The defending champions of Spain and Europe Real Madrid will be looking to return to winning ways when they take on Valencia, who are without a manager, on their home turf at the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid on Thursday.
Los Blancos will be looking to keep up with Barcelona’s title challenge at the top of the table and lost some steam after being held to a goalless draw in their previous La Liga match by Real Sociedad at the Bernabeu. They will hope to put the frustration of that result behind them and instead focus on hurting Valencia at a time when they are vulnerable.
Los Che recently parted ways with manager Gennaro Gattuso earlier this week and enter the Bernabeu without an official head coach in the dugout. They have won only one of their eight league away matches this season and will be taking on a Real Madrid side who are yet to lose on home soil so far this term.
Real Madrid’s aspirations of successfully defending their La Liga title suffered another major blow in their most recent league encounter. An in-form Real Sociedad side managed to hold them to a goalless draw at home and Carlo Ancelotti’s side have now dropped points in four of their last seven top-flight matches.
Their first La Liga game in 2023 ended in a shock 2-1 defeat to Villarreal away from home. While the defending champions did get back to winning ways with a 2-0 routine win over Athletic Bilbao at the San Mames, they were unable to keep up that momentum and failed to break the deadlock against Real Sociedad.
Forced to settle for a goalless stalemate at the Bernabeu, Real Madrid currently sit eight points behind league leaders Barcelona after the latter’s 2-1 victory over Real Betis at the Estadio Benito Villamarin last night. The onus will be on the side from the capital to cut that deficit back down to five.
Given the kind of form that Barcelona have been in and they are on track to hit the 100-point mark by the end of the season, Ancelotti’s men can no longer afford to drop more points during the second half of the campaign. With that being said, there’s no doubt that Real Madrid will fancy their chances against a struggling Valencia both on and off the field.
Los Blancos have already beaten Los Che this month, albeit on penalties with a 4-3 triumph in the Spanish Super Cup semi-finals following a 1-1 draw in 120 minutes. However, Valencia will focus on the fact that they were able to thwart Real Madrid for so long in that game and take the positives from that contest on their trip to the Bernabeu.
The 35-time La Liga champions have also won 11 and drawn five of their last 16 meetings with Valencia at the Bernabeu, last losing against them on home soil back in March 2008 – a game which saw David Villa score a brace in a 3-2 win for Los Che.
Valencia have been engulfed in turmoil yet again as the presidential and institutional top brass decided that they had seen enough. After spending seven months in charge of the club, former Milan midfielder Gennaro Gattuso, who had been doing a decent job with the limited resources available, has been shown the door and the club officially confirmed his departure on Monday.
The 45-year-old has left the club on mutual consent after taking charge of the side for just 22 matches, lesser than half of his predecessor Jose Bordalas and even six fewer than Gary Neville’s infamous reign of the club in 2016.
Poor form since the World Cup break is being pointed as the reason behind the decision. It is believed that Valencia decided to part ways with him after the side won just twice in their eight fixtures across all competitions since the resumption of European football after the Qatar World Cup.
They have also suffered defeats in three of their last four league fixtures including Sunday’s 1-0 away loss against Real Valladolid – a game which saw Cyle Larin net a 90th-minute winner. As a result of that, Los Che have now stooped down to the 14th place in the league table and they are one of four teams on 20 points each with the remaining three being Espanyol, Celta Vigo, and Real Valladolid.
There’s margin for concern given that they are just one point above the relegation zone in the table but Valencia do have a game in hand and they will be desperate to make it count against Real Madrid.
Valencia have struggled throughout this season, but their form away from home in particular has been a major concern for almost a year, as they have won only three of their last 16 matches on the road, dating back to March 2022.
Voro Gonzalez has taken the reins as interim boss for the seventh time in his career – the first of which back in 2008 – and the 59-year-old is tasked with steering his Valencia team to an unlikely victory against a Real Madrid side whom they have beaten just twice in their last 13 meetings across all tournaments.
RMA vs VAL, La Liga 2022/23
Date: 3rd February, 2023
Time: 1:30 AM IST
Venue: Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid
Real Madrid La Liga 2022/23 form:
Real Madrid form (all competitions):
Valencia La Liga 2022/23 form:
Valencia form (all competitions):
Real Madrid wins: 31
Valencia wins: 11
Real Madrid Team News:
Real Madrid have suffered a major blow as left-back Ferland Mendy has suffered a serious injury and is set to miss at least two months of action. He sustained a hamstring injury in the Copa del Rey against Atletico Madrid last week and is also expected to miss the Champions League clashes with Liverpool later this month.
Lucas Vazquez is also unavailable after suffering an injury, coincidentally, against Valencia in the Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, defender David Alaba who was making a comeback to fitness has suffered another relapse with his ongoing calf problem and is also set to be out.
However, midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni and right-back Dani Carvajal are available for selection after spells out through injury, and Ancelotti has confirmed that the former “will start” against Valencia.
For the left-back role, Ancelotti decided to deploy midfielder Eduardo Camavinga in that position and he did surprisingly well against Real Sociedad. Therefore, it won’t be surprising to see him in that role once again.
Meanwhile, Luka Modric who came on from the bench late in the game against Sociedad might start the contest with Valencia here. Karim Benzema, who has scored nine goals in each of his last seven league matches against Valencia, is almost certain to lead the line as Vinicius Junior partners him on the left. Meanwhile, one of Federico Valverde or Rodrygo will occupy the other flank on the right side.
Valencia Team News:
Coming to Valencia, they are missing Jaume Domenech and Barcelona loanee Nico Gonzalez due to knee and foot injuries respectively. Thierry Correia is also expected to be out of contention after missing the last four matches with a muscle problem and remains doubtful here.
Voro may decide to make changes to the starting lineup, with the likes of Mouctar Diakhaby, Hugo Guillamon, Justin Kluivert and Ilaix Moriba all pushing for recalls after beginning on the bench against Valladolid.
Top scorer Edinson Cavani has failed to score in his last three appearances, but the 35-year-old is expected to continue as the central striker, while Samu Castillejo and Samuel Lino will hope to retain their places on the flanks.
Real Madrid possible starting lineup:
Courtois; Nacho, Militao, Rudiger, Camavinga; Kroos, Tchouameni, Modric; Valverde, Benzema, Vinicius Jr
Valencia possible starting lineup:
Mamardashvili; Foulquier, Comert, Diakhaby, Gaya; Musah, Guillamon, Moriba; Kluivert, Cavani, Lino
As mentioned already, Valencia will try to take the positives from their Spanish Super Cup semi-final fixture against Real Madrid. Although they did end up losing on penalties, they had frustrated Los Blancos for large parts of the game and will require similar levels of grit and determination in order to have any hopes of securing a positive result at the Santiago Bernabeu.
With that being said, there are far too many uncertainties around the Valencia camp after the departure of Gattuso. Meanwhile, Los Blancos will be desperate to bounce back with a strong win after dropping points in the last game. They remain the favourites to pick up all three points from this fixture.