Real Madrid will be aiming to continue keeping pace with Atletico Madrid when they pay Valencia a visit at the Mestalla on Wednesday night.
The games continue to come thick and fast in Spanish football, with Matchday 30 of the 2018-19 La Liga season already underway, two days after the end of the previous one. And, the marquee fixture of the latest round of fixtures will pit top four hopefuls Valencia against Real Madrid at the Mestalla.
Valencia have found their feet after a slow start to the season wherein wins were hard to come by. While Los Che are still not racking up the three points in successive games at a stretch, they have become a hard side to beat – in fact, only Barcelona have been defeated fewer times than Marcelino’s side.
Real Madrid, on the other hand, are two in two in Zinedine Zidane’s second coming as the manager. The latest success came in the form of a come-from-behind 3-2 win over Huesca, although that performance showed that Zidane needs to do a lot of work before the team becomes anything like the all-conquering side in the Frenchman’s first stint.
The reverse fixture, played at the Santiago Bernabeu back in December, saw Real Madrid record a 2-0 win over Valencia courtesy an own goal by Daniel Wass and a late strike by Lucas Vazquez. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the La Liga encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Marcelino does not have many pressing injury concerns to deal with ahead of the visit of Real Madrid. On Wednesday, the Valencia boss will continue to remain without just three first-team players, with Cristiano Piccini (leg), Francis Coquelin (thigh) and Ruben Soriano (thigh) out with minor injuries.
In the absence of Piccini, Daniel Wass become the natural selection for the right-back slot, with Jose Gaya starting on the opposite flank. At the heart of the Valencia defence, Gabriel should have former Real Madrid centre-back Ezequiel Garay as his partner, following the Argentine’s complete recovery from a thigh injury.
Up ahead in midfield, the onus will be on Dani Parejo to keep things tight and deny the Real Madrid creative men from pulling the strings. Geoffrey Kondogbia will be alongside the Valencia captain at the centre of the pitch.
The creativity will come from the boots of Goncalo Guedes and Carlos Soler, with the duo expected to be the wide midfielders for the hosts. Upfront, the strike partnership of Rodrigo and Kevin Gameiro should continue, although Santi Mina will hope to be handed a start as well.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Neto; Wass, Garay, Gabriel, Gaya; Soler, Parejo, Kondogbia, Guedes; Rodrigo, Gameiro
Zinedine Zidane has one fresh roster issue on his hands, with Nacho suspended for the tie. But, Raphael Varane is available and should thus, reclaim his place in Real Madrid’s central defensive partnership alongside Sergio Ramos.
The other players unavailable for the visitors on Wednesday night will be Thibaut Courtois and Dani Carvajal, both of whom are dealing with their respective thigh injuries. Carvajal though, has returned to training and should be in contention to feature soon.
But, Wednesday’s game has come too soon for the Spanish international, meaning Alvaro Odriozola will continue as the right-back. On the opposite flank, Marcelo seems to have regained his status as the first-choice left-back, and should be preferred to Sergio Reguilon once again.
Behind the defensive line, Keylor Navas is expected to line up in goal, after Luca Zidane was handed a rare start by the Real Madrid manager against Huesca. In midfield, both Luka Modric and Toni Kroos have been picked in the squad to face Valencia after being rested against Huesca.
The experienced creative midfielders should return to the starting lineup, with Casemiro completing the midfield trident. Up ahead in attack, Marco Asensio is in contention to return. But, with Isco being delightful since becoming a regular, his compatriot is likely to be on the bench.
Isco should play in a free role, on the tip of a midfield diamond, with the front two spots being taken up by Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema.
Probable Lineup (4-1-2-1-2): Navas; Odriozola, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Casemiro; Modric, Kroos; Isco; Bale, Benzema
- Valencia hold an inferior head-to-head record against Real Madrid, having won 43 of the 162 meetings between the two sides (D35 L84).
- Los Che though, boast a strong recent home record against Real Madrid, with Los Blancos having won on just one of their last six visits to the Mestalla in all competitions.
- Real Madrid have the second best attacking record away from home in La Liga, having netted 28 goals in 14 games. However, the visitors have also conceded 24 goals away from the Bernabeu, the third highest total in the Spanish top-flight.
- Valencia are currently on a 16-game unbeaten run across all competitions (W9 D7), the longest such streak in all of Europe.
- Isco has scored two goals in two games since Zinedine Zidane’s return, one more than he had in his previous 16 appearances this season.
Player to Watch
Valencia have pulled their weight in the biggest of games this season, which has been largely down to the brilliance of captain Dani Parejo. Not only is the Spanish international a reliable presence in the middle of the park to keep his teammates organised, but is also a dependable figure on set-pieces.
Such a quality was on full display the last time Valencia were up against one of the best sides in La Liga, as Los Che held Barcelona to a 2-2 draw. Should the 29-year-old lead by example once again, Real Madrid will find it tough to get past a resolute Valencia side.
Valencia 1-1 Real Madrid
Real Madrid may boast a 100 percent record since Zinedine Zidane returned to the helm at the Santiago Bernabeu. But, the performance against Huesca has shown that the manager still has a lot of work to do. Valencia will be another big test for Los Blancos, who will need to be at their very best to grab all three points.
Los Che look unbeatable at the moment, even if they struggle to get a win on a consistent basis. Marcelino’s men should keep things tight in defence and midfield once again, which will make it tough for Real Madrid to create the chances.
Expect a keenly contested affair that can go either way. In the end, however, it could end all square, and The Hard Tackle predicts a 1-1 draw, meaning both sides to share the spoils on Wednesday.