Valencia CF coach Javi Gracia, about the clash against Villarreal CF

Ahead of their next clash in LaLiga against Villarreal CF (Saturday 4am Malaysia Time), Valencia CF trained for the last time at Paterna sporting venue in order to ultimate the tactical details for the upcoming game.The coach Javi Gracia has talked on a press conference about how they are going to face the game after the tough defeat they suffered in matchday 25 against Getafe CF. He has said the players are ambitious and ready to play well and get the victory they need to recover good feelings.The only confirmed absence for this fixture is Mouctar Diakhaby, who has to deal with a one-game suspension due to the red card he saw in the last LaLiga game. On the other hand, Denis Cheryshev and Cristiano Piccini still don’t have the medical all clear and their presence in the game will depend on them receiving it before it or not. In any case, coming from their physical issues, it’s impossible to imagine they could make it into the game as Gracia said to the media.

PRESS CONFERENCE WITH JAVI GRACIA:

“I DON’T KNOW, I UNDERSTAND THAT THE RESULTS MUST BE BETTER, AND ON THE OTHER HAND I ALSO SEE THAT IN THE LAST FIVE GAMES, IN WHICH I THINK WE HAVE PLAYED TWO REALLY BAD GAMES, IN THAT NUMBER OF GAMES WE HAVE BEEN THE EIGHTH TEAM WITH THE MOST POINTS. I AM NOT CONSOLED BY THE FACT THAT OTHERS ARE WORSE THAN US, BUT WE DO COMPETEAGAINST TEAMS. IS THERE ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT? YES. DO WE NEED TO BE MORE AMBITIOUS? YES. DO WE HAVE TO IMPROVE OUR RESULTS? YES, BUT I WOULD ALSO LIKE TO GIVE POSITIVITY TO ALL THE WORK THAT THE TEAM DOES EVERY DAY, WHICH DOES NOT TRANSLATE INTO GOOD RESULTS, BUT I AM CONVINCED THAT IN THE NEXT GAMES WE CAN PLAY BETTER, GET BETTER RESULTS AND BE IN A BETTER SITUATION”.

“WE HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT US, WHICH IS TOMORROW’S GAME AGAINST AN OPPONENT THAT I THINK HAVE A STYLE OF POSSESSION AND WHO WE ALREADY FACED IN THE FIRST ROUND AND I THINK IT WAS PRETTY EVENLY MATCHED. WE WERE BEATEN, THEY MADE IT 1-0 WITH THE PENALTY, THEN 1-1, WE SCORED FROM A STRATEGIC PLAY, AND THEN WE WERE 2-1 DOWN WITH A SHOT FROM OUTSIDE THE BOX THAT WENT WIDE, BUT WE ALSO HAD OUR CHANCES IN THAT GAME. WE HOPE THAT IT WILL BE A GAME THAT WILL BE HARD-FOUGHT AGAIN AND WITH ALTERNATIVES”.

“GONZALO HAS DONE THE WHOLE WORKOUT AND HE’S FINE, I THINK IT WAS JUST A LITTLE BIT OF TREATMENT AT THE END OF THE WORKOUT BUT THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH HIM. CHERYSHEV HAS BEEN STRUGGLING WITH A CALF INJURY FOR SOME TIME NOW, I’VE ALWAYS BEEN QUITE OPTIMISTIC THAT HE WOULD BE FIT SOON. LAST WEEK HE WAS TRAINING, BUT AGAIN HE HAD DISCOMFORTS IN THE SAME PLACE THAT PREVENTED HIM FROM PROGRESSING IN HIS IMPROVEMENT. TODAY WE ARE IN A SIMILAR SITUATION, HE IS WORKING BUT HE IS STILL NOT WELL. I THINK HE WILL BE READY SOON BUT IT WILL DEPEND ON HIS EVOLUTION IN A PLACE WHERE HE HAS ALREADY HAD PROBLEMS. PICCINI HAS A PARTICULAR SITUATION, HE COMES FROM A SERIOUS INJURY, HE IS TRYING TO RECOVER WELL”.

  

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Valencia CF vs Villarreal CF: a ‘new’ historic rivalry

There is a derby atmosphere in the Valencian air right now, in the city and across the Valencian Community region on Spain’s eastern seaboard. As well as the city derby coming up between Levante UD and Valencia CF in the middle of March, but there’s also a meeting between Valencia CF and Villarreal CF at Mestalla this coming weekend.  

This clash comes at a time when the recent trajectories of the two clubs haven’t exactly lined up with their historical records. Villarreal CF may be a relative newcomer in Spain’s top division when considering the entire history of the league, but they’ve become a LaLiga Santander regular over the past two decades and have often competed in European competition, making it to the Europa League time and time again and even into the Champions League. That’s what happened last season as their fifth place finish in 2019/20 earned them their latest European ticket.   

Los Che, on the other hand, didn’t qualify for Europe last season. Traditionally, though, they’ve boasted strong squads and currently have talented players who want to climb the LaLiga Santander standings and return to the top spots, the ones that bring national and international prestige. The regional derby against Villarreal CF is always a good opportunity to make such a statement, for the morale that a derby win can bring and for the points that can have a great effect on the standings.  

Ironically, few teams know and understand Valencia quite like Unai Emery’s side. As well as the coach himself, there are five players in the current Villarreal CF first-team squad with a past at Valencia. Just this past summer, the Yellow Submarine signed both Francis Coquelin and Dani Parejo, the former Valencia CF captain, from their neighbours. They have joined Raúl Albiol, Jaume Costa and Paco Alcácer, who also know what it’s like to call Mestalla home and who experienced some great moments during their time in white. On the other side of the divide, Denis Cheryshev and Gabriel Paulista are currently in the Valencia CF squad but previously wore yellow. Before them, the likes of Roberto Soldado, Carlos Marchena, Víctor Ruiz, Javi Fuego and Andrés Palop all spent time at both these east coast clubs.   

ATHLETIC CLUB DE BILBAO-VILLARREAL PARTIDO

From historic ‘germanor’ to a serious rivalry in just a few years   

The movement of players has marked the change in the relationship between the two clubs, from one of ‘germanor’ – the Valencian word for brotherhood – to one of increasing rivalry. Villarreal have even started to compete with Valencia in the transfer market. The Jorge López transfer in 2003 marked a before and after, seeing him move to Valencia from Villarreal after the player put pressure on the Yellow Submarine’s directors to authorise the move. Then there was Fabián Ayala, one of the best defenders in Spain in the early 00s, who didn’t renew his Valencia contract so that he could go to Villarreal for free – though he eventually ended up playing for Real Zaragoza instead.   

On the pitch, the clashes between the two clubs intensified from 2004 onwards, when Valencia eliminated Villarreal from the UEFA Cup with a goal from Mista. Since then, the sporting rivalry has grown continuously and there was another memorable moment in 2011 when it was Villarreal who knocked their rivals out of a competition, coming back from a 2-0 deficit to send Los Che packing from that year’s Copa del Rey with a 4-2 win. One year later, it was Valencia who sunk Villarreal down to LaLiga SmartBank level with a Jonas Gonçalves goal in a 1-0 win on the penultimate matchday of the 2011/12 season.   

After spending just a single season back down at LaLiga SmartBank level, Villarreal have remained in the top division ever since and have enjoyed some memorable results at the home of their rivals. Across 2016 and 2017, Villarreal won three times in a row at Mestalla with Roberto Soldado leading the line for them. The team in yellow have really grown since their last promotion back into the top division and have only once finished below sixth over the past seven seasons. This consistency and strength has made them a reference for football in the Valencian Community and they have truly become a rival that can look Valencia in the eyes.   

A derby for the Valencian Community crown  

The recent performances of these two institutions contrasts with their history, as Villarreal didn’t enjoy their first top-flight season until 1998. Even though they slipped back out of the top tier on two occasions since then, their leadership stuck to their plan each time and they achieved bounce-back promotions. That has allowed them to keep dreaming of European football. Even though their city has a population of just 50,000 – around half of whom could fit in their 23,500-capacity Estadio de la Cerámica, the tallest building in the city – this team managed to reach the Champions League semi-finals in 2005/06 and were a penalty away from the chance to go to the final.   

Valencia, conversely, have been one of the classic clubs of Spanish football’s top division and are one of just nine teams to have crowned themselves champions of LaLiga Santander, while they haven’t suffered a relegation since 1985. Although they won the Copa del Rey title as recently as in 2019, they haven’t enjoyed the solidity and consistency of their regional rivals in recent years. Despite the different histories of these two clubs, the balance in this derby is much more even than their respective trophy cabinets would suggest. This regional rivalry match has, therefore, become one of the hottest fixtures around in recent years, one that stands out for all football fans.  

Watch Valencia CF vs Villarreal CF live this Saturday at 4am on beIN Sports. 

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Five things you may not know about the Madrid Derby

With the city of Madrid boasting two of the very best teams in Spanish and European football history, the capital city rivalry is an exciting and fascinating one. So much history… but here are five things you might not know about the fixture.  

1. Atlético were formed in reaction to Real Madrid 

A group of Basque students living in Madrid attended the first ever Copa del Rey final in 1903 between Bilbao’s Athletic Club and Madrid FC, the team that would go on to become Real Madrid. They disliked the way Madrid FC played and 18 days later created a Madrid-based subsidiary of Athletic… which would go on to become Atlético de Madrid.  

2. Atlético once went 14 years without a derby win, but it’s a very different story now 

Between 1999 and 2013, Atlético de Madrid endured derby hell. They didn’t win in 25 meetings with Real Madrid, until the arrival of Diego Simeone eventually changed their fortunes. Since that rojiblancos victory, the derby balance has shifted; they’ve won 9 of the 30 derbies played since then, while also drawing 10 and losing 11 (all competitions). The record in LaLiga Santander is 4 victories and 4 defeats in 15 derbies. 

3. Atletico fans began the tradition of celebrating at Cibeles fountain, not Real Madrid! 

During the 1970s, the tradition of celebrating titles with fellow fans of your team at certain points in the city began to emerge in Spanish football. The Cibeles fountain, located in the very centre of Madrid, emerged as an ideal meeting point for such fans and though today closely associated with Real Madrid it was actually Atleti fans to first started to hold their celebrations there, after a LaLiga title win in 1977. Over time, other fans began to copy them and it became the fan meeting point in the city for title wins; throughout the 1980s, Real Madrid fans would celebrate the victories of the iconic Quinta del Buitre generation there. By the time Atletico won another title in 1991 – the Copa del Rey – Cibeles had become so closely associated with Real Madrid that their fans decided to move their celebrations 600 metres down the city’s Paseo de la Castellana avenue to Netptune’s fountain.   

4. This used to be a bigger fixture than ElClasico 

Today Real Madrid’s arch rivals are FC Barcelona but the Madrid derby was a bigger deal in the first couple of decades after the Spanish Civil War ended in 1939. As the all-time great Alfredo Di Stéfano once said: “Forget Barcelona… the team that can frustrate us is Atlético.” 

5. Nine of Atlético’s Copa del Rey wins have come at the Bernabéu 

Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabéu stadium is, funnily enough, a very special place for Atlético de Madrid fans. Los Colchoneros have won the Copa del Rey on 10 occasions, with a remarkable nine of those successes coming at their arch rivals’ stadium. Of their 10 cup final successes, only the 1996 victory against FC Barcelona was held at a different ground: Real Zaragoza’s La Romareda. 

Watch Atletico de Madrid vs Real Madrid this Sunday at [LOCAL TIME] on [LOCAL BROADCASTER]. 

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The Madrid’s Derby: Zidane vs Simeone

The two coaches have met several times as coaches in the Madrid derby, while their head-to-head rivalry goes back to their playing days. 

Zinedine Zidane and Diego Simeone will take their places in the Wanda Metropolitano dugouts for the Madrid derby on March 7th with a long history of rivalry between the two.  

The French and Argentine icons have met in the Madrid derby on 13 occasions, 12 times as coaches and once as players. Beyond the Spanish capital, they also faced off against each other a further eight times during their playing days in Italy where Zidane played for Juventus and Simeone represented Inter Milan and Lazio.  

Their one Madrid derby meeting on the pitch 

These two players’ high-profile careers in the Spanish capital only just overlapped, providing only one direct derby match-up, in December 2003. Neither will forget the game in a hurry; it was the night that the great Ronaldo Nazario scored the fastest goal in the fixture’s history (16 seconds) to send Real Madrid on their way to a 2-0 win.   

Simeone played at centre back that night instead of his usual midfield role. Zidane set up in the middle of the park and played a part in the build-up to the goal, which neither Simeone nor his former long-time coaching assistant German ‘El Mono’ Burgos, Atleti’s goalkeeper that day, could do anything about. 

That encounter turned out to be the final meeting between Zidane and Simeone as players and tilted the balance in favour of the Frenchman. Their final head-to-head record as players, taking into account their appearances in Serie A, ended with four wins for Zidane, two draws and three wins for Simeone.    

The rivalry moves to the dugout 

That 2003 derby came at a time when Real Madrid completely dominated the fixture. Real Madrid went from 1999 to 2013 without losing to their neighbours but Simeone was the man to turn the tide, leading his side to victory in the 2013 Copa del Rey final. From that day on the initiative looked to be in Atleti’s hands, and Zidane actually lost his first derby as Real Madrid coach: a 1-0 reverse at the Bernabeu in 2015/16.  

Today Zidane has the edge with six victories, four draws and two defeats in his head to head with Simeone. That second defeat, though, didn’t really feel like a loss for Zidane as it came in the second leg of their 2016/17 Champions League semi-final: Real Madrid advanced to the final on aggregate anyway.   

The European Cup final between these two tacticians also fell in Zidane’s favour, as Real Madrid won the 2015/16 Champions League final in Milan against their city rivals on penalties.  

Interestingly, the four draws between these coaches have all come the league. There have been eight LaLiga Santander meetings between the coaches, with the first being an Atletico win, the second going to Real Madrid win, then four finishing with the spoils being shared before Los Blancos edged the two last derbies: 1-0 in the Matchday 22 of the season 2019/20, and 2-0 in the first derbi this season. 

It promises to be another tight affair when these two giants meet again on March 7th, the 14th meeting between these two LaLiga icons – in particular with LaLiga title on the table and Atleti riding high in the table as standalone leaders.  

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