Valencia 2-0 Barcelona: Report, Ratings & Reaction as Terrific Ches Inflict Huge Blow on Barça

Valencia moved into the European spots with a huge win on Saturday afternoon, as they beat Barcelona 2-0 at the Mestalla.

?The hosts were gifted a golden chance to take the lead early on, winning a penalty for a foul on Jose Gaya by Gerard Pique. However, Marc-Andre ter Stegen was there to spare Barcelona’s blushes, saving well from Maxi Gomez to keep the game goalless inside the opening 12 minutes.

Valencia were having the better chances, constantly testing ter Stegen in goal. In the space of a few minutes, the German goalkeeper pushed Gomez’s fierce effort onto the bar, forced Kevin Gameiro’s shot past the post with his fingertips and smothered Francis Coquelin’s attempt.


Valencia finally found their breakthrough two minutes after the restart, through an unfortunate own goal from Jordi Alba. The ball fell to Gomez inside the box, and a big deflection off Alba took the ball past ter Stegen and gave the hosts an inevitable lead.

It took until the 74th minute for Barcelona to have their first shot on target, with Lionel Messi sending his free kick goal bound. That was their best chance of the game, but Jaume Domenench made an impressive save to keep the Argentine at bay.

Soon after that, Valencia killed the game off with their second goal of the afternoon. x found Gomez in acres of space, and the Uruguayan delightfully guided into the bottom corner to wrap up a massive win for Los Ches.


VALENCIA

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Player Ratings

Starting XI: Domenench (7); Wass (6), Garay (6), Gabriel (7), Gaya (6); Torres (6), Kondogbia (7), Coquelin (6), Carlos Soler (7); Gameiro (6), Gomez (7*).

Substitutes: Rodrigo (6), Costa (N/A).


STAR MAN – Maxi Gomez had an afternoon to remember for Valencia, in a fantastic display. Despite missing a penalty early on, he bounced back and assisted the first goal before doubling their lead with a wonderful strike, with the Uruguayan striker having an excellent game at the Mestalla.



BARCELONA

Key Talking Point

Frenkie De Jong,Sergi Roberto,Sergio Busquets

?Barcelona had a huge chance to extend their lead at the top of La Liga to three points, with ?Real Madrid not in action until Sunday. While they had control of the game early on, they were lucky not to go behind through a moment of rashness from Pique that conceded the penalty.

Barca had so many wake up calls throughout the game, but they remained lethargic and lacklustre all afternoon long. Valencia’s first goal had been coming, and when Gomez wrapped it up the game was beyond Barcelona, who never seemed like showing that quality to go and win.

Quique Setien’s arrival seemed to be the change the Blaugrana needed, but a poor display at the Mestalla shows the same problems are there. It was a very underwhelming performance from Barcelona, who only have themselves to blame for a damaging defeat.


Player Ratings

Starting XI: Ter Stegen (7*); Roberto (6), PIque (5), Umtiti (6), Alba (5); Arthur (5), De Jong (7), Busquets (5); Fati (5), Griezmann (5), Messi (6).

Substitutes: Vidal (5), Rakitic (N/A), Callado (N/A).


Marc Andre Ter Stegen

STAR MAN – With the absence of quality outfield, ?Marc-Andre ter Stegen was the standout player for Barcelona. The German goalkeeper was outstanding in between the sticks and pulled off some critical saves, though in the end his 



Looking Ahead

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It’s midweek action in the Copa del Rey next, with Valencia travelling to third division side Cultural Leonesa on Wednesday. Los Ches are back at the Mestalla on the weekend, when they host Celta Vigo next Saturday.

Barcelona have two home games in three days, starting with the visit of Leganes in the Copa del Rey on Thursday. The Blaugrana then entertain Levante at the Camp Nou on Sunday, as they hope to extend their lead at the top of La Liga.


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Liverpool Ahead of Barcelona & Real Madrid in Race for Benfica Starlet Rafael Brito

?Liverpool are leading the race for Benfica starlet Rafael Brito, who is also a target for Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The 18-year-old is yet to make his first league appearance for the Eagles, with the Reds and their rivals eager to make their move before he does so. After his Primeira Liga debut, Brito’s £38m release-clause will become active, having agreed new terms during the early weeks of 2020.

Rafael Brito

Local news outlet Record claim (via ?Sports Mole) that ?Liverpool have been jolted into action after learning of the clause in his deal with Benfica, and they are understood to have the edge over their Spanish competitors.

The Reds came close to signing Brito last summer, only for a deal to fall through as negotiations neared completion. However, they have not given up hope of bringing the Portuguese to Anfield, with Jurgen Klopp’s men believing he’s still open to joining the club.

The German has proved young players – such as Harvey Elliott and Curtis Jones – will have an opportunity in his Liverpool team, which is another factor that seems to work in their favour.

While preferring to play in the middle of defence, Brito is likewise familiar with the holding midfielder position, gaining experience in both roles during his ten-year spell in the Benfica youth setup.

Joscha Wosz,Rafael Brito

Unfortunately, they have no control over his game-time in Lisbon, and forking out £38m for an unproven teenager is unrealistic. If he does make his Primeira Liga bow in the coming months, don’t expect a switch to Anfield anytime soon.

Once his release-clause is active, the chances of Brito joining Liverpool look remote, with regards to the immediate future, at least. 

Nevertheless, this a player the Reds are clearly keeping a close eye on, suggesting a move to Merseyside may eventually materialise, if the defender continues his impressive development.


For more from Ed Alexander, follow him on Twitter

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Copa del Rey: Breaking Down the Last 16 Draw for Barcelona, Real Madrid & the Rest

?The newly revamped Copa del Rey is proving a big hit this year. While the Magic of the Copa™ may have been artificially inseminated (single-leg fixtures played at the home of the lower-ranked team), it has proved no less welcome.

30-time winners Barcelona went behind to third-tier UD Ibiza and had to rely on a double from Antoine Griezmann to get them out of trouble, while Unionistas de Salamanca (also third tier) won hearts and minds with their display against Real Madrid.

The recently formed community-owned club – ?whose celebrations after being drawn against Madrid went viral – gave ?Los Blancos a real test despite the eventual 3-1 defeat. 

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However, the big story of the round was Cultural Leonesa (Segunda B) beating Diego Simeone’s ?Atletico Madrid 2-1.

The last time Los Rojiblancos went out to a Segunda B team was in 2011. The next day manager Gregorio Manzano was fired and replaced by (drum roll…) Diego Simeone.

The only thing that would’ve made it more embarrassing for the Argentine coach would have been if Leonesa had been wearing this kit.

Atleti weren’t the only Goliath felled in the round of 32, as Primera sides Mallorca, Espanyol, Celta Vigo and Real Betis all went out, while Bilbao needed penalties to get past Elche.

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In the words of The Spanish Football Podcast: #CopaDelYay.

Bring on the last 16!


2019/20 Copa del Rey Last 16 Draw

?Badajoz vs ?Granada
?Cultural Leonesa ?vs ?Valencia
?Tenerife ?vs Athletic Club?
?Real Zaragoza ?vs ?Real Madrid
?Mirandes vs? Sevilla?
?Rayo Vallecano vs? ?Villarreal
??Barcelona ?vs ?Leganes
?Real Sociedad ?vs ?Osasuna

As reward for being the last two Segunda B sides in the draw, Badajoz and Cultural Leonesa were drawn with Granada and Valencia respectively – the former perhaps less glamorous but eminently winnable. Amazingly, Badajoz are fourth in the division that also contains Granada’s B side.

After seeing off Atleti, Qatari-backed Leonesa – in the last 16 for the first time since 1960 – will be confident of facing whoever comes to the lion’s den, or Lion King Stadium as their home turf is genuinely called. Well, sort of – Estadio Reino de Leon.

Tenerife, Rayo and Mirandes can give life to middling seasons in the second tier with big scalps against their Primera opponents. Perhaps high-flying Sevilla travelling the length of Spain from Andalusia to the Basque Country and the sub-6,000-seater Estadio Municipal de Anduva represents the biggest piece of discarded yellow fruit.


Zaragoza – who are seeking promotion back to the top flight under former Copa del Rey winner as a player Victor Fernandez – hosting Real Madrid is arguably the tie of the round.

Barcelona face off against relegation battlers Leganes in a fixture that looks infinitely less anxiety-inducing for Quique Setien than, say, away to Rayo or Leonesa…

The other all-Primera match-up sees Europe-chasing Real Sociedad host Osasuna – a contest that finished 4-3 in the league just last month.

The last 16 ties will be played in a single-match format on 28, 29 and 30 of January.

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90min’s Definitive European Power Rankings: Week 18 – Derry Girls Special

?Following a week in which: 

– Liverpool won AGAIN hi.

– Benfica won AGAIN hi.

– Ciro Immobile scored AGAIN hi.

– Brendan Rodgers whitened his teeth AGAIN hi. 

We, using quotes from my hometown’s favourite TV show Derry Girls, rank the 15 best football teams in Europe. Lethal hi. 


15. Willem II (New Entry) 

Damil Dankerlui

“Slainte muthaf**kas!”

Didn’t expect to see Willem II in the Definitive European Power Rankings, did you? Neither did I to be honest, but because it’s been a pretty lean week, I scoured Eredivisie and found William Shatner FC are actually really good. 

They’re unbeaten in their last seven league games, and have beaten Ajax, PSV Eindhoven and AZ Alkmaar in recent weeks. That’s impressive. 

So raise a glass to Willem II, and congratulate them on their first ever appearance in 90min’s Definitive European Power Rankings. Leefs hi. 


14. Schalke 04 (New Entry) 

Yevhen Konoplyanka

“Directly before the weeping, can you remember what you were doing? What you were talking about?”

After a Christmas period of mourning the loss of their prodigious goalkeeper – Alexander Nübel – to Bayern Munich (yeah, that’s happened before…), Schalke 04 stopped weeping, dusted themselves down and got back to business. 

And by back to business, we mean beat high-flying Borussia Monchengladbach. Pure class hi. 


13. Marseille (New Entry) 

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“Ach, Fionnula, what about you? I thought I could smell vinegar!”

Ach, Andre Villas-Boas, what about you? I thought I could smell Premier League flop! 

And after flopping, in a big, big way in England, it looked like AVB’s managerial career might’ve been dead and buried. 

But now he’s back, in pog form (wrong show, but it had to be done)! 

The former ‘next big thing’ is making waves in France with Marseille, playing some of the best football in Europe and guiding them to second in Ligue 1. Fair play hi. 


12. Bayern Munich (Up 2) 

Thomas Mueller,. Thiago Alcantara

“Oh, bunk. I’ll find some dirt on you yet, boy. I’ve got people working on it.”

?Bayern are working on it. 

They’re working on a way to reinvigorate their squad. 

They’re working on a way to challenge RB Leipzig at the top of the Bundesliga. 

They’re working on a way to get out of paying £120m for a Philippe Coutinho – because he’s pure brock hi. 


11. Benfica (Up 2) 

Players of SL Benfica celebrate

“Step aside, we are armed.”

Benfica’s last 14 Primeira Liga games: 

Played: 14. 

Won: 14. 

Drawn: 0.

Lost: 0.

Goals Scored: 37.

Goals Conceded: 4.

Goal Difference: +29. 

Step aside Portuguese football teams, Benfica are armed and dangerous. Far too good hi. 


10. Barcelona (-)

Quique Setien

“They were having a party. I could hear the music.”

Thou shall not make any Ibiza jokes. Thou shall not make any Ibiza jokes. Thou shall not make any Ibiza jokes. They’re lazy and everyone else has done them…

The Quique Setien era at ?Barcelona began in earnest this past week, with the former Real Betis overseeing surprisingly slender wins over Granada and Ibiza.

The mediocre performance in Ibiza was probably largely due to the fact that the Barcelona players were TOO BUSY RAVING WITH WAYNE LINEKER AND TIESTO AND [INSERT DJ NAME HERE] WAHEYYYYYYYYYYYYYY to care about the match. Nearly refrained hi. 


9. Manchester City (-)

Aymeric Laporte

“What are we going to do?”

“Well maybe we could start with calming the f**k down.”

Don’t panic ?Manchester City, the only player at the club who can actually defend is now fully fit. And judging by the fact that his return coincided with the Citizens’ first clean sheet in five games, that’s a pretty good thing. 

Nice one hi. 


8. Inter (Down 3) 

Romelu Lukaku

“Does anyone have 10p, I’m ringing Childline.”

“You can’t ring Childline every time your mother threatens to kill you.”

?Inter, you can’t sign a Premier League player every time you drop points. That isn’t going to work. 

What you really need is a tactical plan B. You need to work out a way to win games when you’re not going “100 km/h”. 

That’s the key hi. 


7. Leicester City (-) 

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“Lovely, altogether. You know, every year I sit backstage listening to the singers and it really makes me realise just how talented the professionals who originally recorded these tracks were.”

Big Brendy Baps and ?Leicester City are lovely, altogether. They absolutely pummelled West Ham in midweek and sit pretty comfortably in the top three. 

You know, watching them really makes me realise just how good Liverpool are, because they’re 19 points clear of Leicester City. That’s mad hi. 


6. Paris Saint-Germain (Up 2) 

Neymar Jr,Kylian Mbappe

“Great show.”

Kylian Mbappe’s Ligue 1 stats:

 

Games Played: 14.

Goals: 13.

Assists: 4.

Neymar’s Ligue 1 stats: 

Games Played: 12. 

Goals: 11. 

Assists: 5. 

Great showing from the two most electric footballers in Europe. Absolutely unreal hi. 


5. Real Madrid (Down 1) 

Brahim Diaz

“Relax love, we’ve a good two or three hours before the rioting starts.”

Things are going really well at Real Madrid at the moment. They’re joint top of La Liga, through to the next round of the UEFA Champions League and the Copa del Rey, and all their golden oldies are performing. 

So we can fully expect all hell to break loose, riots to ensue and the sky to fall when they inevitably are knocked out of the Champions League by Manchester City. It’s going to be a disaster hi. 


4. SS Lazio (Up 2)

Ciro Immobile

“Well I am not being individual on me own.”

Usually 90min’s Definitive European Power Rankings team laud Ciro Immobile, at least, twice a week. However, this week, we thought that it’s high time we praised his supporting cast, because they’re all bloody brilliant too.

– Simone Inzaghi: You’re best manager in Italy; keep up the good work. 

– Thomas Strakosha: It’s very impressive to be this good at 24 years old. 

– Luiz Felipe: You’re only 22? Prospect much?! 

– Francesco Acerbi: We are so glad you’re still playing football, and doing so at the highest level. 

– Stefan Radu: Nice job with the whole conversion from left back to left centre back. Seamless. 

– Manuel Lazzari: What a signing you’ve been. 

– Sergej Milinkovic-Savic: You’re probably the best midfielder in Serie A. 

– Lucas Leiva: It’s weird how good you’ve been in recent years. 

– Luis Alberto: How did Liverpool not see how amazing you are? 

– Stefan Lulic: The best LWB in Serie A for over a decade. 

– Joaquin Correa: I just really enjoy watching you play football. 

Props to you all hi. 


3. RB Leipzig (Down 1) 

Julian Nagelsmann

“Lovely job so far Seamus, but, you know, keep it moving – Rawhide is on in 15 minutes.”

Lovely job so far Julian, but, you, keep it moving – Bayern Munich have won their last four and are just four points adrift of your RB Leipzig atop of the Bundesliga. Keep up the good work hi. 


2. Juventus (Up 1) 

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“Orla has got really into step aerobics. Her instructor says she’s a natural. Says she’s got what it takes to go all the way.”

Maurizio Sarri has really got into this whole winning this. He’s a natural. 

So far this season, he’s become only the second manager since 1929/30 to win 14 of his first 15 home games with Juventus. Oh and he’s also accumulated more Serie A points in his first season in charge than any other manager in the club’s history. 

He’s got what it takes to go all the way with Juventus hi. 


1. Liverpool (-) 

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“We’re basically celebrities now, we’re like The Corrs.”

The 2019/20 Liverpool team are basically the best team in Premier League history now, they’re like the Corrs…no that’s not right…I mean, they’re like a mix between Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’, Man City’s ‘Centurians’ and Manchester United’s treble winners all wrapped into one. 

Unbeatable hi. 


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Adama Traore & 6 Other Surprising Stars to Have Passed Through Barcelona’s La Masia

?Barcelona’s La Masia academy is a place of great renown, responsible for producing some of the greatest footballers the game has ever seen and setting the standards for passing, possession-based football.

While granite-forged uncompromising tacklers like Carles Puyol have been developed at ‘The Farm’, the academy is far more associated with technical wizards such as Xavi, Fabregas, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi. 

The footballing equivalents of cup and ball magicians who show and take away in a sleight-of-foot instant, then pass, pass and pass you into oblivion – ?players that ‘get you that carousel and make you dizzy’ as Sir Alex famously put it.

It seems odd then that ?Wolves’ tank-like dribble machine Adama Traore is too a product of the ?Barcelona school of football, spending 11 years there between 2004 and 2015.

Adama Traore

After mixed spells with Aston Villa and Middlesbrough, the 23-year-old is now the Premier League’s top dribble maker and has been one of the standout performers in England in 2019/20, grabbing his seventh assist of the campaign in the narrow defeat to Liverpool.

?Wolves’ unstoppable object ?has not ruled out a return to his unlikely alma mater in the future.

Here are six other players who it may surprise you to learn also spent time in La Masia


Mauro Icardi (Inter/Paris Saint-Germain)

Mauro Icardi

After scoring obscene numbers of goals as a pre-teen in the Canary Islands, Barcelona won the race to snap up a young Icardi up to their youth academy, where he played between 2008 and 2011.

However – as a player who frequently finishes matches with fewer touches than the goalkeeper – Icardi’s style clashed somewhat with Barça’s.

“Barcelona’s game was very different to my characteristics and we opted a change to Italian football, which is the one that suits me the most,” ?he said in an interview about his time in Catalonia.

Off-field drama aside, now 26, Icardi has twice won Serie A’s Capocannoniere since leaving Barça and is one of the world’s deadliest (if not the most defensive) strikers.


Oriol Romeu (Southampton)

Oriol Romeu

Quite at home getting muddy on a cold and wet Monday night away at [insert undesirable Premier League club here], Romeu seems a world away from Barcelona where he began his career.

Given his senior debut by Pep Guardiola in 2010 no less, Romeu made just two senior appearances before joining ?Chelsea eight-and-a-half years ago.

Barcelona’s buyback option was never exercised and Romeu has (after some loan spells in Spain and Germany) become one of the Premier League’s regular fixtures, often pushing the upper end of the tackles and cards charts at Southampton.


Martin Montoya (Brighton)

Martin Montoya

Not only did Brighton right back Montoya feature in La Masia, he graduated – playing 67 times for the Barcelona first team between 2011 and 2014 (often as a sub).

Like Romeu, the Catalan defender is seemingly more naturally suited to the muck and bullets approach of a Premier League scrap than tiki-taka.

He is Brighton’s second top tackler in the Premier League this season, while he has made the fewest passes of any of the Seagulls regular back four/five. The 28-year-old can get forward, and even play as a winger, but has just two assists and zero goals in his time with Brighton.


Sandro Ramirez (Everton/Real Valladolid)

Primera Division - "FC Barcelona v Levante UD"

Still technically an ?Everton player, Sandro represents the mistakes of the club’s recent transfer strategy.

On paper, back in 2017, he seemed like a no-brainer. The former Barça starlet had been banging them in for Malaga and had a release clause of just €6m. However, the forward scored just once in 16 appearances (never in the Premier League) and struggled to fit in on Merseyside.

Now in his third loan spell (Real Valladolid), Sandro has amazingly scored just two goals since the 2017/18 season back when he joined the Toffees.

Even at his early best, Sandro seemed like a burly, battering ram of a forward, unsuited to Barça’s philosophy. Now at still only 24, that has been borne out, but whether he will ever find the right club for him at the top level remains to be seen.


Pepe Reina (Milan/Aston Villa)

Gary McAllister,Jose Manual Reina

A fine and accomplished goalkeeper, it just feels a little odd that Reina started his career at Barcelona.

Following in his father Miguel Reina’s footsteps (who played over 100 times for Barça in the 60s and 70s), Madrid-born Pepe joined La Masia as a teen, coming through the system at a similar time to Iniesta, Xavi and Victor Valdes.

After signing Robert Enke and with Valdes coming through, Reina – the future cheerleader in chief for the Spanish national team during their best moments – was shipped out to Villarreal by Barça. However, that was not before losing to future employers ?Liverpool in the 2001 UEFA Cup semi-final, after conceding a Gary McAllister penalty (above).


Keita Balde Diao (Monaco)

Keita Balde

Born in Catalonia, Senegal international Keita was picked up by Barcelona as a youngster, spending seven years in La Masia between 2004 and 2011.

Discipline problems apparently cost him the chance to break through into the first team and the uber-direct, uber-pacey winger was offloaded to for just €300k Lazio.

After bagging 16 in the 2016/17 Serie A season, 24-year-old Keita has since struggled for consistency with Monaco and Inter.

Once again on a hot streak, he has five goals in as many games for Monaco, under new manager Robert Moreno. Discipline and holding onto the ball – the cornerstone of a good La Masia education – still remains an issue, however.


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