Valencia took control of the final Champions League place this weekend. The historic side from the south of Spain had no problems making it into the Champions League last season. But a really tough start and really incredible trust allowed their season to grow and see them set to return to the Champions League.
La Liga Weekend: Valencia Take Control
Usually, when a team has an uncharacteristically wild season, it involves a ton of losses, chaos, or maybe the manager gets fired. Valencia did none of those things this season, but the season was wild all the same. It was September 29th before they won their first league game, and November 10th when they won their second.
The obvious next question is why? They were winning a lot more games at the start of last season because of important goals from Simone Zaza, Santi Mina and Rodrigo Moreno. The trio combined for 41 goals last season, most of which came early on. While Zaza left for Torino in the summer, Rodrigo, Mina and the replacements have failed to pick up the slack.
Rodrigo only has seven goals this season, compared to 16 last season. Mina has had one of the strangest seasons in memory, seven goals in four games, and three more braces in all competitions. Mina hasn’t scored in any other games, yesterday was the first game he scored without getting a brace. Then there is the combination of Kevin Gameiro and Michy Batsuayi, the Zaza replacements that combined for seven league goals.
Most teams would have fired manager Marcelino in the face of so many draws and dropped points. Hell, all you have to do is look at Valencia’s history. For the first time in a while, Valencia showed control and patience with their manager, and it paid off. Marcelino guided Valencia into the Copa del Rey Final and with one game left in the La Liga season, it looks like Champions League football as well.
Valencia 3-1 Deportivo Alavés
He has the chance after Valencia had a huge come from behind victory against Alaves on Sunday. They went down early after a lovely headed corner from Ximo Navarro gave Alaves the lead. But much to Marcelino’s credit his side did not waver, and they did exactly what they were supposed to do.
They allowed Alaves to control the possession and hit them on the counter. Any Marcelino side has to be excellent on the counter and with Goncalo Guedes and Carlos Soler running down the flanks, it’s not hard to. Having Guedes back healthy has been massive for Valencia in their chase to return to Champions League football.
Goals from Soler, Mina and Gaimero mean that Valencia travels to Valladolid to take on an already safe Real Valladolid. That should play into Valencia’s favour, as most of the Valladolid players will be mentally on holiday with the job already done. But Valencia would not be in this position had they not gotten some help from their Copa Del Rey final opponents.
Barcelona 2-0 Getafe
It was impossible to know what to expect when Barcelona took on Getafe at the Camp Nou. It had been a rough few days since the Liverpool collapse for Barcelona. Their fans rightly upset barely showed up, and the ones that did whistle the team during their guard of honour. Those fans also got a game that would do nothing to ease their concerns.
Because Ernesto Valverde did what Ernesto Valverde does, plays his best plays to their collective detriment. On Sunday a group of tired, older players went out and sleep-walked through their game against Getafe. Luckily for them, being Barcelona at home meant that Getafe would not pose much of a threat.
So Barcelona won 2-0 with 30-year-olds Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets, Arturo Vidal, Gerard Pique and of course Lionel Messi on the field. Only surgery prevented EV from getting the chance to start Luis Suarez too. You would think, after losing 4-0 with all those players on the field would lead to some changes or rotations at the least.
But no, Arthur didn’t dress, Ricki Puig and Jean-Clair Todibo left on the bench. Carles Alena and Malcom got to play at least, but that has done little to ease the mind. EV leaving all those players in did allow for Valencia to get back into control of a Champions League place.
Finally, Girona were all but confirmed as the final relegation side for this La Liga season. It was a miracle that they stayed up last season, but their dreadful home form is what will cost them this season. They confirmed the worst home record in La Liga this season with their Sunday loss at home to Levante.
Now they have to go to Alaves and win just to keep hope alive. Alaves has been pretty awful since the midway point of the season, so it’s not out of the question. But they also need Celta Vigo to lose at home to already relegated Rayo Vallecano and make up a six-goal difference. Sadly it looks like our third Catalan club has had its day.
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