Valencia vs. Real Madrid: 6 Things Learned from Copa del Rey Quarter-Final
Real Madrid have reached the semi-final of the Copa del Rey after a bad-tempered 1-1 draw away at Valencia, saw them win 3-1 on aggregate over two legs.
Karim Benzema opened the scoring for Real Madrid just before half-time, to give the away side what looked like an unassailable lead in the tie. However, the sending off of Fabio Coentrao, quickly followed by a Valencia equaliser from Tino Costa gave Los Che a glimmer of hope.
Yet despite Real Madrid going down to nine-men and Valencia's continued probing, Real Madrid were not in the mood to collapse. Here's six things we learned from the Copa del Rey quarter-final second leg.
Mourinho's Teams Always Stick to the Gameplan
Having beaten Valencia 5-0 at the Mestalla just a few days ago, Real Madrid could be forgiven if they'd gone into this game in a swashbuckling, bullish mood.
It's a fact though that Jose Mourinho sides just don't play with that sort of gay abandon. Despite their recent dominance against Valencia and the fact that they held a 2-0 lead in the tie, Madrid were content to sit deep, let Valencia attack them and play on the break.
They got their reward just before half-time when a superb ball from Xabi Alonso, which Ricardo Costa failed to clear, found Karim Benzema. The French striker calmly put his chance away. All part of the master plan.
Madrid Have Real Problems with Their Discipline
Real Madrid saw Fabio Coentrao and Angel di Maria sent off to add to their poor recent disciplinary record. Di Maria's sending off was particularly galling for the Real Madrid faithful, stemming from a petty attempt to kick-out at Joao Pereira.
These dismissals came hot on the heels of the recent dismissals of Kaka and Antonio Adan. In total Real Madrid have had six players sent off in all competitions this season.
Red cards have been a regular occurrence under Mourinho. As a manager he like to develop a siege mentality within his squad, but this can all too often result in indiscipline from players.
Real Madrid weren't even under particular pressure tonight in the context of the tie and yet they still collectively lost it. What happens in a game where they're really put under the cosh?
Valencia Have No Cutting Edge Without Soldado
Valencia went into this match without their top scorer Roberto Soldado, who picked up an injury during the weekend's 5-0 defeat to Real Madrid.
Himself a product of the Madrid youth system, Soldado was much missed by Valencia tonight. Without him there was no cutting edge, as Valencia missed a number of chances.
The worry for Valencia fans will be the fact that with the club in financial trouble, the striker will be sold, with little money becoming available for a replacement.
Mourinho's Men Are Struggling to Defend Set-Pieces
Valencia caused Real Madrid all sorts of problems from set-pieces. Madrid were without the experience of the injured Pepe and the suspended Sergio Ramos in defence and it showed.
Early on in the game Iker Casillas twice flapped at crosses, with the second incident resulting in the injury that saw him go off with an injury.
His replacement Adan scarcely fared better, as he dropped a clanger to let a Tino Costa free-kick squirm through his body for the Valencia equaliser. He was however, equal to a number of headed efforts, as Valencia tried to capitalise upon Madrid's aerial weakness.
Fixtures Will Get Easier for Valenica but Life Will Not
Sometimes the fixture list throws up these little anomalies, such as having to play Real Madrid three time in the space of eight days.
These games are now out of the way and Valencia can console themselves with the fact that they made a decent fist of the third match of the trilogy. However, off the field they remain in disarray, with the local government having taken charge of the club after it defaulted on it's debts.
Valencia fans will hope that they can keep hold of players like Roberto Soldado and Sergio Canales before the end of the transfer window, in order that they can go on a Champions League run that will go some way to helping their financial plight.
Cup Competitions Can Save Madrid’s Season
Real Madrid are not going to catch up Barcelona. If they’re lucky they might finish above city-rivals Atletico, but even that is a tall order and hardly the definition of ‘success’ for Real.
No, the only way that Jose Mourinho can save his team’s season is to win the Champions League and preferably the Copa del Rey as well. Mourinho showed his desire to win the latter tonight by picking his strongest available side, despite coming into the game already holding a two-goal lead.
As for the Champions League, tonight's performance wouldn't have given Manchester United any nightmares, but the performance of Madrid in their 5-0 drubbing of Valencia over the weekend demonstrated why they should be considered amongst the competition favourites.