Valencia host Real Madrid in a crucial clash for Madrid’s race to stay in the Champions League spots. Here’s your match preview.
Nobody thought it would come to this, but Real Madrid currently find themselves fighting to remain in La Liga’s top-4 guaranteed Champions League spots. Real Madrid sit at 35 points, five points behind Valencia at 40, with Madrid having a game in hand. This is a true “six pointer”, with serious implications for the La Liga table.
Valencia have been experiencing something of a resurgence this season, under the shrewd leadership and tactical acumen of Marcelino. Valencia’s style of play involves quick transitions from defense to attack, using line-breaking vertical passes to Rodrigo and Zaza to cut through defensive opposition with ease. Real Madrid could prove vulnerable to this strategy, as Madrid have been completely unable to stop teams cutting them apart on the counter.
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Valencia got off to a fierce start in La Liga, but have since stumbled a bit. In December, Valencia lost to both Eibar and Villarreal. Last week, Valencia collapsed against La Liga bottom dwellers Las Palmas after a stupid red card by Gabriel Paulista.
Real Madrid, on the other hand, finally had a convincing performance in La Liga at home against Deportivo, drubbing them 7-1. Unfortunately, all of this potential momentum was squandered when Madrid blew it against Leganes in the Copa del Rey second leg.
Madrid need to put the brakes on the train before it careens off a cliff, and away at Valencia will be the first chance for Madrid to stop the bleeding. Most of Madrid’s problems this season have come at the Bernabéu, and have mostly impressed when on the road.
Sergio Ramos may be expected to return to the starting lineup after an extended absence due to injury. That’s great news, as Madrid were beginning to look a bit thin at the back line with Vallejo out due to a hamstring injury.
Valencia will be a tricky affair. Marcelino’s team is well-equipped to handle Madrid, especially if Madrid fail to maintain intensity over the course of the full ninety. But a big, convincing win against third-place Valencia could not only go a long way to helping Madrid secure Champions League football, it could also provide Madrid with a bit of much-needed momentum moving forward in the season.
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