What: Spanish La Liga
Who: Valencia (3rd; 63 points) vs Real Madrid (2nd; 77 points)
When: Saturday 23rd April, 2011, at 17:00 UK time
Where: Mestalla, Valencia, Spain
Valencia have done superbly well in establishing themselves as Spain’s best club outside Barcelona and Real Madrid. Sitting comfortably six points above fourth-placed Villarreal, Los Che are in need of just another three points to all but guarantee their final standing. Against Copa del Rey winners Real Madrid, things might not be that easy however.
Quique Sanchez Flores’ team have been enjoying fine times lately, embarking on a good run that has seen the side drub their real rivals for third place, Villarreal, in a 5-0 romp. Their task of finishing third appears well in sight, but could suffer a setback this weekend according to Ever Banega, who pointed out his opponents’ potential: "We know they are powerful, hard and very complicated. They have that mystique that they always win, but we are there too and have won several games in a row. It will be a spectacular match".
It can be argued that the “Jose Mourinho Factor” has effectively kicked in at Real Madrid following the team’s Copa del Rey final win over Barcelona at the Mestalla in midweek action. Los Blancos followed the Portuguese’s tactics to the letter, keeping the Barcelona players at bay and relying on their fast counter-attacking abilities to go ahead in extra-time and emerge as 1-0 victors.
In many ways, this match was a repeat of Mourinho’s tactics against the same team with Inter last season, and the results were there to see. While the coach’s approach may not be that eye-catching, it certainly is effective. Speaking as his team started celebrations, club president Florentino Perez acknowledged that his team eye the Champions League final in Wembley now: “Now we have to get the final of the Champions League and win it – that would denote a good season.”
Getafe 2-4 Valencia (02/04; La Liga)
Valencia 5-0 Villarreal (10/04; La Liga)
Almeria 0-3 Valencia (16/04; La Liga)
Athletic Bilbao 0-3 Real Madrid (09/04; La Liga)
Real Madrid 1-1 Barcelona (16/04; La Liga)
Barcelona 0-1 Real Madrid (20/04; Copa del Rey)
Valencia: Tino Costa; Bruno; Vicente Rodriguez; David Navarro; Chori Dominguez
Real Madrid: Fernando Gago
Players to watch
Valencia – Ever Banega: The young Argentine has been at the heart of matters for his team lately, aiding them in attaining their goals and establishing himself as one of the league’s best players. Against Real Madrid, Banega will have to stop the likes of Xabi Alonso from dictating play.
Real Madrid – Cristiano Ronaldo: Ronaldo has had a memorable week so far, scoring the equaliser against Barcelona in the league and netting the cup winner in extra-time. Against Valencia, Mourinho will likely refer to his original game plan, giving the Portuguese more room to trick and dazzle.
Beating this Real Madrid side could be hard, given the fact that morale is high after the Copa del Rey win. The Castilians will want to be in the correct state of mind as they prepare to welcome Barcelona in the Champions League, and will want to keep their good form going. Valencia 0-2 Real Madrid.