El Centrocampista

Valencia begin to enjoy life under Mauricio Pellegrino

Photo: Reuters

It was a risk, a massive one at that. When you consider how much Valencia’s financial situation relies on a top four finish, the anxiety around the decision to replace Unai Emery with rookie Mauricio Pellegrino is completely valid, but slowly it’s being alleviated.

Football is undeniably the biggest sport in the World, and it continues to grow at a phenomenal rate, putting Pellegrino’s job as a first time manager at the third biggest club in Spanish football under intense scrutiny. Yet after a difficult start that included away trips to the Camp Nou and Santiago Bernabeu in his first three matches, the Argentine has most recently won seven of his last nine games in charge.

Signings have been implemented successfully; Aly Cissokho and Joao Pereira have slotted comfortably into their place as first choice fullbacks and are outperforming a previously impressive set of center backs. Fernando Gago is running games in the middle of the park and showing a level of confidence and sheer class that had been missing since his €20 million move from Boca Juniors to Real Madrid.

Alongside him sits Tino Costa, a player so disillusioned with his Valencia career under Unai Emery that he angled for a move in the summer, now with a new contract he plays converted into a deep lying playmaker role from his previously attacking midfield position.

Roberto Soldado is no longer an isolated and frustrated figure, he’s now a striker that despite a shaky start to the season is receiving support from all over the pitch, Sofiane Feghouli’s development continues at a rapid rate and while Andres Guardado’s start has been underwhelming to a degree, his defensive game and overall contribution to the team has been vast. Jonathan Viera’s step up to the Primera has been steady whilst Nelson Valdez’s impact off the bench sees him with one of the best goal-per-minute ratios in Europe.

Valencia are becoming a spirited team once again with the confidence and freedom of play rarely seen in recent seasons, the performances are improving as the season goes on and now results are begging to match that.

In Europe a previous tale of missed opportunities, Valencia sit second, level on points with Bayern Munich in their Champions League group, with a superior goal difference but below on head to head- qualification is looking increasingly likely, a win at home to Bayern in two weeks’ time could secure qualification from the group, if not a win away to lowly Lille is likely to be enough .

In the league it’s been a struggle for consistency with fantastic home form, four wins and one draw, cancelled out exactly by a poor away record, four losses and one draw, leaving Valencia in 11th; five points adrift of the top four. Only a single goal has been scored on the road in the league this season- a statistic even more damning when three of the defeats have been by a score of 1-0 where points were very much up for grabs. However, the biggest issue under Unai Emery, points dropped from winning positions, is seemingly being remedied with it only happening in one game of the 20 Pellegrino has managed so far this season- in a home draw against Deportivo.

Stopping Atletico Madrid’s 25 game unbeaten run can hardly be bettered in terms of confidence boosting as shown by the 4-2 drubbing of BATE on Wednesday night, Pellegrino will look to take that to Castilla y Leon on Saturday as his team looks for their first away league win of the season against Real Valladolid.

Pellegrino’s ex-Valencia teammate Miroslav Dukic will be waiting for him at the Estadio Jose Zorrilla, having previously partnered Dukic in Valencia’s defence in the early 2000’s Pellegrino will be hoping for his second win over the Serbian after already beating him to the post of Valencia manager during the summer.

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