Real Madrid CF
Estadio Mestalla, Valencia
Sunday, 3rd January, 2016, 1930 UKT
Spanish giants Real Madrid CF will take on Valencia CF at the Estadio Mestalla in Gameweek 18 of the Spanish La Liga.
Third place Real Madrid come into the match on the back of a comfortable 3-1 win over Real Sociedad at the Santiago Bernabeu. The visit to the Estadio Mestalla will be an emotional occasion for Real Madrid manager Rafa Benitez, who led the Los Che to 2 La Liga titles, 1 UEFA Cup and 2 Champions League final appearances between 2001-04. Benitez will be hoping to close the gap at the top of the table by inflicting defeat on his former club when the two lock horns on Sunday night.
New Valencia manager Gary Neville has struggled to make an instant impact since taking over the reigns of the club in early December. Valencia have failed to win a single match since the arrival of Neville and their task will be further cut out when Real Madrid come to town. The former Manchester United legend will be hoping to kick start his managerial reign at the club by beating the Los Blancos in front a packed Mestalla.
Team News and Tactics
Valencia are likely to be without several first team players against Real Madrid. First choice goal keeper Diego Alves is a long term injury absentee and will not feature on Sunday. Jaume DomA?nech SA?nchez is expected to deputize for the Spaniard ahead of Australian goal keeper Matthew Ryan.
German defender Shkodran Mustafi, who is the lynchpin of Los Che’s defence, is a slight injury doubt but is likely to be risked by Neville for the big clash at the Mestalla. Sofiane Feghouli, Zakaria Bakkali and Rodrigo will all be unavailable due to injury while Jose Gaya has a slight chance of making the the first team squad.
Javi Fuego, Dani Parejo and Andre Gomes are expected to line up in a 3 man midfield in a 4-3-3 system preferred by Neville since his arrival at the club. Pablo Piatti and Joao Cancelo will support Spanish International Paco Alcacer up front for the Los Che. Former Manchester City and Sevilla striker Alvaro Negredo, who had a public falling out with former manager Nuno, is expected to play a significant role off the bench.
Probable Starting XI (4-3-3): Jaume; Gaya, Barragan, Mustafi, Abdennour; Parejo, Fuego, Gomes; Piatti, Cancelo, Alcacer.
Club captain Sergio Ramos, who has suffered several niggling injuries since the start of the season and sat out Wednesday’s 3-1 win over Real Sociedad, is expected to recover in time for the clash at the Mestalla. He will start in the center of defence alongside Portuguese International Pepe although Rafael Varane is also back from injury.
Dani Carvajal, who returned to training on Monday after being out for the past month, is expected to replace Danilo at right back. Marcelo, who has been Real Madrid’s stand out performer at the back this season, will occupy the left back berth against Valencia.
Rafa Benitez is expected to retain the same front six that obliterated Rayo Vallecano 10-2 a couple of weeks ago. James Rodriguez, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric will form the midfield three behind Real’s formidable front three of Ronaldo, Bale and Benzema. Benzema suffered a slight knock to his ankle in training but is expected to be fine by the time the match kicks off on Sunday night.
Probable Starting XI (4-3-3): Navas; Carvajal, Ramos, Pepe, Marcelo; Kroos, Modric, Rodriguez; Ronaldo, Bale, Benzema.
- Valencia have only won one of their last twelve league games against Real Madrid (D4 L7).
- At the Mestalla, Valencia have only one win against Real Madrid in the last six games (L5), but it was the last game they had in January 2015 (2-1).
- Paco AlcA?cer has had a hand in six (three goals, three assists) of the last seven Valencia goals at Mestalla.
- Real Madrid have lost two of the last three away league games.
- Rafa Ben tez has only one win (D1 L2) in four games against Valencia in the top tier.
- Three of Real Madrid’s last six goals away in La Liga have been scored by defenders (Marcelo, Ramos and Danilo).
Player to watch out for:
Gareth Bale (Real Madrid)
Welsh winger Gareth Bale has happy memories of Estadio Mestalla. Bale scored an incredible solo goal against FC Barcelona in the final of the 2014 Copa del Rey at the Mestalla to cement his legacy in the club folklore. After an injury hit start to his 2015-16 campaign, Bale has recently started to show the same form that saw Real Madrid pay a record transfer fee of A?80 million to Tottenham Hotspur for his services. Bale scored four goals and set up another as Real Madrid thumped 10 goals past Rayo Vallecano a couple of weeks ago. Bale’s constant forays into the opposition penalty box will be a major source of threat for Gary Neville’s side when they lock horns at the Mestalla on Sunday night.
Valencia 2 – 1 Real Madrid
Despite scoring 13 goals in their past two matches and sitting third in the league table, Real Madrid have displayed a chronic inability to perform against some of the bigger sides of La Liga away from home this season. Madrid’s 4-0 mauling at home to FC Barcelona was sandwiched between a couple of away defeats to Sevilla and Villarreal. Valencia have struggled to register a single win since the arrival of the former Manchester United defender as the manager of the football club. A home win against a vulnerable Real Madrid side in front of a packed Mestalla will surely kick start Valencia’s stuttering league campaign. A narrow one goal win for the Los Che is the prediction of TheHardTackle.