Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Valencia 1-4 Real Madrid: Four Things We Learned

Juan Pablo Aravena in Editorial, La Liga 27 Jan 2018

Embed from Getty Images

Don’t look now, but Real Madrid might be getting hotter at the right time in LaLiga.

Los Merengues travelled to Mestalla to take on Valencia, on a game that featured the third- and fourth-placed teams in LaLiga. One would have expected a close encounter, but that wasn’t the case. Los Blancos dominated from start to finish, and cruised their way to an easy 4-1 win that pulled a second-straight win for them. Two penalty goals from Cristiano Ronaldo, plus strikes from Marcelo and Toni Kroos gave Madrid a huge win, while Santi Mina found the back of the net for Valencia.

Here are four things we learned from that game.

Real Madrid should stick to a 4-3-3 formation

It is often said that players need to move in the areas where they feel more comfortable. And if we analyse Real Madrid’s best XI since the arrival of Zinedine Zidane, it is quite clear the team players far better on a 4-3-3 system. The recent results back that up, as Zidane made the change two weeks ago and it has resulted in two sounding wins: 7-1 vs Deportivo, and now a 4-1 vs Valencia.

It is understandable that Zidane wanted to the change the tactics. Injury problems to both Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema forced the French tactician to play with Ronaldo and “someone else” upfront, while Isco came from behind as an attacking midfielder. But now that the attacking line is healthy, Zidane should stop making experiments. Real Madrid plays at its best with a 4-3-3, and today was the perfect example.

Granted, Valencia are not on the same level of Barcelona, and not even Atletico Madrid. But they have been playing quite well during the entire season, and they have definitively over-achieved. They were a tough test for Madrid, and Los Merengues breezed through it with ease.

Cristiano Ronaldo is back

Cristiano Ronaldo has been heavily criticised this season. Some say he is more focused on a potential move to Manchester United next summer, others say he is in decline, and some even think Real Madrid should just part ways with him. But as it has been the way throughout his entire career, once again Ronaldo is ready to silence the doubters. He went three game without scoring, but already bounced back and has four goals in his last two Liga matches.

Granted, both of his goals against Valencia this Saturday were from the penalty spot. It is also fair to say Ronaldo has had far better seasons playing for Los Merengues. But he is recovering his morale with his last two outings, and that is not good for the rest of the world. Ronaldo is getting hotter at the right time since there is less than one month for the UCL tie against PSG. For what is worth, he “only” has eight goals this season. Expect that number to go up as the season progresses.

Valencia are “not quite there” yet

Despite the loss – and the fact they also lost to Las Palmas 1-2 one week ago – every football fan in the world should admire what Valencia are doing. They basically built a team filled with players that other teams did not want. For instance, they acquired both Gabriel Paulista and Francis Coquelin when Arsenal did not want them. The same goes for Goncalo Guedes (PSG), Simone Zaza (Juventus), and Jeison Murillo (Inter), among others. And the results are there for anyone to see them.

But can Los Che realistically fight for the title, just like Atletico Madrid and Sevilla have done it in the past? Unfortunately, no. The team lacks consistency against lesser opponents, experience against better teams, and a bit more quality on defence to solidify their status. This game was the perfect proof of that, as Real Madrid dominated the game and often created the best chances to score, while netting four times.

Valencia are definitively on the right track. But now it’s not their time, because they are not there…yet.

Neither team can fight for the league title

We have to be absolutely, and completely honest here. Sure, Real Madrid are playing better now. They have scored 11 goals in just two games, and seem to be trending on the right direction. But is that enough to represent a threat on Barcelona’s title chances?

Sadly for Real Madrid, no. They are still 16 points behind Barcelona, and that differential could increase to 19 if Los Blaugranas win their respective game against Alaves this next Sunday. Real Madrid could win every single game until the end of the season, and they would still depend heavily on what other teams could do. It’s still January, but all signs indicate Barcelona will win the league rather comfortably.

The same could be said about Valencia. They have been one of the biggest surprises in Europe this term, but we have to be realistic. Their best bet right now is to try and secure a berth for the UEFA Champions League next season. They remain alive on the title race because the numbers say it, but that’s it.


Juan Pablo Aravena

A freelance writer and sports analyst with almost five years of experience in the industry before joining SoccerNews, Juan Pablo Aravena is based in Chile and currently contributes to several publications and websites including SoccerNews, 12up, and Sports From The Basement, while also working as a fantasy beat writer for RotoWire, as a database editor for EA Sports, and as a football analyst for SmartOdds and InsideFutbol. His areas of focus are Serie A, Bundesliga, Premier League, LaLiga, and Ligue 1, but he has also written about MLS and South American football in the past.



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