Valencia will be hoping to begin their season on a high when they take on Real Sociedad at the Mestalla to kick off their La Liga campaign on Saturday.
The games are starting to come thick and fast in the 2019-20 La Liga season, as teams look to hit their stride in the new campaign. One of the top four hopefuls, Valencia, will get their season underway at home on Saturday, when they take on Real Sociedad, who will be hoping to return to European football next season.
Valencia were slow starters in La Liga last term, as a series of draws resulted in them languishing in the bottom half of the table. But, Los Che ended the season strongly, accumulating the most points in the last ten games to qualify for the Champions League once again. Marcelino’s men ended their campaign on a high, winning the Copa del Rey, but have had a mixed bag of a pre-season.
Real Sociedad, on the other hand, were in the mix for what was an exciting race for the Europa League spots. In the end, La Real missed out on the competition by a mere three points, in what was a straight decider between them and Espanyol. Like Valencia, Imanol Alguacil’s men have had their hits and misses in the pre-season, but will be hopeful of a solid La Liga season.
The corresponding fixture last season ended up being a dull affair, with Valencia and Real Sociedad playing out a drab goalless draw. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the La Liga encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Marcelino will be without the services of a few notable stars ahead of his side’s first La Liga match of the season. Against Real Sociedad on Saturday, the Valencia boss will be without four first-team players, with Mouctar Diakhaby a minor doubt due to a leg injury.
Apart from the French defender, Marcelino cannot call upon Jose Gaya and Dani Parejo, both of whom are injured. Meanwhile, star striker Rodrigo misses out as well, in the wake of his move to Atletico Madrid collapsing, while Kangin Lee is out injured.
In Rodrigo’s absence, summer signing Maxi Gomez will partner Kevin Gameiro upfront, with Gomez looking to continue his fine record against Real Sociedad. In the middle of the park, the onus will be on replacing Parejo, with Geoffrey Kondogbia and Francis Coquelin forming the central midfield partnership.
Goncalo Guedes and Carlos Soler are expected to be the wide midfielders, who will have a lot of creative responsibilities on their shoulders. At the back, Jaume Costa will be the man to replace Gaya, while Cristiano Piccini will line up on the opposite flank.
At the heart of the Valencia defence, Ezequiel Garay will partner up with Gabriel Paulista, with new signing Eliaquim Mangala not making his debut just yet. The lineup will be completed by former Barcelona goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen, who will be keen to resurrect his career at Valencia, starting against Real Sociedad.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Cillessen; Piccini, Garay, Gabriel, Jaume Costa; Carlos Soler, Kondogbia, Coquelin, Guedes; Gameiro, Maxi Gomez
Like his counterpart in the Valencia dugout, Imanol Alguacil has a few concerns on his hands ahead of his side’s trip to the Mestalla. On Saturday, the Real Sociedad boss will be without three first-team players, with Aritz Elustondo suspended, while Modibo Sagnan (hamstring) and Portu (calf) are out injured.
None of the absentees pose a great deal of concern though, with Elustondo’s absence easily being compensated for by Robin Le Normand, who will partner Diego Llorente at the heart of the Real Sociedad defence. Joseba Zaldua and Aihen Munoz ought to be the two full-backs.
Asier Illarramendi will hold the key for La Real in the middle of the park, with his solid presence in front of the defensive line. David Zurutuza should pay the former Real Madrid man company in the midfield double pivot.
Up ahead in the attacking midfield line, Adnan Januzaj and Mikel Oyarzabal will start as the two inside forwards, while Martin Odegaard will play off the central striker, who ought to be the strong and powerful Willian Jose.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Remiro; Zaldua, Llorente, Le Normand, Aihen Munoz; Zurutuza, Illarramendi; Januzaj, Odegaard, Mikel Oyarzabal; Willian Jose
- In the last ten meetings between the two sides, Valencia and Real Sociedad have both managed four wins apiece (D2).
- Valencia are on a hot streak, considering the final ten games of the 2018-19 La Liga season, having accumulated the most number of points in this duration (21).
- Valencia have lost just one of their last 19 home games in La Liga (W14 D4).
- Real Sociedad, on the other hand, have managed to win just one of their last nine games on the road in La Liga.
- Maxi Gomez has netted in each of the leagues games he has played against Real Sociedad. In four La Liga encounters against La Real, the Uruguayan has a return of five goals.
Player to Watch
With Santi Mina headed the other way to Celta Vigo and Rodrigo being out of favour, at least for now, Maxi Gomez will be tasked with being the explosive striker that Valencia seek. The 23-year-old grew exponentially while at Balaidos, and comes to Valencia at the perfect point of his career.
A regular source of goals, Gomez could be just what Valencia need, with Los Che being known to be goal shy at times. With the star striker in tow, Marcelino should see his side become a more potent threat in the final third. A key addition to the side.
Valencia 2-0 Real Sociedad
Real Sociedad are not exactly a side that struggles to find the back of the net. But, La Real seem to have started a slump against Valencia, having failed to win any of their last four meetings with Los Che. Indeed, Valencia seem to have Sociedad’s number, and appear to be the better of the two sides.
Maxi Gomez could be the major game changer on the day, with the Uruguayan likely to be among the goals. The Hard Tackle predicts a rather comfortable result for Valencia, despite the absence of some key stars, with Marcelino & co. winning by a two-goal margin.