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Valencia emerges title contenders in La Liga

By Josey Samuel

Terrassa (Barcelona), December 1: Villarreal’s loss has been Valencia’s gain so far in La Liga.

At the end of the last season, Yellow Submarines unceremoniously sacked their coach Marcelino Garcia, despite having guided the side to a creditable fourth place La Liga finish and a last-four berth in Europa League.

As Marcelino exited Villarreal gates were opened at Los Che for the 52-year-old.

In a short, but sweet spell under Marcelino, Valencia has jumped to the top of the Spanish footballing pyramid, second only to Barcelona in league table, and have emerged as strong contenders for the title.

Valencia’s strong display in their 1-1 draw against Barca is an indication of how much the club have improved from previous season.

Marcelino's emphasis on youth has allowed his players to flourish and his effective back-to-basics 4-4-2 system has seen his side start the season 13 games unbeaten.


Valencia has matched any top side if not bettered them when they have faced off this season.

Draws with Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona are warning signals for top clubs of what they are capable off, having ensured none of their rivals gain any ground on them and proving they have what it takes to compete against the best for the title.

Their solid start to the season culminated with an outstanding record in away matches -- quality much needed for a title contenders -- winning in high-scoring games at Real Sociedad (3-2), Real Betis (6-3) and Alaves (2-1).

Valencia’s success owes it to a batch of players who have points to prove as individuals.

This year fans have witnessed exciting attacking football and record signing Rodrigo and PSG-loanee Goncalo Guedes have been right at the heart of that.

A product of the Real Madrid youth academy, Rodrigo endured a difficult start to his professional career which included a loan spell at Bolton back in 2010.

Since making his loan move from Benfica permanent for £27million, Rodrigo has hit the best form of his career, becoming one of La Liga's most feared forwards.

Juventus turned their back on Simone Zaza after a disastrous loan spell at West Ham, but the striker is enjoying a fine campaign with nine La Liga goals. Only Lionel Messi has more.

Geoffrey Kondogbia, who struggled in Milan, is also having a good season in midfield, following his loan spell from Inter, as well as Manchester United loanee Andres Pereira.

This crop of players who have personal ambitions are seeing the rewards of their hard work in sunny Spain.

The Mestalla may miss the sound of Champions League music but it won't be long before it is back. Not having the responsibility of European football will only play into Valencia's hands, meaning the squad can have a rest when title rivals Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid will all have to prepare for midweek matches.

Valencia are one of the most decorated clubs in Spain despite facing some hard times in recent years. Competing for trophies and fighting for titles is something they are familiar with.

Los Che have been crowned La Liga champions six times in their glorious 98-year history, the last coming back in 2004 when Rafael Benitez guided the club to glory.

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    Story first published: Friday, December 1, 2017, 8:23 [IST]
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