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02/01/2014
 
Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino was lost for words after his side suffered their first league defeat at home in nearly two years as Valencia came from behind to win 3-2 at the Camp Nou on Saturday. The Catalans had appeared to be coasting to a routine victory as Alexis Sanchez put them in front after just seven minutes, whilst they also missed a host of other chances in a slick performance during the opening half an hour.

However, the game swung in Valencia's favor in a crucial four-minute spell just either side of half-time as Dani Parejo slotted home an equalizer before Pablo Piatti's looping header gave the visitors the lead. Lionel Messi briefly leveled for Barca from the penalty spot before Paco Alcacer struck the winner as Valencia counter-attacked efficiently just before the hour mark.


And Barca's miserable day was summed up when Jordi Alba was sent-off against his old club 13 minutes from time: "I was anxious to consolidate our early advantage because the game is not over until the referee blows the final whistle and it felt like we stopped after half an hour," he said.


"This week I said that at this stage of the season you pay a heavy price for any errors and today we committed a lot of errors. Probably Valencia's first goal caused us to lose a bit of confidence. In the second-half that made us a bit more desperate, which in turn made us commit more errors. We seemed like one team in the first-half and another in the second."


Defeat means that a victory for Atletico Madrid or Real Madrid against Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao respectively on Sunday will knock Barca off top spot for the first time in a record 60 league games. The Spanish champions have now also dropped seven points in their last four league games and Martino is demanding his players fight back in their quest to retain the title.


"I would say to them that everything continues, that we may lose the leadership of the league, but that we will still continue to fight. We need to play like we did in the first half hour. We will try to recover the lost ground on our title rivals. We conceded chances to Valencia and they took advantage of them. We need to keep going and keep in mind how much this hurt us today."



 
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02/01/2014
 
Valencia inflicted Barcelona's first league defeat at the Camp Nou since April 2012 as they came from behind to win 3-2 on Saturday. Alexis Sanchez had given the hosts a deserved early lead, but goals just before and after half-time from Dani Parejo and Pablo Piatti turned the game on its head. Lionel Messi quickly leveled from the penalty spot, only for Paco Alcacer to strike the winner low past Victor Valdes five minutes later.

And Barca's day was summed up 13 minutes form time when Jordi Alba was sent-off for a second bookable offense. Both Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid now have the chance to end Barca's record run of 59 league games at the top of the table when they face Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao respectively on Sunday. Valencia came into the game off the back of a busy couple of days in the transfer market as five players left and four arrived in the final 48 hours of the January window.


None of Los Che's new men were signed in time to make the starting line-up, though, and they suffered a terrible start as Sanchez's shot looped up over the stranded Alves after just seven minutes. Barca should have then built on their lead as Alves made a brilliant save to prevent Sanchez doubling his tally with a header from point-blank range, whilst Sergio Busquets, Messi and Dani Alves all came close.


However, Barca's intensity dipped after the opening half hour and Valencia missed a great chance to equalize when Ricardo Costa headed wide when presented with an open goal after Victor Valdes completely misjudged a corner from the right. Valencia did level just before the break as Parejo swept home Sofiane Feghouli's low cross. And the visitors went in front just three minutes after the restart as Piatti took advantage of more hesitation by Valdes to loop a header into the net.


Barcelona were handed a reprieve six minutes later when referee Pedro Perez Montero wrongly awarded a penalty for handball against Costa when the ball appeared to have struck the Valencia captain's shoulder. Messi showed no mercy form the spot as he rifled high into the roof of the net to register his first league goal in nine games stretching back to September. However, it took Valencia just five minutes to retake the lead as Alcacer slotted home another intelligent cut-back from Feghouli.


Barca boss Gerardo Martino then introduced Andres Iniesta in a bid to turn the game around, but it made little difference as his flustered side failed to find any sort of rhythm. Their chances to taking anything from the game appeared to disappear with Alba as he was sent-off against his former club for a body check on Feghouli. But Messi had one final chance to rescue a point as he danced past a posse of Valencia defenders in before slotting just past the far post in stoppage time.

 
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01/31/2014
 
Valencia have completed the signing of highly rated Brazilian striker Vinícius Araújo, who was playing for Brazilian national champions Cruzeiro. 

The transfer fee is estimated at $4.7 million for 50% of his rights, signing a 5-year contract with the Spanish club. Vinícius Araújo started his career at Cruzeiro youth team in 2007, and brought the attention of Brazilian press and fans in 2012 when he was top goalscorer in the Brazilian National Under 20 Championship in 2012.

He only gained wide recognition a year later, when he was the top goalscorer in the Brazilian Under 20 Cup, despite the fact his team did not go far in the competition. His performances earned him a place in Cruzeiro's senior team.

The 20-year old striker did not disappoint at Cruzeiro's senior team, scoring seven goals in 16 appearances and getting called up for the Brazilian youth national team for the prestigious Toulon Tournament in France. Brazil's youth national team had an impressive performance, winning the competition without losing a match, and Vinícius Araújo was the top goalscorer with 3 goals, including the winning goal in the final against Colombia.

Vinícius Araújo's success attracted the attention of other clubs, such as Shakhtar Donetsk, but Valencia managed to sign him on the last day of the January transfer window. The Spanish club will be pleased with the signing, as Vinícius Araújo is fast, relatively strong and has a good finishing, and also contributes in other ways, such as by making assists for his teammates.

However, he will also need to improve his game as his defensive contribution is poor and he is not good at heading, his passing also needs to improve although he sometimes makes assists. Valencia will need to be patient to let him adapt and settle, but they can be confident they have signed one of the most promising young Brazilian strikers and they are likely to make profit by selling again for a much higher value in a few years.



 
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01/04/2014
 

Pablo Piatti, who in the summer was closer to a Valencia exit than a desired stay, has scored two goals in the squad's last two games (vs. Real Madrid and Levante UD). The Juan Bernat and Piatti duo is becoming one of the team’s strongholds; it provides quickness to the team’s offensive plays. For Andres Guardado, the ties are against him, but not all is negative after Pizzi's first game as Valencia coach. They got a 2-0 win for the blanquinegro side.

 

Guardado was the first player off the bench in this new Pizzi era. The Mexican midfielder played where he feels more liberated, as left midfielder. Piatti, who was the best Valencia player in the first half, gave his spot to Guardado. The substitution occurred a minute after Algerian Sofiane Feghouli scored a dazzling goal that included several dribbles and a perfect chip to leave Costa Rican goalkeeper Keylor Navas, stiffen. Valencia lead, comfortably, 2-0.

 

All substitutions were made with the firm intention to observe players who will compete for starting positions. Guardado and Piatti will have to fight for a spot in that left-midfield position (Juan Bernat will be the starting left-back). Ever Banega came in for Dani Parejo, another pair that will compete for one spot, and the last substitution was Fede Cantabria coming in for Helder Postiga. Pizzi has made it known to the Valencia directors that he wants another striker in the Winter Transfer Window, much will depend if Peter Lim’s offer to buy the club is accepted (the due date is Jan. 15th.) Colombian striker Dorlan Pabon was not considered for this match.

 

Twenty-minutes were given for Guardado to show what he can offer. Not much could be determined, other than him sending a great through pass to Jonas, who was unable to receive correctly. All short passes with Banega and Bernat were on target. In his last game vs. Real Madrid, he played on the same position but didn't perform as expected. In his first game of 2014 vs. Levante, Guardado followed all of Pizzi's orders accordingly.

 

Piatti’s excellent form and his scoring streak leaves Guardado empty handed . It's very likely that Pizzi will choose Piatti, in Liga games, and leave Andres playing most of his minutes in Copa del Rey and Europa League. In Copa, Valencia plays Atletico Madrid, while in Europa, they face Dynamo Kiev, none of them an easy task. Pizzi still looks for his starting-eleven, and Guardado showed hunger signs this Saturday night to show his worth, something that was missing throughout 2013. Not all is bad for Guardado’s cause.  

 
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