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UEFA Champions League: A Look At Valencia CF

Valencia? A real contender in La Liga and the UCL?
Valencia? A real contender in La Liga and the UCL?

This week FC Barcelona are travelling to Belarus to face BATE Borisov, and while I tried to find a blogger capable of answering our questions, suffice to say, it failed miserably. So, I took a long look at the stand-outs games from Matchday Two, and while there are matches like Bayern Munich versus Manchester City, one really caught my eye.

A team who are hell-bent on winning Europe and indeed club football’s biggest prize? Check.

Another team who are showcasing their abilities on the domestic stage, and could be keen to make a real statement of intent? Check.

Why it’s Valencia CF – Chelsea FC of course! Luckily, there are a few more Valencia bloggers than there are for BATE, and in my opinion, I have one of the best. He goes by the alias of SlickR, and blogging on ClubValenciaCF, he is an expert on the tactical side of things, all at a club with one of the best young tactical managers out there. His work on Match Previews, and Match Reviews are particularly impressive, though I must say, he judged Barcelona wrong this year.

Whatever the case, it was good to work with such a passionate Los Che supporter, and I hope you enjoy the interview.

How long have you been a supporter of Valencia?

I’ve been a supporter of Valencia for more than 14 years. In the school most kids were for Barca or Real Madrid and the occasional Bayern supporter, but I just got in love with Valencia as I saw them play few times on the TV. The speed of play, the precision of the passes and the skill especially on the left wing was amazing. Such free flowing football with quick moves, but it also had the more normal type of play with longer balls from the middle or back and those would search for the wingers. Once I started following VCF I never went back.

Who would you say is your favourite player?

My favourite player would have to be Thierry Henry. I remember watching him at Arsenal do some incredible things and score some unbelievable goals and at his prime was probably the best attacker at the time. From Valencia I would have to say Ayala as he has been the most famous and important player in the most impressive years for Valencia!

Are you a fan of any other clubs?

No. I liked Arsenal quite a lot when they were playing fantastic short passing football 10 or so years ago, but I was never really a fan.

How long have you been blogging about Los Che?

Well I started blogging about VCF a year and few months ago now and why I started blogging was because I wanted some more personal opinions about Valencia. I wanted analysis, criticism, opinions, editorials and stuff like that and since apart from news no website provided that, I decided to write it for myself and have it for people who would like to read what I wanted to read. So what and how I write on the blog is what I as a fan would like to know and read.

In the space of a week, Valencia will have faced Barcelona, Sevilla and Chelsea. That’s some week, though how do you feel about the team this year round? It appears to me as if they have lost key players, but used the money to improve all-round quality...

Well I got to say that this week basically started with Gijon and now Barcelona and is going to finish only after Sevilla and Chelsea is one of the hardest 11 days that Valencia has had as far as I can remember. So far so good with a win against Gijon and a draw against Barcelona and even though I got under the skin of many Barca fans with my prediction of Valencia CF winning and actually competing with Barcelona I have to say I was pretty much right. And to be honest I really feel like Valencia should have won and probably would have won if Soldado scored the chance he had from 1 meter.

About the team this season, I really feel great and think we are going to do very well and might even surprise few people with how good we do. Even though the last two years we have lost some amazing players like the David’s and this year Mata I think as a team and as a group Valencia are now stronger. Llorente the president and Braulio the sporting director have done a great job, one on the financial side and one on the sporting side and have brought great players to cover for the ones who left. The addition of Rami and Ruiz is probably what is best from my perspective and would prove to be crucial this season.

As this is about the Champions League, do you have a rough prediction for the Chelsea match?

Well it’s going to be a tough match no doubt about it, but I’ve watched all but two of Chelsea’s games this season and I’m not too terribly impressed by what I’m seeing. Mata played with VCF until 1 month ago so we know his strengths, but also weaknesses fully well and right now he seems like their most influential player and one to create chances for them so I think Valencia actually has a good chance to win both our games with Chelsea. The most important thing would be how Emery handles the player’s energy and will he rotate with Sevilla and rest our best players for the Chelsea match.

If we can, I would like to link this back to La Liga as well, and it has been some start by Los Che, could they break into the top two?

Well it’s going to be very tough and I’m very cautious about this. While Valencia has the squad to challenge Barcelona and Real Madrid in direct matches as we’ve seen vs Barcelona, I’m not too sure about our consistency. Looking at the past 3 seasons with Emery our team tends to lose a bit of thrust after the first 6 matches of La Liga and then get into great form again only to lose it after the winter break. So I would say probably not this season, but we should reduce the point’s difference as La Liga is a lot more competitive this season overall and quite a few teams will trouble the big two.

If you had to pick one of your players, who would you say is the Key Man?

Ever Banega. When he is up to it and wants to play he is definitely one of the best midfield players in the world. He is also the Xavi type who can control the ball so well and keep possession for the team. But also Pablo is probably as important player, as he is a very hard worker, has great skill and with Mata gone can be a good leader and example.

For all those unfamiliar with Valencia, what would you say are the strengths and weaknesses of your team?

If you asked me this question even a month ago I would have said our weakness is the defense, but with the arrival of Ruiz and watching his partnership with Rami develop I think we are quite good there. We have good depth in all positions and I would say the main weakness would have to be in our consistency. Can the players go week after week; sometimes even days after days go out and consistently play great. I don’t think so and I think that is VCF biggest weakness. That and our fitness levels are not quite up to Barca or RM levels as well, so that will be a problem as well.

Any young players to watch out for that could be on a "break-out year"?

Well we have a pretty young squad this year so it’s a hard pick, but I’d say it will be Ruiz. I think he is going to be the most important player from the younger ones and the fact that he is so solid even right now and he hasn’t even had time to gel properly and is only 22 years of age I think he will have a breakout season. I don’t expect someone from the B team coming through though and having a breakout season. Canales is probably going to have a good season as well, but I don’t expect wonders from him.

Could Valencia prove to be something of a dark horse this year and get to...say the Quarter Finals?

It’s a possibility. I’d say we have big chances to even win the Copa for example and I believe we can reach the quarter finals in the CL if we don’t get someone like Real Madrid or Barcelona in the last 16. Against any other teams VCF can win, but I don’t think we can beat RM or Barca over two legs. Tactically Emery has been worst in these 2 legged competitions as he tends to try and win at all costs, when it’s just better to sit back and park the bus and catch the opposition on a counter attack or beat them on an away goal rule and not just try and outplay everyone. But he is a young coach and he learns and hopefully he’s learned a thing or two about two legged competitions. I expect us to do quite well.

Obviously this is Barcelona blog, and we have to ask: How far do you think Barcelona will go? Is it feasible to think that Guardiola’s team could retain their crown?

Barcelona is always a contender for every title and they are automatically the favorties for every title even though I think sometimes the media really overdoes it. Barca can reach the finals of the CL once more, though if history has a word in it they have no chance of winning it. I don’t think Barca will win it two years in a row as no team ever managed to do that. As far as La Liga goes before the season started and even just one match ago I would have said RM have the title secured easily, but with the way they’ve played the last 3 matches, two in liga and one in the CL they didn’t look champions material to me. So it hard to say this early in the season, but I’d say there is a good chance for FCB to retain the La Liga crown yes.

Who do you think will win the Champions League and Europa League this season?

Right now Bayern Munich look great, but they always do this in this stage and then fizzle out in the last 16 or quarter finals, so it’s really strange with them. Manchester United have a better team than last year and can win it this season and RM should not be dismissed as well since Mourinho always does better with his team in the second year. Right now the most likely winners seem Bayern if they retain their form.

As far as the Europa league goes it’s a lot harder to predict a winner because usually none who you would expect ends up winning. I’d say the teams with the best chances of winning it are Atletico Madrid, PSG, Braga and PSV and Rubin. I’m gonna go on a limb and say PSG is going to take it.

Thanks to SlickR for his time, and be sure to give his blog a visit. I for one will be wishing Los Che luck in their match on Wednesday, though for obvious reasons, I will not be watching ;)

Oh, and check out my take on the Lionel Messi vs Diego Maradona debate which was published on InBedWithMaradona. Thanks to those guys for featuring my work there.

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