Valencia’s target this season is to finish in the top four of the Primera Division, and at the halfway mark of the campaign they are on course to achieve just that. Unai Emery’s side will continue their quest to ensure Champions League football next season with a home fixture against a Malaga side who are struggling in La Liga, but working hard on the transfer market to ensure an improvement.
Slips by los Che have by no means been unknown, but in recent weeks much of their inconsistency has been ironed out. At the Mestalla they are particularly a force to be reckoned with, having lost only once at the venue all season.
A chronically defensive Deportivo La Coruna visited the east coast last weekend, but los Che showed the kind of patience they required the previous week against Levante to ultimately secure their fourth successive victory. Juan Mata scored a late derby winner, but it was the less predictable figure of Jeremy Mathieu who sent Emery’s side en route to victory last weekend with a goal less than 10 minutes from the end. Pablo would secure the points in stoppage time.
“We knew it would be hard to break the deadlock. It was a tough match against a rival and a well crafted defense,” Emery explained to the media in a post-match press conference.
The Valencia coach seems to be perpetually under pressure for his side to win, partly due to the extreme lengths he takes his squad rotation policy to. Los Che are going well at present, and no-one will be complaining about Emery’s selection should the Mestalla club record yet another win.
The Real Race Begins
Simply avoiding relegation this season was considered to be too modest a target for Malaga at the start of the campaign. Significant summer investment from new owners had brought hope of a mid-table challenge, but Jesualdo Ferreira failed to get things moving forward at La Rosaleda and was sacked in favor of Manuel Pellegrini only a matter of weeks into the campaign.
With the existing bunch of players, the Chilean also struggled to achieve acceptable results and as a consequence, los Boquerones again find themselves dabbling in the transfer market. Several big names have already been captured this winter, including Martin Demichelis and Julio Baptista.
Squad overhauls in the middle of the season are rarely smooth, and away to Barcelona last weekend Malaga found that simply signing reputed players and sticking them together is no substitute for hard-drilled organization. Even with a well-fitting panel, the Andalucians would have found life tough against the Catalans, so the 4-1 loss they suffered shouldn’t be regarded as a complete disaster.
“The real race begins with Valencia,” Baptista told Marca earlier this week. “We’re still getting to know each other.”
While points would be welcome, Pellegrini is probably expecting only a more coherent performance from his side at the Mestalla, pinpointing the home match with Zaragoza next week as the time for Malaga to really kick on.
Cesar Sanchez, Miguel Moya, David Albelda and Sofiane Feghouli have all missed training this week, but the Frenchman should be available if required. Aritz Aduriz and Joaquin are both drafted back into the squad too.
Nigerian midfielder Sunny has been loaned to Numancia.
Diego Bounanotte has signed for the club this week but won’t come into their squad until next season. Goalkeeper Ruben remains long-term injury, while Kris Stadsgaard and Ivan Gonzalez have been reduced to individual work this week.
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