##This season was the perfect opportunity for Valencia to build on the momentum that Marcelino had created whilst in charge at the Mestalla. Real Madrid and Barcelona are not the forces of old, and the hungry chasing pack are definitely closing the gap on the perennial league title favourites.
Valencia were in a healthy position to be a heavyweight contender for this season´s La Liga title at the end of the last campaign and the potential of a “Leicester City” winning the championship still looks a distinct possibility. However, it is becoming increasingly obvious that if that milestone does occur, it will not be Valencia that will be achieving it.
The pre-season bombshell that stunned the fans was that all of the first team squad were for sale…with the exception of Gayà. Consequently, the backbone of the team is now elsewhere, without similar replacements being found. This decimation has also sucked away at the squad’s confidence, game after game.
Current Spanish players Rodrigo and Ferran were allowed to leave for prices below their value in the current climate. Coquelin and Parejo transferred to neighbours Villarreal, despite the latter declaring he would have loved to have seen out his playing career with Los Che.
Add Garay to the mix and that is five quality internationals not retained. The latest name to be linked with a departure is another international, the French midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia. His outspoken comments about the way the owners have treated the team and himself personally suggest there is no way back and an imminent move to Atlético Madrid is on the cards.
The youthful replacements have done well but are still raw on match experience and need time to morph into the required roles Javi Gracia has in mind for them. Kang-In Lee and Jose Gayà have not hit a rich vein of form yet this campaign. However, on the flip side, Toni Lato, Hugo Guillamón, Thierry Correia and Yunus Musah have all come in at various stages and done well.
Correia and Guillamón started for Valencia in their game against Real Betis but the hosts had no answer to the creative inspiration of Sergio Canales. The former Valencia favourite has been playing out of his skin this year and his performance against his old club showed why he has regained a recent international call up to Luis Enrique’s squad. He was instrumental in steering the Sevilla based club to a comprehensive two goal victory, which saw the hosts barely muster a shot on the Betis goal.
With an international break Valencia did not have another game for over two weeks, but what a game it was to be, a match up with Villarreal and Parejo and Coquelin at Estadio de la Cerámica.
Parejo did start the game but Coquelin and Jaume Costa, who had also been with Los Che last season, had to be content with a place on the bench. However, it was another former Valencia favourite who gave the Yellow Submarine the lead with just minutes on the clock. Torrent born Paco Alcácer converted the penalty with ease as he sent Jaume the wrong way.
Valencia levelled with an absolute peach from Guedes. A short corner was given to the Portuguese star, who then ran adjacent to the 18 yard box before unleashing an unstoppable shot past Asenjo.
As if the script had been written for a movie, it would be Parejo who would score the winner against his old club. His powerful shot took an unlucky deflection off Diakhaby to stray out of the reach of Doménech. It went on to hit the underside of the bar, before bouncing over the line to give the hosts a deserved three points. An apologetic Parejo, clasped his hands together, refusing to celebrate the goal, to once more show his affection to the club and supporters that he never really wanted to leave.
Valencia’s next opponents were Elche. The team from the South of the area were making a welcome return to the top flight… after suffering enforced relegation in 2015. Elche had finished a respectable 13th that year, six points clear of Eibar who finished in the actual relegation spot. However, because of economic mismanagement and excessive debts… the powers that be decided to downgrade them to 18th place, and consequently, demotion one tier.
Elche proved to be determined performers and took the three points by a 2-1 score line. Josan, who hails from Crevillente and Fidel Chaves gave the hosts a two goal cushion at half-time, after an absolutely dire 45 minutes from the visitors.
In the second period, Valencia were a totally different team and clawed one back through Lato with twenty minutes to go. A constant surge of attacks from the visitors followed but they could not find that elusive equaliser as Elche clung on for the victory.
Valencia returned to the Mestalla for their next league match and an encounter with Getafe. The manager of the visitors, José Bordalás, was hotly touted for the Valencia job before it was given to Gracia and was keen to prove a point.
When Getafe play at the Mestalla these days you can guarantee two things, that Getafe will try and turn the game into a farce…and Damián will get sent off. This match was no exception as Valencia managed to rescue a point, after being a goal to the good with three minutes of normal time remaining.
Valencia took the lead, and made history in the process when Musah scored the opener. The teenager became the club’s youngest ever non-Spanish goal scorer in the league at the tender age of 17 years and 338 days. Then, deep in the game, Getafe got two goals in eight minutes to convince most of the spectators that all three points were heading to South Madrid.
However, Getafe gifted Valencia a penalty with virtually the last kick of the game. Chaos ensued as Damian talked himself into another automatic suspension and the rest of the Getafe team tried to ice Carlos Soler with time-wasting tactics. It had no effect on the Valencian born midfielder, who slotted his spot kick past David Soria despite the extensive delay.
Although it was a deserved point and an improved performance, problems at Valencia continue to mount, and have also surfaced with Valencia Féminas CF. Ten senior players did not have their contracts renewed this term, including Mari Paz, who is the top scorer in the history of Los Merengots with more than 130 goals. The side started the campaign with just 15 players on signed contracts and currently lay in 11th spot in the 18 team league after playing four games.
Levante UD have made an equally uncertain start to the season and currently lie in the bottom three after just one win from seven games. The fixtures in November look on paper to be more favourable for the team in the North of the city, so a steady rise up the table is expected before the end of the year.
Finally, there came the sad news of the passing of Valencia’s legendary kit man ‘Españeta’. He spent over 55 years at the Mestalla and the club have numerous plans to pay homage him, including having Gate 12 and the home dressing room named after him. In accordance with his wishes, his ashes were scattered on the pitch.
D. E. P. Bernado España.
Sunday Nov 8th Valencia v Real Madrid 20.00h.
Sunday Nov 22nd Deportivo Alaves v Valencia 20.00h.
Weekend Nov 28th/29th Valencia v Atlético Madrid tbc
Sunday Nov 8th Levante v Deportivo Alavés 17.30h
Saturday Nov 21st Levante v Elche 13.00h
Weekend Nov 28th/29th Valladolid v Levante tbc