Valencia Football Club have made a steady start to the season, winning two and losing two of the first four games played. At the end of round two, Valencia was sitting pretty at the top of the perch in La Liga, with maximum points from those matches, a feat only equalled by Real Madrid and Rayo Vallecano. However, back to back defeats in their most recent games have seen them drop off the pace and nestling around the middle of the table.
An opening day victory against Sevilla in the Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán was a pleasant surprise for most Valencia fans. A notoriously difficult venue for visitors, the stadium is often used by the National team for their more intense and trickier contests, because of the atmosphere and hostility of the crowd towards opponents.
On the day, Valencia got their tactics right in match one by equally frustrating the home side and their spectators by keeping the score level for the first hour. Los Che then struck and went in front through Diakhaby, before Sevilla’s Moroccan Youssef En-Nesyri restored parity ten minutes later.
With Sevilla probing for the winning goal, Valencia created a high-press and won possession deep in the hosts half and slickly turned the counter-attack into a goal courtesy of Javi Guerra.
Los Che played their first home game of the 2023-2024 campaign against Los Palmas and scrapped to a solitary one goal victory through a Pepelu penalty.
Valencia should have won by a clearer margin, but the lack of a natural goal scorer in the team was very evident, and Baraja alluded to that as much in his post-match press conference.
Valencia then had to play Osasuna at home. Having been successful in overturning UEFA’s ban to them playing in Europe, the Pamplona side had played a tough match at home to FC Brugge of Belgium a few days before heading to the Mestalla.
It did not seem to deter them as they came away winners by 2-1. A needless penalty gave the visitors a 1-0 cushion at half time. However, in the second half Valencia played more positively and were rewarded when Hugo Duro scored his first La Liga goal since last September.
With the game heading for a draw in injury time, Osasuna got a corner… and from it, a flick on at the near post found Nacho Vidal close to the penalty spot. A speculative over-head kick by the former Valencia CF player evaded the reach of Mamardashvili and went just inside the post, to give the visitors the late lead.
Valencia fans could forgive the mode of defeat but the performance and loss against Alavés in the next game was very difficult to defend. The team came out cold and the first 15 minutes could not have gone any worse. First a penalty for a clumsy foul, the second in consecutive games that could have been avoided. Mamardashvili saved it but the referee ruled that he was off his line and the spot kick was retaken. Again the Georgian stopper made a fantastic save to give his team a lifeline. However, in the very next attack, Alavés went and scored.
A better second half for Valencia ensued but they had little to offer up front and were second best in all departments, as the newcomers to La Liga recorded a deserved victory.
An international break now comes into play and it could not have come at a better time for the team. Baraja will be missing the young trio of Fran Pérez, Diego López and Javi Guerra, who have been called up for Under 19 duties with Spain. Also, the coach will have time to blood in several new players captured in the last few days of the transfer window.
Two new forwards, Amallah and Yaremchuk arrived on deadline day and midfielder Sergi Canós should add creativity to midfield.
Despite being born in Belgium, Selim Amallah plays internationally for Morocco, qualifying through his parents. The 26 year-old had a good ‘goal scoring to appearance’ ratio whilst at Standard Liege, and spent last year with Valladolid. He is signed on loan for the season. In a separate deal, Marcos André returned to Valladolid on a five-year deal.
Roman Yaremchuk is an interesting acquisition. The Ukranian started off at Dynamo Kiev before branching out to Gent, Benfica and Club Brugge. He played in the 2020 Euros for his country and is also a loan signing for the season, just like Amallah.
Sergi Canós is a major coup for Valencia. The Nules born midfielder spent his youth career split between the academies at Barcelona and Liverpool… before making an impact at both Brentford and Norwich. More recently, he had been at Olympiacos in Greece on loan. He is a permanent signing on a four-year contract and is likely to become a firm favourite at the Mestalla.
Somewhat surprisingly Eray Cömert has been loaned out to Nantes, in France. With Diakhaby recently playing in midfield and Paulista the subject of transfer speculation to Saudi Arabia. The transfer window to actually sign players is open until the 7th of September in the Arabic country. It seems a curious decision. If Paulista departs and injuries occur, it could see the re-employment of Hugo Guillemon in defence… a player who seems to be somewhat out of favour with the current coach.
Meanwhile, Levante UD have quickly picked themselves up from off the floor after the disappointment of missing out of promotion last season, and have started brightly. Two wins and two draws to date have them unbeaten and riding high in Segunda División.
The departures of Jorge de Frutos (Rayo) Pepelu (Valencia) and Marc Pubill (Almeria) has put around 18 million Euros in the Levante coffers, but they need to find replacements for them on the football pitch to sustain their fight for top flight football again.
If loanees Oriol Rey (CD Mirandés), Alex Valle (Barcelona) and the Villarreal pair of Sergio Lozano and Adrián de la Fuente play to their potential, then the Levante faithful can certainly look forward to a season where they are well and truly in the mix for promotion to La Liga.
Report by John Howden
Article copyright ’24/7 Valencia’
Valencia CF v Atlético Madrid 16 September 16.15h
Almeria v Valencia CF weekend 23/24 September tbc
Valencia CF v Real Sociedad 27 September tbc
Real Betis v Valencia CF weekend 30 Sept/1 Oct tbc
Levante UD v Espanyol 8 September 21.00h
Alcorcón v Levante UD 16 September 18.30h
Levante UD v Eldenese weekend 23/24 September tbc
Elche v Levante UD weekend 30 Sept/1 Oct tbc