There was nervousness aplenty before Real Madrid faced Chelsea at Stamford Bridge earlier this week. Los Blancos were not only up against the defending champions of the UCL but also the team that knocked them out of the competition last year.
As always, it was Karim Benzema who stole the show. The Frenchman scored a second consecutive Champions League hat-trick and put his side in a commanding 3-1 lead ahead of the second leg on Tuesday.
However, Madrid have one more game to handle before the much-awaited return leg midweek. Carlo Ancelotti’s side face Getafe at home and must win to hold onto their 12 point lead on the standings.
Thibaut Courtois made four saves against his former club to help his side to a win last week. The Belgian has been in incredible form this season and will look to keep a clean sheet against the 14th placed side.
In central defence, David Alaba could be given a much-needed rest ahead of the decisive fixture. With La Liga almost sealed and delivered, the manager will look to take a few risks on the night.
In the Austrian’s absence, Nacho could start alongside Eder Militao. The Brazilian seemed to have picked up an injury against Chelsea but has fortunately not suffered anything serious. He will be ready to start on the night.
Daniel Carvajal will start at right-back after an impressive defensive show midweek. Ahead of the second leg, he will look to keep his good run of form.
The left-back position will be covered by Marcelo with Mendy absent from the squad list due to injury. The Brazilian is no longer the player he once used to be, but can still plug the hole against Getafe.
Needless to say, the matchup between the defender and Damian Suarez will be fascinating to watch.
In midfield, Real Madrid will see wholesale changes. Casemiro will be the only veteran midfielder to start on the night and will be tasked with holding the fortress against any counterattack.
Luka Modric and Toni Kroos are expected to start on the bench. The duo will have to feature extensively in Real Madrid’s next two games, i.e. against Chelsea and Sevilla. In their place, Eduardo Camavinga and Federico Valverde could receive call-ups into the starting lineup.
Camavinga impressed the management and fans alike with his masterful performance against Real Sociedad last month.
Since then, he has seen regular playing time off the bench. Given that the manager does not have many options at his disposal, the 19-year-old could be part of the starting lineup on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Federico Valverde will stick to his usual role of dictating play and linking up in the final third.
In attack, Karim Benzema will start as the striker and look to extend his unreal goalscoring form. The veteran has scored 13 goals and provided four assists in his last seven games, a clear indication of what he means to the current team.
At this point, a rest could do more harm than good to the player by disturbing his seamless form.
Vincius Jr should start on the left wing and will be up against Djene. The Brazilian has slightly fizzled out in recent months after a blistering start to the season. Heading into the most critical phase of the campaign, Vinicius will look to return to his imperial best.
The final name on the starting lineup will likely be Marco Asensio. The Spanish player has been linked with a move to AC Milan in recent days and will look to prove his worth to the manager.
At the same time, it is a great chance for Asensio to attract suitors and give them a glimpse of his brilliance.
Three talking points ahead of Valencia vs Real Madrid | La Liga GW 27
Back in November, Real Madrid locked horns with Valencia for the first time in the 2023-24 campaign at the Santiago Bernabeu. Their outing on the night could not have gone better as they put five goals past a helpless opposition who completely deflated under pressure.
A Dani Carvajal goal followed by braces from Vinicius Jr. and Rodrygo sealed the deal on the night, with Valencia’s compensation coming in the form of a late, and solitary goal, from Hugo Duro.
On Saturday night, the two teams lock horns again. This time, Los Che will have the home advantage and the single factor could well be responsible for the drastic change in resistance Los Blancos could face on the night. After all, the Mestalla is not an easy fortress to conquer.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Valencia vs Real Madrid.
Real Madrid have been without Jude Bellingham for close to three weeks now. The talisman last featured for Los Blancos in their 4-0 drubbing of Girona, but an ankle injury forced him off the field and out of action.
The youngster was soon joined by Joselu on the sidelines after the Spanish veteran suffered an ankle injury in training last week. Tests revealed a poor prognosis, effectively ruling Joselu out for three weeks.
Bellingham’s return to fitness has been speculated for a while now, and Ancelotti confirmed the same in his pre-match press conference. Bellingham will be available for selection on the night and could well start against Valencia.
The second recovery from injury, of Joselu, is nothing short of miraculous. Having been diagnosed with bone edema, it is almost unbelievable that the veteran is back in action just seven days later.
With Ancelotti confirming the duo’s availability on the night, Real Madrid can breathe a sigh of relief. After all, they will be rejuvenated in the final third where they have had to depend on just Vinicius Jr, Brahim Diaz, and Rodrygo Goes. A massive boost.
Playing Valencia at the Mestalla can be hell. History is a testament that the historic stadium is a fortress for Los Che, one that even the best teams in the world often falter at.
The story for Real Madrid at Mestalla is no different. The men in white may have dominated most of Spain’s stadiums over the years, but their record at Valencia’s home is not particularly encouraging.
Real Madrid and Los Che have locked horns at Mestalla ten times since 2015. Of those, Los Blancos have emerged victors just three times. Valencia have won on a staggering five occasions while two ended in a draw.
More worryingly, the Merengues have conceded a total of 17 goals in the aforementioned ten outings while scoring 16 times. Their most recent meeting, last season, ended in a 1-0 win for the hosts which currently reflects as the one-goal lead over the nine years.
If reports in the media are to be believed, the weekend’s clash between the leaders and Ruben Baraja’s side is sold out. The Mestalla will be at full capacity for the first time this season, and it is clear that a frightening atmosphere awaits Carlo Ancelotti’s men.
Conquering the Mestalla after failing last season will hand the Merengues a big boost not only on the table but in terms of confidence heading into the fag end of the season. A defeat, meanwhile, could see their lead at the top cut to three points.
Need for conviction
Real Madrid are unbeaten in their last eight games across all competitions. Their only defeats this season have come to Atletico Madrid, and it is clear that they are sailing with the tide of momentum.
Yet, there has been something strangely tight about the team’s recent games.
Right from the 1-0 win over Leipzig where the Germans dominated and deserved a win in the UEFA Champions League, Ancelotti’s men have appeared slightly out of tune.
The tight UCL win was followed by a 1-1 draw against Rayo Vallecano in La Liga that can only be described as fair. After all, the hosts created as much, if not more threat than Real Madrid on the night.
Most recently, the Merengues salvaged a tight 1-0 win over Sevilla at the Santiago Bernabeu. The deadlock did not break until the 81st minute of the night, and only a Golazo from Luka Modric ensured that they took home three points.
Los Blancos, thus, are in dire need of a win with conviction. A showing like the performance they dished out against Girona will go a long way, especially with the second leg of the UCL Round of 16 just around the corner.
Will Bellingham’s return to the XI do the trick for Real Madrid in that sense? Or are they lacking something apart from the English protege’s brilliance? Only time will tell.