The title race is reaching its pinnacle – with only two La Liga matches left, Real Madrid find themselves one point behind league leaders FC Barcelona and Atlético de Madrid. With a knee sprain having ruled out Gareth Bale, Real Madrid will be hoping that the tides turn in their favour and both league leaders slip and drop points.
The Welsh Wizard’s injury is no doubt a blow to the Whites, who have had to rely on the Welshman’s services and clutch performances to capture crucial victories throughout the campaign. Bale, although having started a mere 20 matches out of Madrid’s 36 this season, has nonetheless found the back of the net on 19 occasions, and has furthermore provided 10 assists to his teammates.
Bale’s injury and Champions League hype might suggest that Zidane will likely rotate his preferred starting XI. That however, may prove to be a costly decision. Los Blancos’ last league victory against Valencia at the Bernabéu came on the 4th of December 2010, when Ronaldo scored two late goals only after Albelda had been sent off. Accordingly, Zidane must be wary of his rivals, and must ensure that he sends out his strongest XI.
While some suggest that La Liga is over, that assertion could not be further from the truth. Shock results and surprises from the past couple of weeks suggest that anything is possible in football. Nobody could have predicted that a season doomed to end in failure could in fact result in a double. As Real Madrid face Valencia, their eternal rivals Atlético will simultaneously be facing Levante away – where they have failed to secure all three points since 2007 – while Barcelona take on Espanyol in the famous Derbi Barceloní. With a little bit of luck (which Zidane’s men have found plenty of as of late), Real Madrid may just find themselves as league leaders come Saturday evening.
Casemiro and Karim Benzema, who both missed the midweek Champions League match through injury, will be back against Valencia. Carvajal meanwhile will be rested, while Keylor will miss out due to an Achilles injury. As for Valencia, Denis Cheryshev’s ineligibility against his parent club may mean that Santi Mina will start, while Enzo Pérez, Paco Alcácer and Aymen Abdennour may all return to the side’s starting XI after having missed out in their side's last loss against Villarreal.
On another note, CR7 will be pushing to add to his goal tally, as he currently sits four goals behind Barcelona’s Luis Suarez in the scoring charts.
Madrid’s elusive home record (15 out of 18 matches won, scoring 67 goals), coupled with Valencia’s misery (11W, 11D, 14L) that has seen them succumb to ninth-place, suggests that Zidane’s men are the better bet to achieve victory in this weekend’s matchup. However, the arrival of Pako Ayestarán has resulted in Los Che securing three consecutive league victories for the very first time this campaign, and against Real Madrid (who are undeniably the most hated club amongst Valencia supporters), the Valencian side will put up a stern battle.
Knowing that if they lose, and Barcelona win, the title race will be over, Real Madrid must hit the ground running and score early against a Valencia side that is eager to put a smile on their fans’ face after a failure of a season.
The Bernabéu will bid goodbye to Álvaro Arbeloa this Saturday evening, as the right back plans to depart Real Madrid this summer.
Some Madridistas believe that Arbeloa played a role in dividing the dressing room as he pledged blind allegiance to then-manager José Mourinho. Others, however, deem Álvaro as the side’s ‘captain without an armband’ – an eternal Madridista. While both sides undoubtedly have valid claims, Arbeloa’s love for the capital club’s colours can in no circumstance be questioned.
His dedication and immense work rate speak for him as an individual, and his role as the team’s dressing room motivator and voice portray his importance to a side packed with large egos and incredible salaries. Per Granero, "Alvaro is not only one of the few undisputed footballers, champion both inside and outside the country, but he is one of the few people who really know the meaning of Real Madrid's values." Callejón meanwhile, stated that "He [Arbeloa] is 100% pure Real Madrid, who represents the values and principles of the club like nobody else."
I, personally, consider Arbeloa to be a symbol of Madridismo.
Goodbye espartano, you will be missed!
Real Madrid possible lineup: Casilla; Danilo, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Kroos, Modrić, Isco; Vázquez, Jesé, Ronaldo
Valencia possible lineup: Alves; Cancelo, Mustafi, Abdennour, Siqueira; Pérez, Gomes, Parejo; Rodrigo, Alcácer, Mina
Managing Madrid staff predictions
- Om – Real Madrid 1 – 1 Valencia
- Andrejs – Real Madrid 2 – 0 Valencia
- Lucas – Real Madrid 3 – 0 Valencia
- Timm – Real Madrid 3 – 0 Valencia
- Marc – Real Madrid 2 – 0 Valencia
- Mike – Real Madrid 2 – 1 Valencia
- Kiyan – Real Madrid 4 – 1 Valencia
- Nate – Real Madrid 3 – 1 Valencia