Scouting Real Madrid's Competition: Valencia

Manuel Queimadelos Alonso

Remember when Valencia drew 1-1 at the Santiago Bernabéu in the first match of the Liga BBVA season? They had Mauricio Pellegrino on the bench, but many things have changed as Ernesto Valverde is now Valencia's head coach. The team had a sub-par first 19 games in La Liga, but since Valverde has taken over, Soldado and his teammates are more consistent and solid.

A match featuring Valencia and Real Madrid is always a rivalry game since Lorenzo Sanz signed Pedja Mijatovic in the summer of 1996. The player had a buyout clause of "just" 14M€ (Valencia bought him for 10M€), but Valencia's fanbase never forgave the player nor Real Madrid.

After that, Real Madrid reportedly wanted to sign David Villa and David Silva away from Valencia, but the board refused to sell both players to los blancos believing that the fans wouldn't have accepted the moves.

Now, Valencia doesn't have Villa, Mata or Silva, but they're still quite dangerous with Soldado, Feghouli and Banega, arguably the team's best players.

Everybody knew about Soldado and Banega, but Feghouli has surprised everyone with this start of the season. Some troubles off the pitch with the police (he was caught driving without a license) have stopped his progress. but some French teams like PSG or Marseille could be interested in signing him this next summer. He works really hard on defense, but Feghouli has pace and strength as well.

Ever Banega has come back in average shape after recovering from ACL injury. He was a great playmaker before, but he seems to be reluctant to work defensively (even more) after his return to the fields. He lacks the discipline, and that's something Valverde doesn't like. Still, he's good enough to be the team's best midfielder.

Piatti, Andrés Guardado, Jonas, Valdez and Jonathan Viera fight for two spots when Feghouli plays. Guardado likes to keep the ball and is a little bit more conservative than his teammates. Jonathan Viera and Piatti have pace and technique and like to play faster, while Jonas and Valdez are two very different options to play alongside Soldado. Jonas doesn't work at all defensively, but he knows how to assist and also score. Valdez opens up more space for Roberto Soldado as he is strong and plays really well up in the air. He also works like a mule by pressing the opposition's defense.

Real Madrid's Academy Dani Parejo is a Granero-like kind of player. He seems to lack the ambition, but he's definitely skillful and knows how to cross the ball. Unfortunately for him, Tino Costa plays, and he's the one that takes care of corner-kicks and fouls. Costa isn't a great player, but his left foot is that good that Valencia can't afford to leave him on the bench. Albelda is the defensive midfielder, and even though he doesn't know how to pass, his work rate is something that should be noted. And of course, Gago. The Argentinian started the season really well but Valencia fans soon started to see his deficiencies.

The team's defensive line is probably the worst part of this team (again). Rami started his tenure in the club last year by playing high-quality football. He then started to play carelessly. Víctor Ruíz is just a bad defender, that's all. Aly Cissokho fights hard and is really powerful on the left back, but he's useless with the ball. Valencia signed Joao Pereira away from Sporting Portugal last summer, and it's obvious that the board made a right move. Pereira gives the team some depth on the right wing but he also knows how to defend.

Vicente Guaita is being the team's goalkeeper in the Copa del Rey, and since Valverde took over Diego Alves has been playing La Liga. Guaita is a more polished goalkeeper, but Alves is more gifted. Real Madrid is reportedly interested in bringing Guaita to Spain's capital to make Casillas work harder for the starting spot, and he would definitely be a good signing.

One way or another, this Valencia team hasn't been performing well, but they remain dangerous enough to give Real Madrid a scare.

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