Real Madrid will be hoping to continue their winning ways when they welcome Valencia to Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday night.
December is here and the games are set to come thick and fast for teams across Europe. In Spain, La Liga will resume with Matchday 14, with one of the marquee matches of the weekend being played in the capital, when Real Madrid play hosts to Valencia at Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday night.
Real Madrid have been on a largely resurgent run under the tutelage of Santiago Solari, winning five of the six matches he has overseen since replacing Julen Lopetegui. But, Los Blancos will be aiming to get back to winning ways in La Liga after being stunned 3-0 by Eibar last weekend, in what was Solar’s first match in-charge as full-time boss.
Valencia, on the other hand, have been hit and miss for large parts of the season, with wins coming at a premium. Los Che haven’t exactly been easy to beat either, having lost just four times in 19 games across all competitions. But, their tendency to draw games, one way or another, has cost them dearly in league and Europe thus far.
The corresponding fixture last season had ended in a 2-2 draw, with Marco Asensio scoring a late goal – his second in the game – to rescue a point for Real Madrid. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
The 2-0 win over AS Roma eased some tensions following the disastrous performance against Eibar last weekend. To add to the happy feeling in the Real Madrid camp, Santiago Solari has also greeted the return of several first-team players, with just a couple remaining on the treatment table now.
The likes of Keylor Navas (knee), Jesus Vallejo (thigh), Sergio Reguilon (hamstring) and Alvaro Odriozola (ankle) have all returned to training this week, giving Solari multiple options for the positions at the back. The only ones remaining on the sidelines are Nacho (knee) and Casemiro (ankle).
Casemiro, in particular, has been the major subject of concern at Real Madrid in recent weeks, with Solari struggling to find a replacement for the Brazilian within his squad. But, Marcos Llorente was colossal against Roma, and should retain his spot as the anchor man in front of the back four.
Meanwhile, the likes of Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Gareth Bale produced improved showings in the midweek game and will hope to continue their resurgent runs on Saturday. Lucas Vazquez though, could be dropped despite scoring one of the goals against Roma, and should be replaced by Marco Asensio, although Vinicius Jr. remains a dark horse.
At the back, Solari is unlikely to make any changes despite the return of several defenders, and Navas. With the first-choice defensive line only reuniting recently, the Real Madrid boss is likely to prefer consistency in selection over constant rotations, with the backups likely to get their chances in the Copa del Rey second leg against Melilla.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Modric, Llorente, Kroos; Bale, Benzema, Asensio
Valencia have been dealt a major blow ahead of their trip to the Spanish capital, with Rodrigo Moreno unavailable due to a hamstring injury he picked up against Juventus. The Spaniard joins Denis Cheryshev on the sidelines, with the former Real Madrid man recovering from a calf problem.
But, there is some good news, with Ezequiel Garay part of the travelling squad after completing his recovery from a thigh injury. The Argentinean defender is expected to return to the starting lineup straightaway, with Mouctar Diakhaby making way.
Garay should be partnered by Gabriel in the central defensive partnership, with Daniel Wass and Jose Gaya likely to be the full-backs. The midfield quartet is pretty much set as well, with Carlos Soler and Goncalo Guedes manning the wide areas, while Dani Parejo and Francis Coquelin should be at the heart of the Valencia midfield.
Guedes and Soler will mostly aim to tuck in and support the front-men, with Wass and Gaya providing the width. Coquelin will be the anchor man in midfield, while Parejo will be the workhorse in the middle of the park.
Upfront, the absence of Rodrigo means the struggling Kevin Gameiro is likely to get a chance alongside Santi Mina, with Michy Batshuayi having to make do with a place on the bench.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Neto; Wass, Gabriel, Garay, Gaya; Soler, Parejo, Coquelin, Guedes; Mina, Gameiro
- Valencia have drawn more games against Real Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu in La Liga in the last 10 seasons than any other club (five).
- Real Madrid have only collected 20 points in LaLiga this season (W6 D2 L5), their worst tally at this stage of the campaign since 2001/02 (19 points).
- Valencia have won both of their last two La Liga games, more than they had in their previous 11 games this season (W1 D8 L2).
- Marcelino has only won on one of his six La Liga trips to Santiago Bernabeu during his managerial career, (D2 L3), with this being his first (3-0 in December 2006 in charge of Recreativo de Huelva).
- Real Madrid have conceded a league low 42% of their goals in the second half in La Liga this season (eight out of 19).
Player to Watch
Real Madrid are stuttering, and this is the perfect opportunity for Valencia to swoop in and get their season back on track. To that end, Los Che will be looking towards their captain to lead the charge, and set an example with a solid showing in the middle of the park.
With Francis Coquelin doing most of the dirty work in midfield, it will be upon Parejo to drive his side forward and add to the numbers in the final third. The Real Madrid academy graduate has shown a tendency to step up in the big games, and another big performance could help Valencia notch up a popular win over Real Madrid.
Real Madrid 1-0 Valencia
The match at the Bernabeu on Saturday pits two sides that have been far from their best this season. Valencia have lost fewer games than Real Madrid. But, scoring goals on a consistent basis hasn’t quite been their cup of tea. Los Blancos, on the other hand, have been highly susceptible at the back, which has been their real Achilles heel.
However, under the tutelage of Santiago Solari, there have been signs of life, even if the tactics look a little one dimensional at times. This is a match that is likely to be keenly contested though, especially with Valencia boasting a rather solid defence. In the end though, Real Madrid should have enough to get over the lines and grab all three points.