Monday, 7 December 2015

Five things Gary Neville learned from Valencia's dramatic draw with Barca

Five things Gary Neville learned from Valencia's dramatic draw with Barca
Los Che's new boss wasn't in charge yet against Luis Enrique's side, but he will have been impressed as his team battled back to snatch a point in the 85th minute
Gary Neville must have been happy with that. Valencia’s new coach doesn’t take charge of his new side until Sunday morning, but he was in the stands as los Che fought back from a goal down to snatch a point from league leaders Barcelona.

Luis Enrique's side were in the ascendency for large parts of the encounter and took the lead through Luis Suarez in the second half. However, there was plenty of spirit and fight to Valencia’s performance and they were rewarded when Santi Mina fired in an 85th minute equaliser.

Next up is a vital Champions League game against Lyon on Wednesday, by which time Neville will have taken his place on Mestalla's bench. In the meantime, though, Goal takes a look at what he will have learned from Saturday’s draw against Lionel Messi and his Barca colleagues...


VALENCIA HAVE TO IMPROVE IN ATTACK


When Mina’s late strike flew past Claudio Bravo, the whole city of Valencia must have erupted as Mestalla did. However, there have not been enough goals for the club to celebrate so far this season.

They have only scored 18 times in 14 league matches - a goalscoring rate which will not be enough if they want to push for a Champions League spot.

Only three players have struck more than once in La Liga - and one of them is injured defender Shkodran Mustafi. Paco Alcacer, who set up Mina with a wonderful display of strength against Barca, has six strikes but he can still add more.

Meanwhile the likes of Alvaro Negredo and Rodrigo Moreno - who both missed this game - will have to contribute as well.


MAKE USE OF DE PAUL AND DANILO


Two players in particular may have impressed Neville on Saturday: Rodrigo De Paul and Danilo.

De Paul was making just his third start of the season and his first since August, but it didn’t tell. He had the confidence, the touch and the quality to get at Barcelona’s back-line.

Problems with recently-sacked coach Nuno Espirito Santo saw him left in the dark - Neville’s appointment looks like it will provide the 21-year-old Argentine forward with the lease of life he needs.

Elsewhere in midfield, Danilo’s performance belied his age. Considering he was up against a Barca trio of Andres Iniesta, Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets, the 19-year-old really impressed.


MESTALLA CAN BECOME A FORTRESS


It’s amazing what a lick of paint does. Delays on finishing their new stadium meant Valencia’s previously-dour Mestalla got treated to a dash of colour last season - now bright orange, it certainly feels more like a home.

On top of that, Mestalla has the support to match its vibrancy. Thousands of Valencia fans lined the streets to welcome the team bus before the match, with flares and chanting greeting Neville’s new players.

Inside they got behind their team - and got on Barca’s backs, especially Gerard Pique. With the fans on side, Mestalla is one of Europe’s toughest places to visit.

It will have been a nice reminder for Neville, given he said as much in his presentation on Thursday. “When I played here it was a horrible place to play football,” he remarked. “I have seen how intimidating it can be, I’ve experienced it myself and I want the fans to come back and to be as ferocious as they were against us all those years ago.”


LOS CHE A LONG WAY BEHIND BARCA...


The scoreline perhaps didn’t reflect the pattern of the game - not that Neville will be complaining.

Messi, Suarez and Neymar were in a charitable mood, with all three guilty of missing chances they would normally convert in the first half.

In the end Suarez’s goal - the 126th of an incredible calendar year from Barca’s front three - looked like it would settle the game, only for Mina to strike at the death.

But Neville, who will no doubt be impressed by the performance, won’t be fooled by the result. Valencia might have competed, but there was a clear void of quality to be seen.


...BUT THEY SHOULD BE IN THE TOP FOUR


A point against this Barcelona team is a huge confidence boost - something which Neville already mentioned has been lacking in the squad this season.

This is a Barca side who, in recent weeks, battered Real Madrid 4-0 at their own ground, scored six times against Roma and put four past Real Sociedad.

But even if they can’t compete with the Catalan juggernaut, Valencia should back themselves to move up the table having started the weekend in ninth place.
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