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Know Thine Enemy: Atlético - Valencia Q&A with Andre Sherard

Catching up with the scout and supporter of los Che ahead of Sunday’s top-three clash.

FBL-ESP-LIGA-VALENCIA-ATLETICO Photo credit should read JAIME REINA/AFP/Getty Images

Into the Calderón: After a white-hot start, Marcelino’s men have really cooled off, with four losses from the past six league games. Thoughts on the season to this point?

Andre Sherard: It surprised me how fast we started. I knew we were going to be competitive but didn’t think we would get out to such a start. I think the start exceeded my expectations, but I’m worried about the recent form.

ItC: Do you think the squad improved in January?

AS: I would have liked to improve at right back, but we looked to try to improve in central midfield by bringing on Francis Coquelin and attempted to add forward depth with Luciano Vietto.

I think that we partially filled our needs for the rest of the season. Coquelin has played well in several roles and after a bright debut, Vietto needs to regain his form and a first touch (geesh).

ItC: Yeah, you’ll find more than a few Atlético supporters who know exactly how you’re feeling.

Who or what has been the biggest surprise in a team chock full of them?

AS: The biggest surprise is that we have been able to stay in the top three or four for as long as we have. I thought this project would take some time and a fifth or sixth-place finish in the league would be an improvement and something to build upon — and that still might happen as we may have overachieved in the first part of the season, but being in the top three this fast was a surprise.

ItC: Valencia want to buy Gonçalo Guedes, but Atlético are said to be weighing up a summer bid for him. Are you confident he’ll be at Mestalla past this season?

AS: I am concerned if a team like Atlético or even Real Madrid wants him. They can obviously out-bid us in any transfer war that we would get into — especially with you all having the new stadium to bring more money in. I like the player; if there’s one loanee that I would like to keep, it’s him. He has hit a bit of a wall in the last couple of months but the talent is there and I think Marcelino is the one to realize it.

ItC: Real Madrid at home, Barcelona home and away and Atlético away. That’s the run of fixtures VCF are working their way through right now. Have you thought about curling up and crying at any point?

AS: Ha! My confidence level has definitely be tested especially since we have not been on a great run of form lately. If this was last October or September, I would be pushing my chest out and being confident that we can get something out of most of these matches. Now? I’ve taken a seat and looked at where can we nick a point.

ItC: Do you see Marcelino rotating a bit with the Copa del Rey semifinal still neatly poised?

AS: I think Marcelino will rotate as he can. The squad isn’t deep enough with injuries and suspensions to rotate eight or nine players from the squad. I do think if there are guys running on empty that he’ll give them as much rest as possible. But I expect Geoffrey Kondogbia to get a run out since he was not able to feature in the match on Thursday.

ItC: Valencia haven’t beaten Atlético away since Feb. 2011. How can they end that run?

AS: Two disciplined banks of four that don’t get stretched out like we have against Barça and Madrid. Our front-line players have to play much better and hold up the ball so we are not defending as much as we have. That has been my main gripe over the last couple of weeks because we’ve defended well enough. (That 4-1 loss against Real Madrid wasn’t as bad as it looked on the score board.)

ItC: Prediction time.

AS: I think it is going to be another 0-0 draw. I can see it looking like the Spiderman meme where both teams try to allow the other the ball and pick them off on the counter. I would be more than happy with a point especially during this hellish run of matches.