REAL MADRID

v

VALENCIA CF

Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid

December 5, 2010, 02:30 AM, IST

In Jornada 14, the spotlight is once again on Santiago Bernabeu, as Real Madrid welcome Los Che to their fortress. After the drubbing and humiliation in Jornanda 13 at the hands of their arch-enemies Barca, Real Madrid will be seething. The defeat, even by the admission of Real Madrid’s president Perez, was the worst in their illustrious history and Mourinho will want to send out a warning signal to other rivals that theyare still a force to be feared and admired.

On the other hand, after a temporary slump, Valencia have slowly started to find their groove with some impressive performances in all competitions with the most notable one being the 6-1 mauling of Bursaspor in UEFA Champions League. Add to this, the factors of former Real Madrid cantaneros Soldado and Mata, one does get the feeling that this will be a match to savour.

‘Hell Clasico’ wounds still green

The drubbings of magnitudes of 5-0 and 6-2 can leave long lasting scars and can rattle the confidence of even the best of the best. This is where Jose Mourinho comes into play. Real Madrid, despite that awful performance have not become a bad team overnight and this is the message that needs to be hard wired in the Castillan outfit.

Aug 13, 2010 - Munich, Germany - Real coach JOSE MOURINHO at the 4:2 victory of Real Madrid against Bayern Munich at the Franz Beckenbauer farewell match in Munich, Germany.

Mourinho will need to marshal all his man-motivation skills

There are no doubts that Real Madrid are still light years ahead of other Spanish outfits, save Barcelona. They are just 2 points behind Barca, have qualified their UCL group as toppers and have a relatively easy opponent in Levante in Copa Del Rey. By normal standards this is great situation to be in, for any club. But the messages and statements coming out of Madrid are that of a crisis laden and a cornered club. In a state of mind like this, one’s own mind starts playing tricks on oneself and the biggest challenge for the Los Blancos will be to combat their own ghosts. This is a time when the fans need to get behind the team and support them. Luckily for them 4 of their next 5 matches are at home. This might be a make or break time for Real and the fans truly need to cheer rather than jeer, in case the players are not producing a spectacle. Support in troubled times is appreciated much more than anything.

Recovery is on or yet another false dawn?

Valencia’s season is very much on track despite a major slump in the middle of the season. They are still only 3 points off the league leaders Villarreal i.e considering that Barcelona and Real Madrid are playing in a league of their own. Valencia have been playing erratically this season and that is reflected in everything that is associated with them. From outplaying Manchester United to losing to Mallorca, from mauling Bursapor to holding Villareal, their season has been emblematic of their off-field troubles.

May 04, 2010 - Valencia, C. Valenciana, Espa a - VALENCIA, 04/05/2010.- Valencia CF'sSpaniard striker Juan Mata controls the ball, during the Spanish First Division League soccer match played against Xerez CD at Mestalla stadium in Valencia, eastern Spain, 04 May 2010.

Mata: An ex-Blanco

However, Los Che have been playing anything but badly. Their bad run of form coincided with the absence of one un-noticed but vital player – Joaquin. He is back to his best form and is terrorizing defences like before. He has a penchant for performing against Real Madrid and this game should be no different. Even Soldado had suffered injuries this season, but now he is back and back with a bang. He is scoring goals for fun and finally seems to have found his feet in La Liga. Both Mata and Soldado have already made it clear that will try their best to score against their former club and celebrate at the Bernabeu, and given the fact that they feel hard done by the Real Madrid hierarchy, there is no reason to doubt them. Mata, Soldado and Joaquin can be a handful for any team on their day and this fixture should provide plenty of fireworks.

Team News and Tactical Brief

Real Madrid

As always,  Iker will start in goal and there will be a big responsibility on his shoulders to lift the team’s morale and organize them properly; though God knows he tried his best against Barca. Unfortunately for Real Madrid, fullback Sergio Ramos is suspended after picking up a red card, but they have an able replacement in Arbeloa. The central defence as usual will have Pepe and Carvalho with Marcelo playing on the left side. The central midfield shall consist of midfield general Alonso who might be played a little deep to help defense cope with double threat of Soldado and Aritz. Upfront Higuain is out with a long term injury and Benzema will be given a chance to prove his worth. However Benzema’s style of play is extremely different from that of Higuain and is based more receiving the ball at his feet and scoring rather than off the ball running and creating space for others and making defences panic. This will put an added responsibility on the wingers Di Maria and Ronaldo and attacking midfielder Ozil, who will have to alter his style of play. The host’s success will depend a lot on how successfully Mourinho is able to re-jig his tactics and have his midfield supply Benz with the ball, because we all know Benzema’s off the ball skills aren’t exactly world class.

Valencia’s defense is not so good at judging off the ball runs and here an added tactic that maybe used by Mourinho is to give CR7 a free role and create spaces for Benzema where he can receive the ball and finish the moves.

Probable Starting XI: Casillas; Arbeloa-Pepe-Carvalho-Marcelo; Alonso-Khedira; Di Maria-Ozil-Ronaldo; Benzema

Probable starting line-ups

Valencia

Valencia don’t have any major concerns, while there’s even a possibility of Cesar Sanchez’s return. Their defence shall be led by Ricardo Costa and the overlapping runs of right back Bruno might be used by Unai Emry to exploit the defensive susceptibility of Marcelo. Also wingers Mata and Joaquin are back with Soldado and Aritz leading the front line. Here Joaquin’s role is especially very important as he will be on Marcelo’s and Ronaldo’s wing. He will be required both to push forward and keep Marcelo back so that Ronaldo is deprived of his valuable sidekick as well as to track back to nullify Ronaldo’s threat. They have their defensive midfielder David Albelda suspended but have an adequate replacement in Ever Banega. Valencia’s threat comes from all over the pitch and the departures of the two Davids have come as a blessing in disguise as now Valencia’s game involves much more of team play. The off the ball runs of Soldado can be especially used to wreak havoc in Real Madrid’s defensc. Also both Aritz and Alberto Costa will be expected to provide some sort of barrier for Alonso, who is focal point of all the attacks started by the hosts. If they can deprive Alonso of the ball and use Soldado well, Real may have a very torrid night ahead.

Probable Starting XI: Cesar ; Bruno- Ricardo Costa- Hedwiges Maduro- Jordi Alba; Ever Banega ; Joaquín – Alberto Costa -Vicente Mata; Aritz Aduriz – Soldado.

Form Guide

Real Madrid: L-W-W-W-W

Athletic Bilbao: W-D-W-L-D

Key Facts

1. Mata and Soldado are former Real Madrid cantaneros and will be eager to prove a point.

2. Ironically, Valencia have chosen to build their squads around these 2 men after the departure of their two talismanic Davids.

TheHardTackle’s PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Ozil (Real Madrid): Ozil had a nightmarish game against Barcelona and was hooked at half time. He will want to prove that it a one off situation and he is raring to go at other teams. He also played down rumours of a rift with Mourinho. With the static Benzema in front of him, the young Turkish-German international will have a pivotal role to play in order to get Benzema functioning.

Aug. 19, 2010 - Madrid, C. A. MADRID, SPAIN - MADRID, 19/08/2010.- Real Madrid's German Mesut  zil, during a team's training session held at Valdebebas Sports City in Madrid, Spain, 19 August 2010. Real Madrid will play a pre-season friendly match against Hercules on Sunday 22 August 2010 at Jose Rico Stadium in Alicante. E.

Ozil’s the man Friday for Real Madrid against Valencia.

Mata (Valencia): While it is Soldado who has been the one grabbing all the headlines, it is Mata who is fast becoming the heartbeat of this Valencia side. Once rumoured to be in the crosshairs of Guardiola, Pedro’s arrival scuppered any chances of the transfer. However, he will be more than anticipating this match as he would love nothing more than put one over his former paymasters.

TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION

Real Madrid 2-0 Valencia

The all too familiar game of catch-up has started for Real Madrid, as they are already behind Barca in points tally and there is no way that they can cover up the head-to-head record against them. Staying in touch with Barca is vital for their title hopes and the importance of this fixture cannot be highlighted adequately. Trust Mourinho to dig trenches and churn out another defensive masterclass with a couple of goals thrown in for the hosts.

TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST

Here although Valencia failed to score, the game had all the elements of the ‘beautiful game’. The missed chip by ‘Pipita’ and a long range rocket from Silva which shifted the goal atleast 2 feet, are a treat to watch.

– Prakhar Deep Gupta