Unai Emery - Valencia Manager
"We forget that today will be the fifth match against Madrid at the Mestalla since I've been here. We have won two and lost two.... Therefore, we know what it is to beat them."
"We must be prepared for any style of game. What I do say is that we want the ball, because it is in our personality."
Unai Emery made 3 changes to the side that beat Levante. Diego Alves replaced Guaita in-goal having played mainly in the Champions League. Miguel came in for Bruno at right-back, the biggest surprise was Dani Parejo being given his 1st start of the season having signed from Getafe in the summer. Questions were beginning to be asked on how highly the youngster was rated by his manager. The starting formation also changed from a 4-4-2 to a 4-2-3-1 with Aduriz the one to make way up front. Emery normally uses the double left back option in away games and against the "Big Two" with Alba and Mathieu combining together in tandem.
Aitor Karanka - Real Madrid Assistant Coach
"I don't believe that was a normal result. This year is going to a totally different game and I don't think we are going to hit 6 goals again."
"It's clear that this season Valencia are very strong and are right behind us."
Real also made 3 alterations to the team that beat Osasuna before the international break. Marcelo returned from injury, Benzema started ahead of Higuaín and Lass Diarra came into tighten things up in midfield. Injuries to Kaka and Ángel Dí Maria ruled the pair out, after last seasons 6-3, both teams seemed to select more defensive personnel to stop the game being as open. Real Madrid had won there last 7 games in La Liga.
Valencia started the game quickly, looking to unsettle Real immediately by being in there face. Dani Parejo looked to pressure Xabi Alonso in order to stop the former Liverpool man having the time and space to pick out he's passes. Both teams pressed high up the pitch and were quick to close the opposition down when not in possession. Mourinho's decision to play a centre midfield three worked well as the energy of Lass and Khedira set the tempo for his side without the ball. Sami Khedira in particular had a superb first half, looking to join the attack as fast as possible by either taking up positions in front of the defence or powering through in behind the back four. With Ronaldo preferring not to defend as much, the German also doubled up to help out Marcelo when Miguel joined the attack for Valencia.
The goal seemed to come out of nothing as previously there had been a couple of half chances for Real but little else as the away side had begun to dominate. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but perhaps there were indications that the goal was coming as Valencia failed to take heed of particular movements from their opponents.
1) Benzema - The Frenchman had a couple of chances early on, whilst his finishing at this time was a little off, his movement had been good in order to create the initial space.
2) The ball over the top - Moments earlier Khedira had surged forward to be picked out by a ball in between Miguel and Rami. Had his first touch been a little better he would have managed to get his shot away without allowing the defence to recover.
3) Free Kicks from deep - The diagonal ball from Xabi Alonso to the far post enabled Real to outnumber Valencia by 3 to 2, the resulting header back across fell to Khedira who failed to hit the target.
All 3 of these actions resulted in the goal as Xabi Alonso's free kick from deep, sailed over the top to Benzema who controlled with his right before hitting a powerful volley with his left. Valencia's defence had gone to sleep again.
The goal settled Real down into a rhythm as they moved the ball around effectively and tried to move Valencia out of position. Valencia's wingers Mathieu and Feghouli tracked back and denied there opponents much room out on the wings, this forced Marcelo in particular to cut inside earlier and push him and Ronaldo into an area in which Real were already dominating. With both wingers tucked back and with Xabi Alonso able to return the favour and deny Parejo space, Valencia's only out ball from the consistent attacks was to Robert Soldado who was a little isolated further up the field. Real had 61% of the overall possession and had completed 86% of the 148 passes they had attempted.
Valencia improved immensely after the break, this was down to a more patient build up in deeper positions. There was less of an urgency to get the ball forward, this enabled the home side to build up confidence on the ball and relieve the pressure that had been building through out the first period. Parejo dropped a little deeper in order to lose Alonso and become more involved in the early movements.
A challenge by Marcelo on Soldado threatened to see the game boil over as a number of fouls, yellow cards and confrontations came to the forefront. Sometimes this can slow a game down but on this occasion it just added to the overall atmosphere and tension.
Valencia's quick responses
Real's 2nd goal from a corner seemed to settle the match but within 4 minutes Valencia had a lifeline. Emery's substitutions paid off as it was Jonas ball through to Pablo (who had only been on the pitch 2 minutes), he's shot was saved and Soldado finished the rebound with an exquisite finish.
A Diego Alves mistake enabled Real to push their advantage further once again, the Brazilian goalkeeper missed the ball as he came out of he area but full credit should be given to Ronaldo who finished from the tight angle. As Graham Hunter pointed out on Twitter, in the build up to the goal there were 6 consecutive one on ones, which were won by Real using either power or speed. This is something that has particularly stood out for Los Blancos in the season to date. Once again though Valencia responded quickly when Pablo pulled back what seemed to have been a lost cause and Soldado grabbed his 2nd of the match.
Valencia's final substitution saw the team move to a 4-4-2, with fresh legs occupying both the wide positions already, this enabled an extra striker to be added alongside Soldado.
The game ended with controversy as Valencia threw everything at their opponents. After hitting the crossbar from a corner, the ball appeared to strike Higuaín on the arm whilst lying on the floor, despite seeing it a number of times, I'm yet to see an angle that proves conclusive. Four Valencia players surrounded to referee in the appeal.
Mourinho's tactics were spot on from the start of the match as Valencia failed to deal with the energy in the middle of the park. Question marks may be asked over Unai Emery's initial selection but his reactive management skills were fantastic as his first 2 substitutions got his side back into the game. Conceding two goals from set pieces will be a particular worry.
Unai Emery - Valencia Manager
"The defeat leaves us sad. Real, in the first half, had control of the ball, but in the second half we let go a little, we took a step further forward. I think it would have been just a 3-3."
"Parejo played because we wanted to make it hard on Xabi by marking and it was a very good alternative."
Aitor Karanka - Real Madrid Assistant Coach
"Just like I said yesterday Mestalla is a very complicated ground for visiting teams and we know the 3 points we have come away with tonight are very important."
"There are many matches left to play and we know that we must continue our day to day work, to ensure we continue to pick up points. I hope people can see that this team is capable of winning it's matches in different ways, by playing brilliantly or suffering like we did tonight."