Starting line ups
Valencia went with the same outfield line up as they played in their 2-2 draw with Barcelona last week with Diego Alves coming in as goalkeeper. Chelsea 'matched' them in midfield and played a 4-3-3 with Mata on the right and Malouda on the left of the attacking three.
The main outlook for both teams was similar. For Chelsea, their 'wide' men, Malouda and Mata, generally cut inside from outside positions on the ball though Malouda tended to run at the full back a bit more and cut inside rather than Mata who often cut inside at an earlier point.
Valencia also did something similar, with Pablo Hernandez often very central and Mathieu also moving inside, creating space for the attacking full back Alba to overlap into. This often caused an overload with Mikel, the deepest in the Chelsea midfield, often outnumbered in this area.
The major differences in this were mainly down to formation. With Chelsea's team, their wide men, particularly Mata were trying to break into the hole between defence and midfield and Torres was generally fairly central acting as the focal point of the attack. Lampard and Ramires in the central midfield roles also got forward into that role generally when Mata or Malouda exchanged passes with them from deeper positions in midfield, meaning Lampard and Ramires had more space to run into.
With Valencia, Canales was sat in the attacking midfield role where Mikel was and so they always had someone taking up this position. Banega and particularly Albelda generally sat deep to keep the ball acting as a double pivot.
The biggest difference however was in the role of Soldado. Whereas Torres was often very central, Soldado tended to move out wide when the wingers were narrow and help create a triangle with the full backs high up the pitch. Generally this happened on the right when Hernandez was often very central.
After the first few minutes where Chelsea had a couple of openings, the game slowed down a little and there were few chances. Valencia were dominant in possession with their double pivot in midfield and generally started their play on the left, mainly because Banega, a better ball player than Albelda, was stationed on the left of their two. Hence why Hernandez's central positioning was generally more noticeable than Mathieu's; Mathieu was just as central when the ball was on the right but the ball tended to be on their left when they had possession so Hernandez came closer to the play.
Valencia's movement was generally more fluid than Chelsea's due to frequent overlaps from the full backs and the movement of Soldado up front but Chelsea were generally sat behind the ball and their main threat was through counter attack so it didn't particularly matter that they were more rigid.
Generally though chances came either from mistakes high up the pitch or from wide men narrowing the defensive side and then the full backs making overlaps.
There were no obvious changes at half time but soon after, Malouda swapped positions with Mata. The Spaniard became far more central with Cole often higher up the pitch, while out on the right Malouda generally ran at the full back a lot more.
This led to Chelsea's superb spell a few minutes after the restart because Mata had more license to move inside and Malouda's better wider play on the right meant Valencia were stretched. This was obvious for their goal, where Malouda ran at Alba while Torres and Mata were in the middle, creating space for Lampard on the left of the box who finished it off from Malouda's cross.
Chelsea probably should have been more incisive during this period because for the first time in the game, they had pushed Valencia back deep and because of this Valencia were struggling to move forward, meaning Chelsea could start to dominate.
Valencia though responded well. They slowly started to push Chelsea back in a similar way to the way they had done in the first half, with Chelsea generally playing on the counter attack. They regained control of possession and Emery made some good substitutions, with Piatti, Jonas and Fehgohli coming on during the second half. The shape generally didn't change though the full backs were becoming relied upon to provide the width with Valencia's attacking players very central.
Piatti had a couple of chances himself, one from a ball over the top behind the Chelsea defence, somewhere where they've looked vulnerable this season and another when Alba provided a cross from high up on the left, while he was fairly central in the box.
Villas Boas's substitutions were also very good. Raul Meireles made his way on for Ramires (both similar players), Anelka came on for Torres up front and Kalou came on for Lampard. The last one was the more questionable but with Valencia creating more overloads in the centre, it meant that Chelsea could play Meireles and Mikel as holding mids and have Kalou and Malouda out wide with Mata matching up to Albelda.
|The teams after all the substitutions had been made|
As Valencia pushed more men up in midfield and Albelda generally the only holding midfielder for the Spanish side, it meant Chelsea had more space to hit on the counter attack when Valencia lost the ball high up the pitch.
In the end though Kalou made a silly mistake with a handball and Soldado scored the penalty to mean that the game ended in a draw.
An interesting game tactically in which both managers used their systems and shape well. Chelsea will be disappointed they didn't finish off their chances but Valencia played well and deserved their point.