Real Madrid marked their return to the La Liga after a three-month break with a routine 3-1 victory against Eibar on Sunday. Now, in their next fixture, they welcome seventh-placed Valencia on Friday.
Real Madrid find themselves two points behind Barcelona who can go five points clear on Wednesday when they host 19th-placed Leganes at the Nou Camp.
This fixture at the Alfredo de Stefano Stadium will be the first acid test for Zinedine Zidane's men who are locked in a fierce title race with the Catalan club.
Valencia have proven to be a tricky opponent for Real Madrid in the past. They held Real Madrid to a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture at the Mastella in December.
Valencia drew their first La Liga game since the lockdown against a 10-man Levante and would be kicking themselves for not converting their chances. They are chasing a top-four finish in the league this term.
Both the clubs have too much at stake here heading into this blockbuster fixture. So, here we take a look at what to expect from this game.
Real Madrid vs Valencia Head-to-Head:
Real Madrid and Valencia are two of the oldest clubs in the Spanish top-flight. They have played each other in league competitions on 169 occasions. Real Madrid have won 87, Valencia 45 and the remaining 37 ended in draws.
More recently, in the last ten meetings between the two clubs, Los Vikingos have won four games, four ended in a draw, while they beat Real Madrid twice, both times at the Mestalla.
Los Che have not won an away La Liga game against Real Madrid since 2008. But playing at a different venue this time, Valencia might be hopeful of a different result as well. They have a negative goal difference in the La Liga this season and have conceded 40 goals this campaign, twice the number Real Madrid have let in.
Real Madrid form guide: W-L-W-L-L-D.
Valencia form guide: D-L-D-W-L-L.
Real Madrid and Valencia team news:
Zinedine Zidane's players emerged stronger after the COVID-19 lockdown and Eden Hazard marked his return from an injury with an assist. One point of concern for the French manager, however, who marked his 200th game as a Real Madrid manager with a win against Eibar is that left-back Marcelo looked gassed out in the second half. The best-case scenario in this regard is that it was just exhaustion.
Zidane utilised all the five substitutions in the last game and thus most of his Real Madrid squad will be well-rested for the game against Valencia. There are no new injury concerns for Zidane apart from Mariano Diaz, Nacho and Luka Jovic. It was reported that Gareth Bale missed training earlier today due to a muscle strain.
It is expected that Ferland Mendy will start on the left flank while Vinicius may start in place of Rodrygo in attack. In the midfield, Fede Valverde will be vying for a starting position.
Injuries: Mariano Diaz (tendonitis), Luka Jovic (fractured foot), Nacho (thigh).
Doubtful: Lucas Vazquez (muscle strain), Gareth Bale (muscle strain).
Valencia were hit by an injury crisis just before the LaLiga was suspended in March. Some of their key players have still not recovered yet. Defender Ezequiel Garay was ruled out in February due to a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament, while his partner Gabriel Paulista picked up a muscle strain in training ahead of the fixture against Levante. Cristiano Piccini remains unavailable after undergoing surgery on his broken knee cap.
Valencia striker Maxi Gomez recovered in time and is expected to feature against Real Madrid. Midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia will also be available for the Madrid game after serving his suspension.
Injuries: Ezequiel Garay (ACL), Gabriel Paulista (muscle strain), Cristiano Piccini (knee).
Real Madrid vs Valencia Predicted XI:
Real Madrid (4-3-3): Thibaut Courtois; Dani Carvajal, Raphael Varane, Sergio Ramos, Ferland Mendy; Carlos Casemiro, Toni Kroos, Federico Valverde; Eden Hazard, Vinícius Junior, Karim Benzema.
Valencia (4-4-2): Jasper Cillessen; Daniel Wass, Mouctar Diakhaby, Hugo Guillamon, Jose Gaya; Ferran Torres, Dani Parejo, Geoffrey Kondogbia, Goncalo Guedes; Rodrigo, Maxi Gomez.
Real Madrid vs Valencia Predicted Score:
Zinedine Zidane blasted his players for a lacklustre display in the second half when they stepped off the pedal and conceded a goal, despite winning the game 3-1 win.
It is expected that he will remind every Real Madrid player what is at stake in the Valencia game, and that they have to treat every game as a final. We can also expect Real Madrid to be less rusty in their second La Liga game since the COVID-19 break, and their attacking threat can prove too much for Valencia to handle.
Los Che did not play at their best in their previous outing and would be looking to make a comeback in the game against Real Madrid on Friday. But we all know that Zidane's team can handle pressure well, so it is likely that the visitors return empty-handed from the game.
Final verdict: Real Madrid 2-1 Valencia.Published 16 Jun 2020, 02:12 IST