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Know Thine Enemigo: Atlético Madrid-Valencia CF Q&A with Paco Polit

Plus, Diego Simeone’s possible lineup and a prediction for Saturday’s partidazo.

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Valencia CF v Deportivo Alaves - La Liga Photo by David Aliaga/MB Media/Getty Images

Valencia had a chaotic summer which spilled into the early season with Marcelino’s sacking. Is there an end in sight to the drama at the top?

I don’t really think so. There actually is an end in sight for the whole Mateu Alemany drama, because Valencia and the current CEO are working on a deal so he can leave the club after being divested of all power this summer. Owner Peter Lim has decided to bring the decision-making much closer to him, and that includes firing Marcelino and enforcing a new approach where most of the big moves in the club are once again, as it happened between 2015 and 2017, taken in Singapore.

How would you asses Albert Celades’ work as coach so far?

He has been smart enough to realize how traumatic Marcelino’s sacking was, and he’s done a good job getting the support of a squad who really believed in the former manager. Obviously his style is not as direct and polished as Marcelino’s, but Celades has a few little tricks under his sleeve and has managed to come off unscathed after a wild 7-game run in 21 days just after landing in Valencia. However, the challenge will be similarly difficult after the break, starting with this weekend’s visit to Madrid.

Spain Training and Press Conference Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images

Rodrigo Moreno nearly signed for Atlético Madrid this summer, but he’s stayed at Valencia. In this sense, was Valencia’s best move this summer one that wasn’t made?

Well, I guess it could be, as Valencia had no real plans to sign another top striker if Rodrigo left in the last days of the market. So yeah, it ultimately was a close call. It actually was one of the last points of friction between Marcelino and Lim: the coach wasn’t too pleased with Rodrigo’s transfer, but he wouldn’t have really complained if he was guaranteed a proper replacement. That wasn’t the case, so he was bitterly criticizing the move in press conferences because he knew the team would suffer a big blow if he left.

Why doesn’t the outstanding Dani Parejo get more attention?

That’s an excellent question. My view: for some people, Parejo will always be the player who disappointed in his first couple seasons and will never, ever admit the monster of a player he has become in the last five years. He has been a consistent beacon for the team even in the direst times, but that small portion of the fanbase will always slam him regardless of how well he plays. Also, he’s not a “pretty” player, a midfielder easy to hype: he’s a veteran, he hadn’t won any titles until the Copa del Rey last season. That has always relegated him to a second or third level when compared to other big midfielders such as Busquets, Koke, Saúl, Cazorla, etc.

How can Valencia win this match and what do you think will happen?

Of course they can. I actually hope they can pick up a point if Celades is able to get the lines tighter and the players more coordinated when defending. At this point, allowing goals has been his main problem in his short stint as Valencia’s coach: that solid attitude and style the team used to have till September was gone in the subsequent weeks. If the squad manages to keep the score low, they have a shot at delivering a big upset to Atleti, who are struggling to score this season.

Possible XI

Oblak; Arias, Felipe, Giménez, Lodi; Thomas, Saúl, Koke, João Félix; Costa, Morata

Predicted scoreline

1-1. One of LaLiga’s oldest fixtures has gone Atlético’s way in recent years — the last time the Rojiblancos lost to Los Che was Oct. 4, 2014. Valencia have not defeated Diego Simeone’s side in Madrid since the Argentine took over, and I think that streak stays intact Saturday. But — call it a hunch — I don’t think Atleti are solving these attacking woes this weekend, not even against a defense which has been hit for seven goals in the past four games. Celades will be without two of his most dangerous players in Rodrigo and Gonçalo Guedes, meaning the visitors can throw their efforts into defending Jasper Cillessen’s net.

Jeremy’s record on the season: 6-4

How to watch

Date: Oct. 19, 2019

Location: Estadio Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid, Spain

Kickoff time: 4:00 p.m. CET, 3:00 p.m. GMT, 10:00 a.m. EST, 7:00 a.m. PST

Available TV/streaming: MiTele Plus, Movistar+ (Spain), beIN Sports, (United States), DAZN (Germany), Eleven Sports 1 (Portugal), Stöð 2 Sport (Iceland), Cosmote Sport 5 (Greece), QQ Sports Live (China)