La Liga Preview: Recreativo - Valencia
What: La Liga Matchday 8
Who: Recreativo (18th, 5/21pts) vs Valencia (1st, 19/21 pts)
When: Sunday 26 October, 17:00 CET (local)
Where: Nuevo Colombino, Huelva, Andalucía
The Valencia charge continues unchallenged through the La Liga pack. Unai Emery’s men have been proficient in seeing off their opponents so far, scoring freely at home when beating the likes of Deportivo and Numancia, but have been solid and steadfast away. The manner in which they have presented their flair and fluidity at the Mestalla has at times been a joy to watch. Even without the influential Silva, who has been crocked for most of the campaign, they have performed like the Valencia of Rafa Benitez, and even, arguably, the Valencia of Hector Cuper.
How has this miraculous transformation from the chaos of Koeman occurred in such a short space of time? It has many baffled; Emery has barely altered the squad, yet there is a swagger and style that was so blatantly lacking under the Dutchman’s tenure. Los Che have gone from a Spanish laughing stock to title dark horses in the space of a year.
The primary reason for the shift in fortunes is now they have a well-liked, approachable, ambitious leader in Emery. He shows respect to seasoned campaigners like Angulo and Albelda instead of the contempt handed to them from Koeman. Also, they have a fully-fit, fully committed David Villa scoring eight goals in seven league games. He is in the form of his life, an indisputably world class talent who orchestrates everything positive in Valencia’s play.
But everyone always knew Villa’s ability. What has been truly pleasing for Emery is the performance of his midfield. His first-choice central pairing that were so disparaged last season have flourished. The David Albelda of old is back controlling the engine room with authority, and Manuel Fernandes’ impudent outside-of-the-foot pass for Villa’s second goal on Sunday acts as a microcosm for his confidence and level of performance. Then there’s Mata – always seen a one for the future – he has proven most definitely one for the present, linking telepathically with Villa and also bagging a healthy four goals from midfield.
They are top of the league, unbeaten, with nineteen points from a possible twenty-one. It is unquestionably title winning form but can it be sustained, or will Recreativo burst their bubble?
They are a side who had been capable of it in the past, but last season they only maintained their La Liga status by the skin of their teeth, and so far this term they have fared no better. Firstly, Atletico Madrid poached striker Sinama-Pongolle over the summer for 10m Euros. He was their key source of goals over the previous two seasons, and as they have only managed three league goals from seven matches, he is proving extremely difficult to replace. Indeed their poor form has warranted a snap reaction from the board, and coach Manolo Zambrano was told to clear his desk after the humiliating 4-0 reverse against Malaga.
The season had started so well, with an excellent 1-0 victory away to Betis, but since then Recre have only managed to add another two points to their total. Lucas Alcaraz, who managed here previously, has been appointed to steady the ship but with limited resources at his disposal has a thankless task to take Recreativo anywhere except into another relegation tussle.
They do have some promising talent in the form of goalkeeper Riesgo, who has been gathering admirers despite shipping twelve goals this season, and 21-year old striker Marco Ruben who is beginning to become an established first-team regular and has time on his side to develop.
However, the most worrying problem for Alcaraz can be found on the fixture calendar. Their next five league games reads Valencia (h), Getafe (h), Sevilla (a), Barcelona (h), and Real Madrid (a). It is a horrible run – what kind of points target can the coach set for a team who are already in the bottom three, then face four of the top five teams in the division within the next month?
Valladolid 1-1 Recreativo (La Liga)
Recreativo 0-4 Malaga (La Liga)
Almeria 1-0 Recreativo (La Liga)
Recreativo 1-1 Athletic Bilbao (La Liga)
Atletico Madrid 4-0 Recreativo (La Liga)
Valencia 4-0 Numancia (La Liga)
Real Valladolid 0-1 Valencia (La Liga)
Valencia 2-1 Marítimo (UEFA Cup)
Valencia 4-2 Deportivo La Coruña (La Liga)
Málaga 0-2 Valencia (La Liga)
Midfielder Sisi will be out for at least two weeks with a fracture of his leg sustained in the match versus Valladolid. Defender Nasief Morris, who had missed training for most of the week through injury, may still recover in time to keep his 100% appearance record in the Recreativo back line.
Probable XI: Riesgo – Lamas, Morris, Arzo, Poli – Camuñas, Akale, Tornavaca, Fuego– Ruben, Guerrero
David Silva is not due until closer to Christmas – how good would Valencia be with him available, and Curo Torres remains a long-term concern, but other than those problems the Valencia team picks himself currently. Vicente has been performing superbly coming from the bench, and he could be pushing for a start soon.
Possible XI: Renan – Miguel, Albiol, Marchena, Moretti –Joaquín, Albelda, Manuel Fernandes, Mata – Morientes , Villa
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Goalkeeper Asier Riesgo
plied his trade at Real Sociedad and has been a very busy goalkeeper so far this season, but the little number of points that Recreativo have amassed are down to his displays. Expect him and Villa to be involved heavily against each other on Sunday.
For all David Villa’s goals, Mata
has really caught the eye for the way he has linked with the striker, and also for his own four goals that have eased some of the expectation from Villa’s shoulders. Creative, skilful, and with an eye for goal, Mata could prove to be one the season’s shining lights.
The form book will point to an away win here, and if Valencia can find any semblance of rhythm, then an away win can be the only outcome.
Recreativo 0-2 Valencia
Paul Macdonald, Goal.com