Here’s a comprehensive scouting report of Valencia for Paris Saint-Germain as the two clubs meet in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg tie at Estadio de Mestalla.
This article is designed for PSG supporters who aren’t too familiar with Valencia.
If you have any questions about Los Che, feel free to comment below.
1. Attack winger-turned-left-back Andrés Guardado
Guardado is guaranteed to start at LB, with Aly Cissokho and Jérémy Mathieu out injured.
Andrés doesn't move, think or react like a defender—the sad reality is that he's performed better in defence than as a winger.
Ángel Di María, who hadn't scored and only created one goal in his last 10 games going into the match vs. Los Che, dismantled Guardado during Real Madrid's 5-0 win.
Zonal Marking's Michael Cox was blunt about the Mexican's defensive prowess: "Guardado has coped well at left-back in recent weeks, but is plainly not a natural there, and Di María exploited his lack of quality."
2. Hit Valencia on the counter
According to WhoScored, Ernesto Valverde's side are "very weak" in defending counter attacks, as evident in the embarrassing loss to Los Blancos.
It's an issue that plagued Valverde's predecessor, Mauricio Pellegrino, who admitted the team's propensity to shoot themselves in the foot after losing to Bayern Munich (via ESPN FC): "We had no support when we brought the ball out, and we were not in the right positions. We gave the ball away a lot, especially in the first half. You are going to pay dearly for errors."
The 5-2 loss to Real Sociedad at home sealed Pellegrino's fate, and it was a game that highlighted Valencia's defensive breakdowns.
From a Los Che corner, the Sociedad defender's headed clearance fell to Carlos Vela, who carried the ball deep into Valencia's half untouched.
He threaded a pass to Antoine Griezmann, whose shot was saved by Diego Alves' legs, and grazed the crossbar.
Ricardo Costa then gave the ball away leading to Diego Ifrán scuffing his shot from a 1-on-1 situation.
It took the Txuri-urdin 13 seconds to score after a meek Fernando Gago shot.
Keeper Claudio Bravo made the save, then accurately found Vela with a long pass, who clipped the ball over João Pereira and Ricardo Costa, to which Ifrán raced through and scored.
Ernesto is aware of PSG's counter attacking style (from Reuters via SBS.com.au): "PSG are more similar to Madrid than to Barcelona. They are a team who have good players up front, who don't mind sitting back and who attack with speed."
Valencia vs PSG: PSG have scored more counter-attacking goals (3) than any other team in the CL this season. Preview - bit.ly/U9ZSNC— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) February 12, 2013
3. Force Valencia to Self-Explode
Los Che have the third most yellow cards in La Liga and lead the league in unprofessional bookings.
1. Valencia's Set-Piece Threat
Only Atlético Madrid (21), Real Madrid (17) and Real Zaragoza (16) have scored more league goals than Valencia (15) from set-piece situations.
Corners and crossed-in free-kicks contribute to 66.7 percent of Los Che's set-piece goals, so they're a threat from the dead-ball scenario.
2. Roberto Soldado's Goal Poaching
14 - Roberto Soldado has scored 14 goals in his last 14 Champions League starts. Striker.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) February 12, 2013
This season, Paris Saint-Germain have done a great job keeping noted goal-scorers quiet i.e. Ideye Brown (4-1 win vs. Dynamo Kiev); Sammir (4-0 win vs. Dinamo Zagreb); Bafétimbi Gomis (1-0 win vs. Lyon); Yoan Gouffran (1-0 win vs. Bordeaux); Wissam Ben Yedder (4-0 win vs. Toulouse).
3. Éver Banega's Creativity
When Éver isn't exposing his family jewels to the wide world web, having his foot run over by his own car after forgetting to apply the handbrakes, smoking, being a nuisance or turning up to training with a hangover—he can produce world-class performances.
Behaviour aside, over the years Banega has built up a reputation as a hard-nosed midfielder, who can provide offensive impetus from the regista position.
Ernesto Valverde has allowed Éver to play as the No. 10 against Celta Vigo and Barcelona.
The Argentine netted against Barça and was majestic in the win vs. Celta: he created five shots for his teammates, completed five dribbles and was a nightmare for the Celta defenders.
Spanish football writer David Cartlidge identified Éver as the danger-man for PSG (via French Football Weekly):
Soldado and Feghouli might be the main names at the moment due to their respective goals and explosiveness, but for me it’s impossible to look past Banega. The Argentinean is the core of this team and everything good runs through him. He’s neat, intelligent and views the game like no other Valencia player. If given space and time by PSG he will run the show, no questions asked. The flip-side to that is that, if the French side get on top of him, much of Valencia’s most incisive work will be nullified.
Valencia's defensive record in La Liga is below-par but they have conceded less goals than Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League, who without doubt have the best defence in Europe right now.
It's not going to be a walk in the park for Paris Saint-Germain because Los Che have won all eight of their home European games against Ligue 1 sides (per UEFA.com).
If you omit the 5-0 loss to Real Madrid, Valencia would be unbeaten in their last six La Liga games, which includes a 1-1 vs. Barcelona.
Comment below with who you think will win.
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