Having narrowly missed out on European qualification last season, Valencia have spent the summer selling their best players with existing divisions at the club widening further. Optimism is not high ahead of the new campaign at Mestalla and fans are likely to vent fresh anger at owner Peter Lim and president Anil Murthy when they are finally let back into the famous old ground. Read on for our Valencia season preview.
Last Season – 9th
Following back-to-back top four finishes and a Copa del Rey triumph in 2019, Valencia expected to be competitive at the top end of the league last season. Some were even predicting they could break into the top three, an exclusive club in recent years.
However things quickly unravelled. Lingering tensions between Marcelino and the board reached boiling point with the coach receiving his marching orders just a month into the new season. Albert Celades was a relatively underwhelming replacement and while he did impressively guide Valencia through a difficult Champions League group, there was little in the way of consistency and in the second half of the season things properly unravelled at Mestalla.
Injuries played their part as Valencia were thumped by Atalanta in the Champions League last 16, but they returned from lockdown in even worse shape than they had entered it and a 2-0 defeat at Villarreal ultimately cost Celades his job. Perennial caretaker Voro came in and failed to halt a slide that saw Valencia finish 9th and miss out on even Europa League qualification.
Valencia Summer Transfers
Rodrigo Moreno | to Leeds | €30m
Dani Parejo | to Villarreal | FREE
Francis Coquelin | to Villarreal | €6.5m
Ferran Torres | to Manchester City | €23m
Ezequiel Garay | Released
(Transfers up to 7th September 2020.)
Coach – Javi Gracia
Javi Gracia comes in for the start of the new season at Valencia. On paper, it’s perhaps not the most inspiring of appointments and there is the suggestion that the board were keen for a lower profile coach who’d be willing to follow orders and not speak out of turn in the way Marcelino at times did.
However all that may be a bit harsh on Gracia who has greater coaching pedigree than his predecessor Albert Celades and has done solid jobs at a number of clubs. His most recent spell in LaLiga saw him secure 8th and 9th place finishes with Malaga while he twice guided Watford to Premier League safety before losing his job early last term. Both clubs have fallen on considerably harder times since Gracia departed and he might just be the right kind of man for what is a very challenging job.
Possible Valencia Line Up 2020/21
With five key players having departed, this is a depleted Valencia team. The need to raise funds was to some extent understandable given the economic climate and given they have budgeted for Champions League football in recent years. However allowing Dani Parejo and Francis Coquelin to move up the road to Villarreal for less than €10m combined is almost inexcusable. More cash was generated for Rodrigo Moreno and Ferran Torres but little if any of that is likely to be reinvested in the squad.
Providing there are no more departures, Valencia should still be able to field a team that is at least competitive in LaLiga and talk of a relegation battle may be very premature. Defensively they were poor as a unit last term but they have some talented individuals with the likes of Jasper Cillessen, Gabriel Paulista and new captain Jose Gaya all very capable performers. Gracia will need to work hard on instilling greater discipline at the back and his task isn’t made any easier by the absence of Ezequiel Garay.
The first choice midfield has been ripped up but again they do still have some good players to step in. Carlos Soler is one man who may really benefit from the exodus and with Dani Parejo gone, he may finally get the chance to start regularly in his preferred central midfield role. Youngster Lee Kang-in will also now see a much clearer path to more regular first-team opportunities and could make the right sided slot his own if he can start the season well and find a way to cool his temper.
Up front Maxi Gomez and Kevin Gameiro now look as though they will be the preferred strikeforce following Rodrigo Moreno’s departure.
We’ll have match previews for every LaLiga game when the new season commences.
Key Man – Jose Gaya
There is clearly a void to fill with the likes of Dani Parejo departing and somebody needs to step up and take on the leadership role on the pitch to steer Valencia through these choppy waters. Left-back Jose Gaya has been made the captain and while it’s a big responsibility for the 25 year old, his performances last term suggest he’s up to the task.
Gaya was one of the few to come out of last season at Mestalla with an enhanced reputation. He’s already made a positive start to the 2020/21 campaign by scoring a late equaliser for Spain in the UEFA Nations League against Germany. He won’t be expected to chip in with many goals this term, but he’s clearly going to be key as Gracia’s Valencia starts to take shape and as skipper he will need to set an example and try to unify what has at times been a fractured dressing room.
One to Watch – Lee Kang-in
Under-20 World Cup Award winners:
— Goal (@goal) June 15, 2019
While losing so many key midfielders is far from ideal, Valencia do have some promising young talents that should now get a greater opportunity to grow and develop. One of those is 19 year old Lee Kang-in. He won the golden ball at the U-20 World Cup and was also named Asian Young Player of the Year in 2019.
2020 however, has so far been a frustrating year for the Korean with first-team starts limited at Mestalla. He only managed to chalk up 445 minutes in LaLiga last season but his limited time on the pitch was eventful with two goals scored as well as two red cards received. Discipline issues are clearly a problem but if Gracia is willing to put his faith in Lee, he could have a breakthrough season.
Valencia 2020/21 Targets
A top four finish looks well beyond Valencia this season with Sevilla looking strong. Europa League qualification is a more realistic target but even that is starting to feel like quite a big ask given the quality of players who have departed. Parejo alone will be a huge miss and it’s likely to take a bit of time for Javi Gracia to get this depleted Valencia side to adapt to his methods and gel as a unit. Another mid-table finish looks more likely.
LLE Prediction: 11th
On the road in Valencia today via @marksoc1.
Mini-tour (with a football twist) coming up with the sights and sounds of late August in Spain’s 3rd largest city. Will be dropping by Mestalla, the Nou Mestalla & Levante’s Estadi Ciutat de València.
Thread to Follow ⤵️⤵️ pic.twitter.com/fipdHkKEA8
— LaLiga Expert (@LigaExpert) August 30, 2020
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