Match Preview: Real Madrid v Valencia
La Liga, Santiago Bernabeu
Real Madrid face another ‘cup final’ at the Bernabeu tonight as they continue their chase for the Liga title by hosting Champions League-chasing Valencia.
Madrid will already know the outcome of Barcelona’s match against Real Sociedad going into the game but three points is the minimum outcome with just three games to go this season and a two-point deficit to close on the Catalan leaders.
In Valencia, Los Blancos have a foe they know well. Los Che ended Madrid’s record-breaking 22-game winning run in January with a 2-1 win at Mestalla and also took a share of the spoils in a 2-2 draw at the Bernabeu last season to dent Madrid’s title hopes.
Now Nuno Esparto Santo’s men need the points to clinch a return to European football’s elite competition and they will look to do that at the expense of Madrid’s title hopes.
Madrid team news
Ancelotti will welcome striker Karim Benzema back into his matchday squad from injury. The Frenchman returned to full training this week after suffering a knee injury in the Champions League clash against Atletico Madrid. He is likely to get minutes from the bench in the hope he will be fully ready for a starting role against Juventus in midweek.
That should mean Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez gets the nod to return to the starting line-up in a front three alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. Ancelotti is set for a return to his favoured formation and that will suit the on-loan Mexican, who missed out in Turin.
Ancelotti says he will decide on the day whether to use Sergio Ramos in a midfield role or in his usual centre-back position. The Spaniard is expected to drop back into defence alongside Pepe, leaving a midfield three of Toni Kroos, Isco and James Rodriguez.
The only other changes Ancelotti could make are to his full-backs, with Fabio Coentrao and Alvaro Arbeloa having the chance to fill-in for Marcelo and Dani Carvajal respectively.
Sami Khedira is absent with a foot injury.
Valencia team news
Valencia will include Jose Luis Gaya in their starting eleven just a day after he signed a new five-year deal with the club and ended any immediate hopes that Madrid could bring the talented left-back to the Bernabeu.
The 19-year-old penned his new deal yesterday, which includes a €50 million release clause, and it will be the first time he has played at the Bernabeu after being left out of the squad for last season’s match in the Spanish capital.
Attacker Rodrigo will miss out through suspension but Diego Alves is ready to start in goal after picking up a knock last week.
Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said…
“We must play with a lot of intensity against a side who are on a very good run, confident and fighting for a Champions League spot. We are not thinking about Juve, we are going to put our best side out against Valencia.
“The team is doing well mentally. We know that it is an important game and we are lucky to be playing at home. Valencia gave us problems in the game earlier in the season and we have to put all of our quality out onto the pitch. We have maximum confidence for our next two games.”
Valencia coach Nuno Esparto Santo said…
“I think it’s going to be hard fought, with two teams that like to play and great players on the pitch. There will be times for possession and times for defending. At these points you have to be precise and convincing in what you do. We want to go to the Bernabéu and compete.”
– Madrid sit two points behind leaders Barcelona going into the weekend but could find themselves five points adrift if Luis Enrique’s side see off Real Sociedad two hours before the kick-off at the Bernabeu.
– Valencia currently occupy a Champions League place in fourth and are three points above fifth-placed Sevilla.
– Valencia won the reverse match 2-1 in January thanks to goals from Antonio Barragan and Nicolas Otamendi. A Cristiano Ronaldo had the visitors in front.
– Los Che also took points off Madrid at the Bernabeu last season with a 2-2 draw that dented Los Blancos’ title charge. Jeremy Mathieu and Dani Parejo twice had the visitors ahead but goals from Sergio Ramos and Ronaldo ensured a point for Ancelotti’s men.
– The Bernabeu has been somewhat of a fortress for Madrid recently, with 14 of their last 15 home matches in La Liga ending in victory. The European champions have also been winning at half-time and full-time in eleven of their last 12 games on home soil.
– Madrid are also unbeaten in their last eight home matches against Valencia, whilst Los Che have failed to win in their last three away matches in La Liga.
13/5/15 v Juventus (H) – Champions League semi-final second leg.