Copa del Rey Quarterfinal Preview
I was not impressed with our performance on Saturday in La Liga. I am not sure who is at fault here but it is frustrating for the fans to watch (at unearthly times for us folks east of Europe) the team show zero effort and zero desire to win. I don’t buy the logic that the team is concentrating on CL (and Copa) because energy spent in La Liga is useless. Its simply not an on and off switch, rhythm plays a big part, but more on that rant later. It is true though, that the Copa and CL are now our only remaining shots at winning silverware this season. Copa is getting to its important stages, and starting tonight our road to the final begins. Valencia is our first opponent and the tough ground of Mestalla is where our journey begins.
Valencia have been performing sub par this season. After fans crying for the dismissal of Emery, one of their own player heroes Pellegrino was installed as manager. His lack of experience at the managerial level showed as it was only a matter of time before bad results led to his eventual sacking. It was harsh on him, because it doesn’t really reflect on his capabilities but that is how the industry works. Look at how many people think Pellegrini was fired from Real Madrid because he sucked. They now languish in 7th place in the table, although for a change, they have had a pretty impressive Champions League campaign. Sure, they have been hampered with injuries as well but even with all of that, them not being in the Champions League spots cannot be interpreted in any other way, but that they are underperforming. In the media, they mention that Copa is not a priority, and that their performance against Real Madrid will only be used as a measure of how far they have come this season after the turmoils of multiple managerial changes. The priority still is, for Erneste Valverde’s men, to finish in the top four, come May.
After a topsy turvy first half to the season, Valencia are finally finding their feet, with wins in 4 out of their last 5 matches, including a Copa del Rey victory in Pamplona, where we recently played like shit, for the lack of a better expression. They play a straight forward 4-2-3-1 formation with 2 holding midfielders and 3 up top, and normally with a second striker, more than an attacking midfielder in a 10 spot. After a year of alternating depending on the competition, Diego Alves is the first choice keeper, hence relegating Guiaita to just Copa matches and other less important matches. We can expect this to continue. Seeing as to how finishing better in the liga is more important to them, it may not be wise to expect Rami and Costa to both start, playing time for Victor Ruiz who for some reason isn’t a starter anymore (I haven’t had a chance to watch them nearly enough, so please forgive me for not knowing why) is likely. Barragan could also start ahead of Joao Pereira who might be saved up for the weekend’s league rematch between the same teams. Similarly even though Guardado starts normally at left back, the assignment could go to Cissokho who hasn’t managed to make himself a regular after his transfer to the Mestalla. Albelda is out with injury, and hence Banega could be partnered by Tino Costa in the middle of the pitch. Banega’s return to playing has been one of the biggest reasons Valencia’s performance on the pitch has gone up, and he will be vital for us to counter if we want to do well. Former Real Madrid youth player Parejo will probably feature along side Piatti and Jonas as they make up the front three behind captain Roberto Soldado. Nelson Valdez has played as starter in Copa games so far, but this game is far too important for Soldado to not play, especially considering it is against Real Madrid.
Valencia coach Valverde insists that Madrid is not in a vulnerable state. While he may be downplaying the situation so his team performs best, it is indeed not the truth because we are in a very volatile state right now. Cristiano returns from his match away from the team due to suspension, but Ramos is still out serving his. Casillas also apparently is out of the mini episode where he was shown the unfamiliar territory of the bench, and will be fielded today. Marcelo continues his recovery but is not yet ready to be playing and hence Coentrao will once again start at left back. With Pepe and Ramos being out, Varane and Carvalho could be the ones playing at the centre of defence as Albiol and Carvalho will likely be giving each other breathers every alternate game. Its not ideal for Varane to be ‘exposed’ so much, but the learning experience is gonna be great for our future defence stalwart. Other players are to be as expected since we are riding on Copa more than the Liga, and therefore we could see the usual Xabi, Khedira, Ozil, Di Maria, Cristiano and Benzema group return to start. I’d imagine Higuain will be playing the Liga encounter and Benz the Copa games.
The match is at 9 PM CET. We will probably not have a liveblog since it is difficult for Jordan to make it on weekdays. We may also not have a review for the same, so be prepared to see folks complain and demand for articles. Good news though is that Bassam has an opinion piece in the works that I think you will all enjoy, for those opinion pieces are what the type of stuff that makes this site so good. What do you think of the above team news? Do you think we’re gonna concentrate on Copa and treat the liga game as secondary, or will we go all out in 3 continuous games? Comment away!