchman has been on some rotten form for a while now and with no defensive substitute, he will have to keep playing and keep making these mistakes till the spell is over. Racic is feeling dangerous and attempts a flick but Madrid steal the ball and Modric fashions a shot from a tight angle but Domenech is on it. Half-time.
Less than a minute into the half and Guillamon almost gifts Madrid a goal but Domenech is wise and brave. He rushed out to take the ball from Benzema and keep the ball away from the toes of Isco. If Valencia needed a spark, it would be through their wunderkind Kang-in Lee. The youngster spun away from Ramos to fire a shot and Courtois had to stretch his full length on the ground to touch it to the woodwork. Real Madrid responds by gifting Valencia another penalty even though contact is minimal.
Gaya is causing all sorts of problems and he combines with Cheryshev to tee Gomez who cannot turn with Marcelo behind him so he goes down. Soler dispatches the penalty to Courtois left with 54 minutes played. 3-1. Madrid starts getting desperate and Valverde’s low effort from distance forces Domenech to a one-hand save and instead of Vinicius thrashing the rebound, he cuts it back to his right with a chop. The chop unsteadies him and he shoots off-target on 56.
Modric plays a lovely reverse pass to Asensio and Domenech had to come off his line to stop the attacker. Another penalty is given to Valencia after Gomez holds up the ball well and lays it off. Between Musah and Ramos, the ball finds its way up and Ramos who is in motion swats the ball.
Soler settles his hattrick of penalties on 62. 4-1. Zidane tries to steer the game by introducing Odegaard and Rodrygo for Vinicius and Asensio. When Real Madrid goes down, you know exactly what they are going to do. Pump in crosses and hope for the best, but without Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo, that trick is getting less effective. Benzema continued to drift to the edge of the box and Ramos went up to help maintain some presence in the box but all to no avail.
A groin problem forces Benzema off for Mariano Diaz as Valverde makes way for Toni Kroos on 75. Valencia also reshuffled their pack. Toni Lato for Cheryshev and Kang-in Lee limps as Kevin Gameiro replaces him. Isco also comes off for Jovic. Rodrygo begins to threaten in the last few minutes but it is too late. He sets up a shot for Mariano after a great run but the shot is off-target. Gomez for Ruben Sobrino and Musah for Jason. Mariano sends a header wide. Game over, 4-1 the scores.
Both sides did not particularly sparkle but it was an entertaining affair to watch. Javi Garcia is trying to keep a depleted Valencia in the middle of the table while Madrid is paying the price of not purchasing dynamic attackers. There were not enough runs behind the Valencia defense to stretch or worry it. Even their striker prefers the ball to his feet and this makes their game predictable.
Madrid’s lack of a defensive midfielder also meant there was no protection for the back 4 and no one to cut out Valencia transitions the way Casemiro does. The game at the Mestalla was an interesting watch even though it was riddled with stoppages. Valencia need to secure a few big wins like this to avoid getting dragged into the relegation corner. Zidane will be hoping that some of his players find some form or at least stay fit so they can mount a title defense.