What: Spanish La Liga
Who: Valencia vs Real Madrid
When: Sunday 20th January, 2013, at 20:00 UK time
Where: Mestalla, Valencia, Spain


Valencia meet Real Madrid in the second of three games in the space of a few days. Having tasted defeat against Los Blancos just a few days ago in the first leg of two Copa del Rey quarter-final encounters, Los Che will be hoping to turn things around this time at the Mestalla, hoping that such a win would grant them the necessary leverage to overcome their adversaries in the return leg of the cup.

The encounter between the two sides last Tuesday had its fair share of controversy, as Valencia saw two offside rulings incorrectly ruled out in their favour, in the latest twist of what has been controversial and polemic refereeing in Spain. Speaking after the 2-0 defeat at the Santiago Bernabeu, Valencia striker Roberto Soldado hinted that the referees succumbed to the injustice cries that his former side have voiced in recent times.

“Apparently this is a deja-vu that we've experiemced, and will soon be forgotten. The truth is it is outrageous; but referees are afraid of being wrong and hurting the big sides and that cannot be”, declared an angry Soldado.

Valencia are on a three-game unbeaten run in La Liga, but the visiting side have had good results at the Mestalla in recent times. Jose Mourinho may opt to rest some key players for this game as the league is a lost case now for his players, leaving the task perhaps a bit easier for the home side.

Stepping Stone

There is no clearer picture than that of Real Madrid’s objectives at the moment. As the league title is lost now with Barcelona 18 points ahead of the reigning champions, it is no secret that the capital side have turned their attention to Copa del Rey and Champions League success. Both will not be easy, as Manchester United stand in Real Madrid’s way in the European tournament, while Valencia are not out yet despite their first leg cup defeat. With a league meeting sandwiched in between the two knockout fixtures against Los Che, the 32-time league champions will be hoping that a win at the Mestalla will serve them well again in three days’ time when they meet Valencia with an eye on the semi-finals of the domestic cup.

Los Blancos have won in their last three league visits to the Valencian ground, with their most-recent – a 3-2 victory – still in the minds of Madridistas. Speaking after their last match, club captain Iker Casillas – who was reinstated to the starting eleven – expressed his satisfaction with the result, but hinted that the 2004 domestic champions will not make it easy for his team in the following games. “Valencia are a great team, we have stood up for ourselves at the Bernabeu and we expect a very tough second leg. We’ll have to grit our teeth.”

The match against Valencia marked Marcelo’s return to the side following a spell on the sidelines as a result of a broken leg. Pepe remains injured, while Sergio Ramos continues to serve a five-match ban following his lashes at the referee in the team’s game against Osasuna.

Recent form

Valencia 2-1 Osasuna (08/01; Copa del Rey)
Valencia 2-0 Sevilla (12/01; La Liga)
Real Madrid 2-0 Valencia (15/01; Copa del Rey)

Real Madrid:
Real Madrid 4-0 Celta Vigo (09/01; Copa del Rey)
Osasuna 0-0 Real Madrid (12/01; La Liga)
Real Madrid 2-0 Valencia (15/01; Copa del Rey)

Key absences

Valencia: Sergio Canales; Sofiane Feghouli; Jeremy Mathieu; Daniel Parejo

Real Madrid: Pepe; Sergio Ramos (suspended)

Players to watch

Valencia – Roberto Soldado: The ex-Getafe man was a nuisance as Real Madrid were quite below their best in the cup game and he could have scored a goal or two had it not been for Casillas’ heroics. On home turf, Soldado will feel more comfortable.

Real Madrid – Sami Khedira: The German destroyer has been one of the team’s most consistent players in recent times, scoring against Real Sociedad and Celta Vigo, as well as being the best on the pitch against Valencia. More is expected from him.

Match Prediction

Real Madrid suffered in their last league game against Osasuna as Cristiano Ronaldo served a suspension. However, the Portuguese’s return will serve as a massive boost as they try to forget their awful first half of the season. Valencia will not be whipping boys, but the travelling side will need to win this one as they look forward to a more important game against the same rivals in three days’ time. Valencia 1-2 Real Madrid.

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