A potential battle for first place as Valencia host Real Madrid

VALENCIA, SPAIN – NOVEMBER 08: Marcelo of Real Madrid is challenged by Toni Lato of Valencia during the La Liga Santander match between Valencia CF and Real Madrid at Estadio Mestalla on November 08, 2020 in Valencia, Spain. Sporting stadiums around Spain remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images)

An early top of the table clash sees Valencia hosting Real Madrid at the Mestalla Staidum. If someone comes out on top, the winner will take possession of first place in La Liga following Atletico Madrid’s scoreless draw against Athletic Bilbao.

Real Madrid is coming off a 1-0 win over Inter Milan to start their Champions League campaign. Valencia head into the match without needing to play a game midweek as they are not involved in Europe this season.

Both sides head into the game tied at 10 points a piece with three wins and a draw, respectively, and with the same goal differential.

Valencia have had Real Madrid’s number in games played at the Mestalla

Four games into the season, Real Madrid lead the league with 13 goals scored. However, they’ve also conceded six. Valencia are no slouches either having scored on nine occasions. The difference is in defense where “Los Che” have only conceded twice.

Defense has been Madrid’s Achilles heel with Carlo Ancelotti’s men looking very vulnerable on the counterattack. Against Inter Milan, the Italian side had a number of opportunities to score. Had they been more clinical up front Madrid might not have come away with a win.

Valencia has made La Mestalla a fortress when welcoming Real Madrid. The last time the visitors won was back in January 2018. It’s their only win in their last seven visits.

The home side won their last game against Osasuna 4-1 and seem to be a different team under new manager José Bordalás.

“We absolutely aren’t scared of anyone,” Bordalás said in his pre-match press conference. “I never have been. Respect, yes, obviously, not only for them (Real Madrid) but everyone.

“We don’t want to have fear because we do what we like most, it’s an incredible profession and with all the incredible fans.

“We know what kind of team Madrid are, but we have confidence and we are prepared.”

Source: Football España

The former Getafe boss instilled a rough, sometimes too rough, mentality on his team that transcended on the pitch. He’s done it at Valencia and they are not going to back down, especially with the game at home.

Valencia will be without Denis Cheryshev with Cristiano Piccini and Hugo doubtful. Real Madrid wont’ be able to count on Toni Kroos, Marcelo, Gareth Bale and Ferland Mendy. Ancelotti revealed in his pre-match press conference that Eden Hazard is battling a minor knee injury so his availability is also in doubt.

With the midweek Champions League match in mind, Ancelotti may opt to rotate his squad.

“I think the team will have recovered physically in time for this very demanding match,” Ancelotti said.

“I think rotations are important because there are players who might be tired. I don’t think there will be sweeping changes, but we have to rotate some players of course.

“Valencia are in good form, so we’ll need to be intelligent. I’m not worried about their physical style, just their good form.”

Source: Marca

Given the top of the table is at stake, it would be a surprise if Ancelotti rotates heavily. His team has yet to fully convince but their defense seems to bend, but not break, and allow the likes of Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior to cause damage up front.

A draw would see both sides go level on points with Atletico Madrid. Valencia know Real Madrid can be got at and vice versa. Therefore, expect an exciting, open game with both sides creating a decent number of scoring opportunities.