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Spanish football column: Reality-check for Valencia, Emery’s recipe for success and El Clasico swings into view

A brand new feature on this website is the introduction of weekly & fortnightly columns focusing on various leagues, countries and regions across the World. Adam Grays analyses and gives his opinion here on the talking points in Spanish football.

Emery Cav

Valencia brought back down to earth by Depor

Valencia’s 3-0 defeat at the hands of Deportivo La Coruna, La Liga’s bottom club going in to Sunday’s game at the Riazor, represented a crash back down to earth for Valencia who, under Nuno Santo, had got off to an electric start to the season. Missing influential midfielder Andre Gomes, defender Ruben Vezo and goalkeeper Diego Alves, a late withdrawal with stomach problems, the visitors were flat in attack and shaky in defence, with Shkodran Mustafi particularly vulnerable. Deportivo however were surprisingly ambitious, taking the game to Valencia with intent pressing and quick countering.

A defensive mix-up saw Jose Gaya score a freak own goal before the inexperience of stand-in ‘keeper Yoel was exposed by Lucas Perez. At half-time, Nuno showed his willingness to react with changes, bringing on Charles Gil and Sofiane Feghouli for Felipe Augusto and Pablo Piatti. Valencia looked more urgent, piling pressure on Deportivo though it was all in vein as substitute Toche ran clear to put the game beyond doubt.

Valencian expectations will now be harnessed as Rodrigo, Dani Parejo and Piatti were all subdued while Felipe Augusto, making his first start of the season in place of Gomes, had to be withdrawn at the break. Paco Alcacer seemed disinterested and despite his goal-scoring exploits and undeniable talent, his languid style will be a hindrance when Santo finds his team up against it. The manager will be impatiently awaiting the return of Alvaro Negredo.

There was a complacency about Valencia, seemingly turning up to the Riazor with a faith that a result would be secure, though the absence of Gomes was clear, as was the lack of influence from the normally-assured holding midfielder Javi Fuego, who couldn’t get his side ticking in the face of Deportivo’s dogged pressing. This is not to take anything away from Deportivo, who moved up to 15th in the table, and Victor Fernandez who has done a brilliant job over the international break to conjure such an enthusiastic display after previously resembling relegation-fodder.

Real and Barca warm-up for El Clasico

Real Madrid and Barcelona’s respective marches go on with Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi once again on the score-sheet. For Ronaldo, another brace to take his tally up to 15 from 7 games this season but for Messi, just the one. It did take him to 250 La Liga goals though, just 1 off Telmo Zarra’s all-time scoring record.

For Real Madrid it was Levante, who were dispatched 0-5 in Valencia, while Barcelona had to wait until the hour mark to breach plucky Eibar’s resistance, running out 3-0 winners. Luis Enrique will be concerned with how stagnant and predictable they looked in attack before Xavi opened the floodgates and the minnows could have even took the lead with two glorious first-half chances. Still, it was yet another clean sheet for the Catalans, now without a goal conceded in 8 league games, as they prepare for the return of Luis Suarez and the small matter of next week’s Clasico against free-scoring Madrid.

Unai Emery working his magic at Sevilla

After forging a strong reputation at Valencia before dinting it with a disastrous spell in charge of Spartak Moscow, Unai Emery is enjoying a successful time at Sevilla, building on last season’s Europa League-winning, fifth place campaign with a strong start to the new season. Goals from Carlos Bacca and Kevin Gamiero did for Elche in a 0-2 win which Emery devoted to his team’s prowess on the counter-attack.

The solid spine given to them by the strong midfield partnership of Stephane Mbia and Grzegorz Krychowiak allows them to soak up pressure before striking with the pace and vibrancy of Gerard Deulofeu, Denis Suarez and Aleix Vidal supporting the clinical finishing of Bacca. That Ever Banega and Jose Reyes remained on the bench while Gamiero came on to make the game secure suggested the strength in depth Emery has assembled in his squad and they will again be genuine contenders for a top 4 spot. Los Rojiblancos currently sit 2nd in the table having lost just once so far.

Frustrations continue for Athletic

A 1-1 draw with Celta Vigo means it is just 1 win in 8 now for Athletic Bilbao who put in an improved display at San Mames only to be denied by Sergio Alvarez in the Celta goal. There is a wide perception that since the Basque team have regressed since reaching the Champions League and, minus Ander Herrera, they now look short on creativity and drive. Aritz Aduriz put Bilbao ahead from the penalty spot only to see it cancelled out in the second-half by Nolito. Manager Ernesto Valverde was left pondering on how to re-motivate his small squad which, while now in European competition, is already beginning to show signs of fatigue.

Paco Alcacer moves to the top of the Talent Radar Player Rankings

The Spaniard has continued his form this season, built up in the second half of last season. Since the previous issue when he occupied 9th spot, the striker has played five La Liga games, either scoring or assisting in each of them (3 goals & 3 assists). In the same period he has made his senior team debut, and been among the goals as well, most recently scoring in the 2-1 loss to Slovakia.

Though largely going unnoticed up until the start of the 2014 calendar year, Alcacer has built up his reputation and emerged as quite possibly the most pure young centre forward in World football.

Talent Radar player of the week

Ivan Cavaliero (Deportivo): manager Victor Fernandez was very bold in setting up his lowly-team to take the game to Valencia and the Portuguese striker was central to the attacking intent they showed. He led the defensive effort from the front with industrious running and displayed his power and aerial ability in providing the goal for Lucas Perez. A goal was missing from his impressive performance but, having been prolific for Benfica’s youth teams before moving to the Riazor, finding his goal-scoring touch may be vital if Deportivo wish to remain in La Liga. This was a big step in the right direction for both the 21 year old and his club.

Written by Adam Gray

Adam Gray

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