As is customary in Spain, the winter break allowed a brief cooling-off period for all twenty La Liga teams. But it’s now back to full throttle for a select few. While fellow top four clubs Atlético Madrid and Barcelona resume with games against bottom half clubs in the form of Levante and Real Sociedad respectively, the resumption of play in the Primera División looks a little less comfortable for Valencia and Real Madrid.
Valencia win 17/4
Real Madrid win 53/100
(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)
The pair are set to clash at Mestalla on Sunday evening, in what looks sure to represent matchday 17’s tastiest fixture. Carlo Ancelotti’s side haven’t faced a top four team on the road this season in La Liga – and with their 22 game winning streak on the line once more, victory at one of the toughest grounds in Spain would send another devastating statement of intent for Los Blancos. On the other hand, a Valencia team who have dwindled a little in recent months need no better motivation than a victory over the untouchables from the capital as they prepare for a renewed Champions League push in 2015.
Many have been scanning Madrid’s upcoming schedule for games that could prove a little more problematic for the European Champions, and there aren’t many that rival this one. Although Valencia’s early season form hasn’t been quite been as well maintained through the winter months, their exploits on Mestalla soil very much have. Despite taking a relatively disappointing 12 points from a possible 24 since the beginning of November, their home form remains impressive. Visits from Barcelona, Athletic Club and champions Atlético Madrid among others have seen their defence surrender just 4 goals in 8 games, while a 3-1 win over the latter in October shows exactly what they are capable of on their day.
Another factor likely to be putting fire in the bellies of those associated with Valencia, is the contrasting nature of their winter break. By the time the game comes around, the home side will have had 18 days of rest and preparation time ahead of the game – about as good a time as any to welcome the European Champions if you’re Nuno Espírito Santo. And if the Valencia boss wasn’t already satisfied with the favourable circumstances of the schedule, he’ll have enjoyed receiving the news that Real Madrid had some air miles to clock up during that time. Their opponents arrived in Morocco on December 14th for the Club World Cup, with games against Cruz Azul on the 16th and in the final against San Lorenzo on the 20th. From there, they had time for a short breather, before then setting off for Dubai on the 29th for a friendly against AC Milan. A game which Ancelotti later referred to as little more than a nuisance when he assured their surprise 4-2 loss “didn’t hurt at all”.
Of course, Los Blancos’ fate isn’t already sealed for their Mestalla trip. Madrid’s winter break wasn’t all a nuisance by any means. They picked up their fourth trophy of 2014 with their Club World Cup triumph over San Lorenzo, which officially (but rather unofficially) makes them the best team in the world right now. The defeat against Milan will have been forgotten by the time they boarded the plane, in what represented more of a ‘fatigue-preserving’ fixture, rather than a ‘competitive’ one. As far as Ancelotti was concerned, his team’s winter break objectives were signed and sealed back in Morocco. The Italian will assumedly remain as happy as a manager could be, and a friendly defeat matters little to him. When the lights are on and it’s time to compete, his team have decimated nearly all that have stood in their way. But taking on a well-rested (to say the least) Valencia, who have spent over two weeks transfixed on the task in hand, is a fresh challenge that should be well considered. A game far removed from the environment in which they took on Milan in Dubai – one in which even Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid team were humbled. If anyone is going to halt the European Champions in the league, few look to have a better chance than Valencia on home turf.
Spotting chinks in the armour will have become a leading pastime for La Liga bosses up and down the country in recent months, and Real Madrid’s opposition have had a generous amount of time to achieve that. An 18-day break is a lifetime in the midst of a league campaign, and assuming Nuno Espírito Santo has fine-tooth combed his preparation during that time, his team are in line for the next shot at the king. A shot that, even with the best intentions and the best preparation, might produce a few gulps on the Mestalla terraces come kick-off time.
Betting Instinct tip – Valencia to avoid defeat is 2.33 with Intertops.eu