Real Madrid are eyeing their first league win of 2022 as they lock horns with Valencia at the Santiago Bernabeu this weekend.
After ousting Alcoyano in midweek in the Copa del Rey, Real Madrid are hoping to build a winning momentum as they take on Valencia at the Santiago Bernabeu in La Liga on Saturday night.
Real Madrid had started the new year with a shocking 1-0 defeat to Getafe. But Carlo Ancelotti’s men managed to bounce back this midweek by brushing aside Alcoyano in the third round of the Copa Del Rey. The club are now hoping to maintain that momentum as they face a much trickier contest against Valencia.
While Los Merengues do have a healthy five-point lead at the top of the table, they can’t afford to slip up once again, especially with an ambitious Sevilla outfit breathing down their necks. The Andalusian outfit have a game in hand, and another loss for Real Madrid could mathematically open up the opportunity to overturn the five-point deficit.
Sevilla are hoping that Valencia can do them a huge favour this weekend by securing at least a point against Real Madrid. The visitors have endured a similar run of results as their weekend opponent, with a 2-1 league defeat to Espanyol followed by a narrow victory over FC Cartagena in the Copa Del Rey.
However, Valencia have not won a single away game against Real Madrid since 2008. They also fell to a 2-1 defeat against their esteemed opponent in the reverse fixture this season, and the hosts will certainly be looking for a similar result as the two sides lock horns at the Santiago Bernabeu this weekend.
Team News & Tactics
Real Madrid are dealing with a couple of COVID-19 related absentees in Dani Carvajal and Luka Jovic. Mariano Diaz, meanwhile, had picked up a hamstring problem in the win over Alcoyano, thus joining Gareth Bale in the club’s list of absentees.
— Real Madrid C.F. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@realmadriden) January 7, 2022
As far as the starting XI is concerned, Carlo Ancelotti is expected to ring in the changes from the side that faced Alcoyano in midweek. Karim Benzema is set to spearhead the attack for Los Blancos, but with attacking alternatives in Diaz and Jovic both unavailable, the onus will be on the Frenchman to deliver the goods in the final third.
Real Madrid have been handed a massive boost in the creative department as Vinicius Junior has made his return. After missing the first couple of matches this year, the Brazilian has been included in the matchday squad. He should form the front three alongside Benzema and Rodrygo, with Eden Hazard and Marco Asensio serving as alternatives.
Changes should be in order in midfield as well. The young options in Federico Valverde and Eduardo Camavinga should both make way for Toni Kroos and Luka Modric. Their creativity and the ability to drive the ball upfield could be crucial as they look to break down the Valencia defence.
At the same time, Casemiro’s role in holding the fort in midfield will be critical as well. The Brazilian will be tasked with breaking up the opposition’s play and mopping up loose balls in the middle of the park. Casemiro will offer protection for the backline that will witness two changes, with Lucas Vazquez and Ferland Mendy coming in for Nacho Fernandez and Marcelo.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Vazquez, Militao, Alaba, Mendy; Kroos, Casemiro, Modric; Rodrygo, Benzema, Vinicius
Valencia head coach Jose Bordalas is a gritty coach whose traditional 4-4-2 often sucks the life out of the opposition attackers. With two banks of four covering Jasper Cillessen in goal, Real Madrid could find it difficult to create goalscoring opportunities.
However, the visitors are missing some crucial defenders heading into this clash. Former Arsenal star Gabriel Paulista and first-choice right-back Dimitri Foulquier are unavailable due to injuries. Even Toni Lato is expected to remain on the sidelines, giving Bordalas a major selection dilemma.
Fortunately for the Valencia coach, his team does have good depth in defence, with Mouctar Diakhaby set to replace Paulista. He will form the central defensive pairing with Omar Alderete, whereas Thierry Correia should get the nod ahead of Daniel Wass at right-back. There should be no changes on the opposite flank, as captain Jose Gaya hopes to marshall the backline and help the team retain a clean sheet.
🎙️ Bordalás: “We always face our matches wanting to win them. We are excited and want to give a good showing against Real Madrid” 💪🏽
— Valencia CF (@valenciacf_en) January 7, 2022
In midfield, the onus will be on Daniel Wass and Hugo Guillamon to form a solid double-pivot and break up the opposition’s creative output. It won’t be surprising to see Guillamon operate deeper than usual, helping out the centre-backs if required.
Elsewhere, Carlos Soler is likely to miss the game after picking up an injury against FC Cartagena. Goncalo Guedes is favoured to replace him in the right-sided midfield role. Ex-Real Madrid star Denis Cheryshev should get the nod on the opposite flank as the two look to supply the centre-forwards upfront.
Hugo Duro would usually spearhead the line for Valencia. But the young forward is facing a suspension after picking up two yellow cards against Espanyol. Marcos Andre has been lined up as his deputy, as the Brazilian looks to form Valencia’s first line of press alongside Maxi Gomez.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Cillessen; Correia, Diakhaby, Alderete, Gaya; Guedes, Wass, Guillamon, Cheryshev; Gomez, Andre
- Real Madrid have won their last two games against Valencia in La Liga and could record three wins in a row against them in the competition for the first time since a run of five successive victories between 2009 and 2011.
- Valencia have lost more La Liga games against Real Madrid than against any other side ever (90). Indeed, the Merengues are the only team against whom they have a losing percentage of over 50% in the competition’s history (52%).
- Real Madrid have scored in each of their last 19 meetings with Valencia in La Liga. Only once have they scored in more consecutive games against them in the competition – back in 1964 (21).
- Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid have now gone 26 consecutive home games in La Liga without a defeat (W21 D5) and have gone 348 minutes without conceding a goal since Rafa Mir scored on 28 November. This is the best league run without conceding for Los Blancos at home with the Italian in charge.
- Valencia have won their last two La Liga away games and could register three straight away wins in the competition for the first time since the four between September and November 2018 under Marcelino Garcia Toral.
Player to Watch
Vinicius Junior’s return to the Real Madrid setup will be a major boost for a club that lacked creative output and dynamism in their last league game against Getafe. Things could look a lot different this time around as the returning Vinicius looks set to form part of the front three for Los Merengues. The winger has been the standout player for the club this season, scoring ten goals while supplying five more.
His combination play alongside Benzema has made life difficult for La Liga defenders, and Valencia should be no exception. From a tactical perspective, Real Madrid will mainly try to utilise Vinicius’ electric pace that will offer them additional fuel on the counter. His ability to take on defenders should also be useful, especially with Valencia missing their first-choice right-back in Dimitri Foulquier.
Real Madrid 2-1 Valencia
Valencia are not an opposition to be taken lightly, as far as Real Madrid are concerned. Their organised 4-4-2 could make life difficult for the attackers, potentially leading to a cagey affair where chances may be at a premium.
However, Real Madrid remain the undisputed favourites to seal all three points due to the sheer quality of the team that has performed very well under Carlo Ancelotti this season. We expect Vinicius to be the main difference between the two sides even if the Brazilian starts the game on the bench.