After three years of waiting since the last match organized by Penya Rusa (against Dynamo Kiev) when we were rewarded with Valencia’s presence in Minsk. It meant we could finally watch our team from the stands together.
It was also a chance for us members to finally meet each other in real life, even if we’ve got to know each other well through the internet. The trip to Minsk was a huge success for everybody. Our fans came from all over the former Soviet Union ; Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbadjan, Latvia and, of course, Belarus itself. And our president Vladimir Shreitner went all the way from Valencia on the same flight as the players to visit his native lands.
We managed to get tickets together in the visitor stands, making our presence visible. More importantly, our penya, the Penya Valencianistas Rusa (PVR), was officially recognized by the club and the Agrupación de Peñas Valencianistas (APV).
I arrived in Minsk three days before the match, meeting up with friends from Azerbadjan, while more came from Ukraine the next day. But the majority came from Moscow, filling up a whole train carriage, which was aptly named the “Amunt Carriage”.
Minsk is mostly famous for their ice hockey team, Dinamo. So I went to see a match with them as we waited for the real one. 13.000 spectators filled the hall, making it the highest attendance in the KHL.
But Belarus have other things to show off when coming to sport. BATE, supreme in their own league, relies mostly on homegrown players, but became a real force when Aleksander Hleb joined them before the season. And they showed their prowess after beating both Lille and fancied Bayern Munich before this match against Valencia. And both Juventus and AC Milan have perviously failed to win in Belarus. Their success comes from old coach Kriushenkho, and the current coach Goncharenko has followed his predecessors philosophy.
BATE’s success have also generated a solid fan base, and we didn’t let the chance to play a match against their supporters slip by. Unfortunately, we lost 2-1 in an even match. The opposition had also played the Bayern fans, and beat them 6-1. But we missed our Moscovian and Latvian delegation, which hadn’t arrived yet.
After a night of heavy vodka (supplied by the Ukraineans) night at our hostel. The next day we played against each other, one team orange (the Pellegrino team), and the other blanquinegra (Emery team). Emery team went up two nill, but the Orange came back to equalize. After a penalty shootout, we were still even, and let it be at that. No losers, no winners.
After a shower, we went to a restaurant, which we thoroughly decorated in “Che style”. Attending weren’t just our penya, but also a huge group of Spanish journalists, like Cadena Ser, Marca, Superdeporte, Las Provincias, Radio Nou and VCFPlay. All of them surprised to meet such a commited supporter group thousands of miles away from the city of the Fallas. PR Director of Valencia CF said “I feel like I’m home in Valencia!”.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSBTfrhw1fM Here a link to the meeting, from VCFPlay.
Our Ukrainian handyman had made a gift for the APV from us, a framed emblem of our penya. The club and journalists could sense the uniqueness that is our penya, something different from the local Valencian ones.
With club president Llorente present, it was also a great opportunity to ask him questions “cara a cara”, or face to face. Although many of us disagree with some of his policies, he was very charming and symphatic. We discussed among other things how our penya can cooperate with the club and the APV. He promised us that the official VCF web page will come in Russian, and that the penya will be able to distribute merchandise from Moscow (VCFShop don’t ship to Eastern Europe). I certainly hope the president keep his word, and that this becomes a reality. Some of our fans also requested if the players could run over to our penya during the match if the would score. Fernando Giner (former player and part of the technical staff) promised us they’d do that.
At the end of the meeting, Llorente presented us with gifts as well, a Valencia shirt with number 12, “penya rusa” signed by the players and also by Españeta, and also a Mestalla replica with inscriptions especially for the PVR. Our fans were very pleased by this.
After Llorente and his crew left, we had a meeting among us, where president Shreitner, aka “Godfather”, told us the rules and goals of the peña. Later some members got gifts for good service, as we waited for the match, which by now was a mere five hours away. A few went out to give interviews to local media, while the rest stayed for a few beers while sharing former glories and emotions of Valencia.
Before kickoff, we gathered outside the stadium. 65 orange soldiers ready to support their team of their heart. We were escorted in by the Belarussian militia, but we kept strict discipline, as Belarus isn’t a country you give the police an excuse to act. As we came here for fun, not violence, everything went well.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4lgqQnl7e4 Chanting on their way to the match.
We weren’t so numoerous, but we brought banners, flags, megaphones, drums, scarfs and a huge “pancarta” saying “Penya Valencianistas Rusos”. An hour before kickoff, Cissokho came out to warm up. We chanted for him, and he came over and thanked us. A great starting point for a special relationship between Aly and our peña.
We sang continuosly throughout the match, resulting in many having lost their voice at the second half. Mine took three days to recover!
As you know, Valencia won, which really delighted us. By the end, the home fans started to leave, giving us the chance to sing even louder, and we dominated the stadium together with the team.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7dcIyT32Akc Non-stop support by PVR!
After the match, the players and directors came over, led by Llorente, to thank us for our great support. This gave us more respect for Llorente. Which club president do that? Certainly not Rosell or Florentino Perez!
Aly Cissokho also told the media in the mix zone how impressed he was. “I didn’t expect such a strong support here. First I thought they were Polish, but as I saw their banner, I could tell it was our Russian supporter group. They managed to outsing 30.000 BATE fans!”
After leaving the stadium happy with the victory, we went back to the restaurant to celebrate. There we were also joined by the president of the German penya “Rainer Bonhof”, named after the old legendary Valencia and German national team player. For many the party lasted until morning.
The next day we got up early to say goodbye to the team at their hotel, hoping to get some photos together with the players, and maybe a chat with them. Disappointingly, the players didn’t come out to greet us. The exceptions were coach Pellegrino and Cissokho.
The trip was a huge success, as it gave a priceless memory and experience for us. I’m sure we gave inspiration to many foreign fans to follow our act here, as it seems international valencianismo picks up speed well. I hope one day for a worldwide congress of ches, with participants from Scandinavia to Japan! AMUNT!
The last minute victory over Athletic was an important one for the team’s morale. it showed that Banega is ready, and transforms the team into a real force to be reckoned with. It also showed that Valencia might be more effective with two strikers in Soldado and Valdez.
The return of several players (Albelda, Ricardo Costa, Banega and Mathieu) is pivotal for the team’s success. Mathieu is out of this encounter, though, as he yet again feels pain in his achilles and stays home. Guaita won’t play either, stricken by a gastric virus. That makes Felipe Ramos the second choice after starter Diego Alves.
Another returning player, though not from injury, but by sanction in the league, is Feghouli. Fully rested, he’s sure to play tonight, as Pellegrino wants to use him as much as possible before he leaves for the African Nations Cup in December.
Banega is ready, but will probably be matched slowly, leaving Tino and Albelda the options to accompany Gago in the pivote.
Pellegrino went far in admitting that his starting elevens away from Mestalla might have been to catious. That may signal another evening with the mentioned two strikers. However, Valdez also made himself dubious after feeling some pain in his leg. Still, “Flaco” expect him to recover in time for tonight.
If the coach votes to start with two strikers, it leaves Jonas out of the picture, relying instead on Tino or Gago to fill the gap behind the strikers.
Joao is also rested, giving Los Che fighting spirit and quick feet on right back. Cissokho will certainly play as Mathieu is ruled out.
On the left side of midfield Guardado is the most probable option. Playing just a few minutes in the weekend, where he did very well, he’ll give Pellegrino some tireless feet for stopping BATE’s vicious counters. Viera and Bernat are the creative options, where both can be great weapons in the second half if the home team loosen up or if Valencia have to chase a goal.
Regardless of the line-up, Valencia have a great opportunity to bring back three points. They have to avoid being overwhelmed by the home team’s constant running and direct play. That means hard work and precise passing is the recipe. Failing to do so will surely play into the Byelorussians hands.
Because the team from Minsk have won their first two matches by applying cynical defending and quick, direct counterattacks. Even if Bayern Munich should have been warned after Lille lost 1-3 at home, they fell into the same trap. Hint : The Germans made too many touches in attack, and became too slow to break through the defence.
With eight straight domestic league titles, BATE lives for these European matches. After failing for several seasons, they now seem to have found their stride.
Coach Viktor Goncharenko is being called the Pep Guardiola of Byelorussia. With just 35 years of age he is the youngest coach in the Champions League. He learned his trade in Villarreal, during the yellow submarine’s golden years. Strangely, BATE also have two valencianos in their club. José Pastor (physical trainer) and Dani Sáez (physio) both origin from the capital of Turia, and were picked up from Villarreal by Goncharenko. They have created a team that runs the opposition down. BATE is, after young Ajax, the team that have ran the furthest distance this season in Europe’s elite competition.
Their defence is fairly regular, but well organized. In the central defence they have tall, but slow Filipenko (1,94 cm!) and the fighting Serbian Simic. Both sidebacks, Polyakov(right) and Bordachev (left) assist in attack.
Their defensive midfield consists of the unsophisticated, but doggedly Likhtarovich and Oleknovich, which means BATE don’t have any creative force deep in midfield like Spanish sides.
Up front in midfield they have the runner Pavlov (playing more as a winger than a midfielder, and the dribbler Volodko. But their main stars is the striker Rodionov (quick, pacy, a bit like Soldado) and the team icon and former Arsenal playmaker Aleksandr Hleb.
The latter is slow, but has a great vision of play, and can also deliver some lethal long shots and through passes. He is definitely the man to watch.
BATE game plan is simply ; run like madmen, rob the ball, counterattack quickly and directly. Not exactly Valencia’s dream opponent, as Los Che have struggled earlier against such opponents. But Pellegrino should be amply warned by now after the other group opponents’ losses. It can be an advantage to meet BATE on their own soil first, as their fans expect them to dominate, something their not so adapted for. If Los Che do it right, the home team might taste their own medicine.
To accomplish that, our bats have to stay focused, and not give the opposite team free chances by sloppy passing. Valencia also need to run a lot, as complancency is suicidal against BATE. The Byelorussians don’t like Spanish opposition, having lost all six encounters against Spaniards in this competition earlier. It is exactly the kind of match goal-dry Soldado needs right now! Watch him to score after a Banega assist AMUNT!
P.S. Valencia have a considerable “penya” in the former Soviet Union countries. They are now official, and might bring more than 400 “valencianistas” to help the team in the stands in Minsk, some of them travelling more than 4000 kilometres from distant Siberia to do so!
Probable line-ups ;
BATE Borisov (4-3-3) : Gorbunov ; Polyakov, Filipenko, Simic, Bordachev ; Likhtarovich, Oleknovich, Volodko; Pavlov, Hleb, Rodionov
VCF : Alves ; Joao pereira, Rami, Ricardo Costa, Cissokho ; Tino Costa, Gago ; Feghouli, Guardado ; Valdez, Soldado
Referee : Craig Thomson (Scotland)]]>
Guaita didn’t feel well during the trip to to Belarusia and had to be addressed by physio Ximo Mask both in the airplane and airport terminal in Minsk.]]>
After the 1-0 loss to Levante this past weekend, Jonathan Viera tried to convey a message to the fans to remain calm, even though there is an 11 point difference between Valencia and Atletico de Madrid in La Liga.
“Atletico de Madrid are doing very well, but there is a lot of time left, there are many points to be won and in two weeks that we win and they lose, the distance is cut. We didn’t start well, but we have to keep calm, work and pressure.”
“Our rivals that are up on the table are at a good level, they are on a good streak but it is not how you begin, it is how you end. When we break off we will have a positive streak and will be fighting with them.”
Valencia CF President Manuel Llorente visited the training ground on Monday, Viera has stated that he did not talk to the players: “He hasn’t been in the locker room, we were in a separate gym, the non starters went out to train. He didn’t say anything to us.” Viera also stated that Pellegrino has not commented anything either. “There are a lot of players missing, the internationals are not here, I suppose he will wait until we are all here so that he can tell us what we should do.”
The “canary” transmitted a message of tranquility. “After the loss on Sunday, the team did not find itself emotionally well, we haven’t started as well as we wanted to but we have to keep working. Things are going to work out, it’s normal that nobody is satisfied with this start. Sunday’s game was rare, after the 1-0 they closed in the back and it was difficult to get through.”
Viera was lastly asked about Soldado and if he has anxiety due to not scoring in the last few games. “He’s fine, he knows he will score soon. He is one of the best forwards out there, I don’t see him being worried. He is training as usual and that will get him to score soon.”
The young footballer is slowly becoming one of the revelations of the Spanish league, however he sees the national team as very distant, but maybe one day. “The national team is still very far away, I am still just starting my career and there is a spectacular generation right now”, concluded the canary.
All credit to SuperDeporte.es]]>
Manuel Llorente continues to seek every possible way to try to save Valencia from a real economic disaster. The breach of the agreement by Bankia on 20 September has again left the Mestalla entity in a very delicate situation. Now he asks the shareholders for help.
The intentional deal signed by Valencia with Rodrigo Rato, chairman of Bankia back then, was meant to make he club debt-free with Bankia and Banco de Valencia, in addition to raising funds to complete the contruction of Nou Mestalla.
However, the dilapidated state of Bankia crippled this loophole, and the heads of Valencia have had to consider other alternatives imminently to address the debt. It is in this context that Llorente now needs hard cash.
The social capital of Valencia is now encrypted in some 100 million euros, which Llorente wants to cut in half to raise the funds necessary to cover sort term debts. Specifically, the reduction would be 50.58 million euros, a move that must be approved by the shareholders of the entity Mestalla.
For this, the Valencia is convening a general assembly on the 9 of November with the intention of bringing forward this initiative. In economic terms, the ultimate goal of reducing the share capital is to balance the volume with the net assets of the club.
What is the problem? Valencia’s equity has fallen sharply as a result of the losses generated by the club. In addition, there is another underlying issue: Valencia Foundation has faced credit payments that was granted to them earlier, and having no cash, need to raise revenue to meet the payments.
By issuing more shares, making their value less, Fundació de Valencia can keep the creditors away, but it remains to be seen if the shareholders agree to pay the bill.
In this operation, the Valencia municiplity also has something to say. The Minister of Economy, Maximum Buch, has put the legal services of the Valencian government to study all the details of the operation to ensure that it fully complies with the law. The fact that the government has guaranteed the loan granted to the Foundation requires him to look after the interests of Valencia (the city).
Llorente has spent several days in Madrid trying to refinance the club’s debt with Bankia, but nothing have materialized so far, as the bank also has it’s hands tied by the EU authorities. In the meantime, the club’s economic future still hangs in he balance.
The return of both players will make wonders to the squad as both provide a different dynamic to the squad and will give the team several other options in the style of play.]]>
Valencia have yet to find three points on the road, and a visit to the Ciutat de Valencia did not change that. Los Che started the game with optimism in their game. They were passing around and started to create chances.
Jonas had the first chance after receiving a pass from Soldado, but it was blocked at the hands of Munúa. Tino started to get his shots away, but Munúa was on point.
A chance for Levante came on the 21st minute. A long ball from Gustavo Munú
a found Obafemi Martins in space between the Valencia back line. The Nigerian had no trouble in converting it. Questions arose for the absence of Rami and Ruiz in this play.
Valencia’s play dipped in the second half with less chances. They continued their dominance however, but with no clear chances.
Valencia were spared a second goal at the hands of Vicente Guaita five minutes before the final whistle.
Valencia now sit in 14th place with 8 points, a slow start to this season in contrast to their recent early success in La Liga.
Levante UD 1: Munúa, Pedro López, Ballesteros, D.Navarro, Juanfran, El Zhar (Ríos, min.71), Diop, Iborra (Michel, min.69), Juanlu (Rubén, min.71), Barkero and Martins.
Valencia CF 0: Guaita, Pereira (Barragán, min.75), Rami, Víctor Ruiz, Cissokho, Viera, Gago, Tino Costa (Dani Parejo, min.62), Guardado, Jonas (Valdez, min.67) and Soldado.
Those who know me a little are aware that my heart beats for Levante too. Being so privileged to live just a couple of hundred metres from their stadium, I of course went to see their matches, and fell in love with the riff raff team, culminating in their epic pitch invasion after qualifying for European competition for the first time in their over hundred years history. The club, with funds smaller than many La Liga player’s yearly salary, became the revelation last season, despite having an average age well over thirthy years.
But this season they’re hardly recognisable from the well organized, counterattacking team from last season. The departure of key players is nothing new for the club, but they have gotten competition in the market as more and more Spanish clubs follow their recipe because of also being debtridden.
Players pivotal to their success like Xavi Torres, Ruben Suarez, Nano, Valdo, and especially Arouna Koné have all left. Being replaced by Gekas, Karampelas, Lell, Dudka, Navarro and Volta from abroad, and Diop and Michel from Liga Adelante sides. They also got Pedro Rios from Getafe. Levante also thought they had landed Deportivo’s top scorer last season, Lassad, and even announced so on their official web page. But it turned out they were fooled by a shady agent, as the player went to Celtic! They got hold of Obafemi Martins in the end, but so late he’s not eligible to play their Europa League matches.
He can play against Valencia, though, and is a player to watch. Even if he’s not as physically strong as Caicedo and Koné before him, he’s even faster. The other new signings haven’t turned out too well, with one notable exception ; Michel Herrero. He was Valencia’s property until this summer, and had success last season at Hercules. Despite being just 24 years old, he has shown great play in the “granota” midfield, being fast, technically gifted and with good vision of play.
But their defensive play have deteriorated, where Diop especially has been a disappointment in the pivot. Levante have uncharacteristicly let in 13 goals in just six matches so far in the league! They are still a good home side, taking all points expect for a draw in the league opener against Atletico Madrid. But away from home they have lost everything.
They have also had injuries to key players like goalkeeper Munua, the fastpaced winger Juanlu, and playmaker Barkero, all of which are more or less doubtful against Valencia. Those who definitely won’t play are Gekas and Lell, both injured against Hannover last Thursday. In that match the Polish midfielder Dudka also showed he’s either totally out of form, or just simply a bad and slow player, meaning Diop probably gets the nod from coach Juan Ignacio Martinez yet again, to their fans’ great frustration.
Ex-Valencia defender David Navarro is also dubious to start, so expect team captain Sergio “Papa” Ballesteros to be paired with Hector Rodas in central defence. Pedro Lopez will take Lell’s spot at right back, while Juanfran is a sure thing on the left side.
Ahead of them Diop will again play alongside Iborra in the double pivot, where none of them have shown playmaker qualities lately. On the sides of midfield, El Zhar is likely to see action if Juanlu won’t get ready, while Pedro Rios also is a candidate. The central offensive midfield usually belongs to Barkero, while Michel is the alternative. Here JIM (as the coach is affectionaly called) might opt for putting Barkero in the pivot, while Michel plays ahead of him. It is definitely what the fans want to see.
On top there’s no discussion. With Gekas ruled out, and Angel not quite good at anything, Martins is the clear choice to score the goals. Keylor Navas replace the still injured Munua in goal.
While Levante is reeling from two consecutive losses, Los Che have their spirits raised from two 2-0 victories in their last two matches. The return of Fernando Gago to the team has gave them the confidence back. They have to do without Feghouli, however, after he got a three-match ban because of his ironic applause and red card last weekend. That means Pellegrino needs to improvise again, this time on the right midfield. His alternatives is moving Barragan or Joao Pereira upfield, but he has also experimented with Guardado there during training sessions. Because he can also count on more options on the left as Mathieu is back from injury, and have promised Bernat more action, the Mexican could become the starting choice. On the left side of midfield we should look forward to see Viera from the go this time.
Dani Parejo has yet again become the pecking bird as he got whistled out by the Mestalla crowd midweek. He now contemplates leaving in the January window, as he can’t seem to fit into the team. That makes it even more likely that the Tino Costa/Gago partnership in the double pivot is repeated, and Parejo is destined to become third choice when Albelda returns soon.
Adil Rami is also back to accompany Victor Ruiz in central defence, while Delgado, which played with such calm and confidence in his debut against Lille, deservedly has been called up again. “Flaco” Pellegrino will most likely repeat local hero Guaita between the posts again, as he has kept two straight clean sheets. Up front the Jonas/Soldado dream team must be repeated. Soldado hasn’t scored since his goals against Deportivo, but has been the main contributor for Jonas’ string of goals lately. Valdez is the perfect man for a second half that could bring tired feet in the Levante defence. The “granotas” have looked much less comfortable under pressure late in matches, something the “guarani” knows how to exploit.
The blanquinegras should win this encounter, even if Levante is a handfull at home. That should bring them back up at the top part of the table, after Sevilla’s convenient loss Friday. Valencia should improve their passing speed and precision, however. Losing the ball going forward is dangerous against their “little brother”. At the same time, Valencia should look to do exactly the same to Levante, and especially Diop, who has hardly completed a pass forward so far this season. With some extra creativity from Viera, we might see Ballesteros and Navarro getting dizzy. Ballesteros might outrun Cristiano Ronaldo, but that doesn’t he’s quick off the mark.
Last season saw a victory for Valencia here by two goals by Tino. A similar score tally is on the cards here. And if anybody are in doubt, I’m all for Valencia in this match! AMUNT!
Expected lineups :
Valencia CF : Guaita ; Joao Pereira, Rami, Ruiz, Cissokho ; Tino Costa, Gago ; Guardado, Jonas, Viera ; Soldado
Levante UD : Navas ; Lopez, Navarro, Ballesteros, Juanfran ; Diop, Iborra ; Rios, Michel, El Zhar ; Martins
Referee : De Cerro Grande (Madrid) *Same referee as last season between Levante and Valencia!
Goalkeepers: Diego Alves, Guaita.
- Defenders: Barragán, Joao Pereira, Rami, Víctor Ruiz, Carlos Delgado, Cissokho y Mathieu.
- Midfielders: Gago, Tino Costa, Parejo, Guardado, Viera, Bernat.
- Attackers: Jonas, Valdez and Soldado.]]>
The return of Éver Banega makes the departure of the young Spanish midfielder who joined the club at the beginning of last season for €6 million more certain.]]>