Wednesday night saw Valencia finish their pre-season preparations on a high note with a 2-0 victory over Fiorentina in the XXXIX Trofeu Taronja final.
Goals from new arrivals Aritz Aduriz and Roberto Soldado secured the trophy for the home side. However, it was not all plain sailing for Unai Emery’s men as the travelling side took control in the first half, and but for the linesman’s flag they would have taken the lead. Alberto Gilardino latched onto a Marco Marchionni through-ball and beat Miguel Angel Moya only to have the goal ruled out for offside.
Nonetheless the second half was a different story and the deadlock was eventually broken in the 71st minute, as Roberto Soldado headed home from a Vicente Rodriguez cross. The lead was then doubled just eight minutes later with a carbon copy of the opener. Man-of-the-match Vicente was again the supplier, and his cross was met by former Mallorca man Aduriz, to put the game beyond the Viola.
The major talking point from the evening’s encounter however was not the scoreline but the much talked about formation. Emery was widely tipped to use the 4-3-3 system but again plumped for the straightforward 4-4-2 allowing Soldado and Aduriz to combine. It remains to be seen what formation will be deployed come the big kick-off against Malaga, but central defender Angel Dealbert is confident of how he expects the team to line up once the new season begins: “It is a question of being convinced and knowing what you are doing,” he said. “We know that we have to refine certain aspects of the 4-3-3, which is why we are training every day. We are the ones who have to make it work.
“The system doesn’t matter – we have to do as the manager says in the games. He is convinced about this change of formation, and we have to be even more sure than him.”
The 27-year-old also has his sights set on regular first team football. “I see myself fighting for a place just like the rest of my team-mates,” he continued. “That is what preseason is for: Working on fitness and trying to convince the manager. Everyone wants to play and there is more competition every year. Winning on the pitch is the most important thing.
“To talk about defensive imbalance doesn’t just mean in the back four. We are using a system that is difficult for us to pick up, but we are using preseason to do so. The defeats have to serve as a lesson for when we start the season against Malaga. We are looking better with every game.”
The former Castellon centre-half went on to talk about the squad heading into the new season: “Some top players have left, but in my humble opinion the squad is better than last year’s. Position for position, Valencia has been strengthened,” he said. “There are now two players for every position, and that is crucial, especially playing in the Champions League. New people who have desire and are working hard have come in, and those of us here last year are helping them to get ready for the league.”
Competition for the central defensive roles appears to be rife within the squad, with new signing Ricardo Costa aiming to slot straight into the first team. “I have played with Maduro, Dealbert and Alexis, and we switch around regularly,” he said. “I hope to play, but the main thing is to work well and help the manager decide. I like to play as central defender, as it is there that I play my best games. In the World Cup I played as full-back in two games. Getting in shape is something to work on every day. After a World Cup it is normal to have a break of two weeks, and I am feeling a lot better than in the game against Marseille.”
Costa also seemed happy with the pre-season preparations despite a series of disappointing results: “There are problems,” he said. “The team is eleven players though, not just the four defenders. As a newcomer, I have to learn the movements made by the team in both attack and defence, in order to make the transitions. We have to improve everything – not just the defence. We are ok. Working well, the team is a strong one playing against teams who make us improve. We are preparing for the first game and to win.
“Teamwork, philosophy, movements… playing and playing well are the only ways to enforce this, even though we may be tired at this stage in preseason. We aren’t worried about not scoring lots, as our objective is to play better. Winning is secondary at this stage. Losing against Manchester City just before they start their season is nothing strange.”
Valencia begin their La Liga campaign with a trip to La Rosaleda to face Malaga in a game expected to supply three points for the Valencianistas.