MADRID-based journalist Brendan Boyle (@BrendyBoyle) points us towards his favourite fancies from Matchday 17 from La Liga.
- Real Betis kept the faith, when in previous years they may have pulled the trigger, and like Valencia last season, their patience has been rewarded. It’s now three wins in a row for Rubi’s men and another three points this weekend at a pitiful Espanyol could position them within touching distance of a European football position.
- Those looking to be entertained could do a lot worse than keeping a close eye on the Valencia-based teams, who played out a cracking derby at the Estadio Ciutat de Valencia as the Mestalla outfit came from two goals down to win 4-2 to celebrate their first win at the home of their city rivals since 2011. Each of Levante’s last five league games has seen Over 2.5 Goals while four of Valencia’s last five has seen Over 2.5 and Both Teams To Score click, not entirely surprising given the fact they both rank in the top two in terms of shots conceded per-game (Levante 16.8 and Valencia 15.8)
- There is now a glimmer of hope for Leganés after a huge win over Celta Vigo and with Alavés, Espanyol and Valladolid to come over the next three weeks, new coach Javier Aguirre has a real opportunity to drag los pepineros back into the relegation fight. Celta host Mallorca this weekend and anything but three point will see the demons from last season come flooding back.
- Less than six months ago, Deportivo de La Coruña were 30 minutes from a return to the Primera Division as they led Mallorca 2-1 on aggregate. Thirty minutes later, they had completely imploded and they haven’t stopped since – on or off the pitch. With one win in 19, having conceded 32 (the most in the division), the Galicians find themselves eight points from safety. The club is struggling with the burden of huge debts and the board of directors has just submitted its resignation. A large number of fans’ love affair with Spanish football coincided with the glory days of Super Depor and it’s a real shame to see one of the great institutions of Spanish football in such a critical state.
Valencia v Real Madrid | Sunday 15th December 2019, 20:00 | Premier Sports
Very few teams look forward to visiting Mestalla, let alone three days before a trip to Camp Nou, but that is exactly what is on Zinedine Zidane’s schedule for the week ahead. However, given Valencia’s exhausting schedule in recent weeks, there may not be a better time to visit one of Spain’s most intimidating venues.
Valencia have expended a tremendous amount of energy in recent weeks: their slugfest against Chelsea left the players dead on their feet at the final whistle; they held on to get over the line at home to Villarreal; they came from 2-0 down to win the derby 4-2 at Levante and they defied the odds to beat Ajax in Amsterdam while missing Ezequiel Garay, Geoffrey Kondogbia, Cristiano Piccini, Gonçalo Guedes, Maxi Gomez and Kangin Lee.
Kevin Gameiro subsequently went off injured while Gabriel Paulista was about to limp off before eventually being sent off – Valencia do not like doing things the easy way.
Looking at Sunday night’s heavyweight clash with Real Madrid, it’s hard to know whether los Che will continue to ride on this wave of euphoria or if they’re finally going to hit a wall. It’s not going to be easy to pick themselves up once again come Sunday night but a packed and fervent Mestalla will help energise their weary muscles.
Madrid have the biggest game in world football on the horizon but Zizou knows they cannot afford to look beyond Mestalla – if they fail to turn up physically and mentally, things could go badly wrong. Zidane’s men are unbeaten in their last 10 in all competitions and have conceded only three goals in their last seven away outings.
As mentioned in previous weeks there is a new steeliness and athleticism about this Madrid side, helped in no small part by the emergence of Fede Valverde and the rejuvenation of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric. Ferland Mendy received an utterly needless red card at home to Espanyol last weekend, earning himself two yellow cards in quick succession and Madrid are now left without a natural left back, with Nacho the most likely to fill in.
Eden Hazard was developing a close understanding with Karim Benzema and it’s a shame that we won’t see him, Marcelo or, the likes of Guedes on the other side, in action on Sunday night. Both teams fully fit and fresh would be one hell of a battle.
The Mallorca debacle aside, Madrid have shown admirable grit and determination on the road at Sevilla, Atletico, Eibar and Alavés and they should be fully focused for another test at Mestalla. Casemiro is one yellow card away from missing the midweek trip to Catalonia but if there’s any man to avoid a yellow card, it’s the Brazilian. However, given the fact he played the entire 90 mins at Club Brugge midweek suggests he may be in for a rest – deserved after playing 21 consecutive games.
If Valencia can lift themselves to go again, they are capable of causing any team problems at Mestalla: they have scored in all eight league games in front of their fans this season but have kept only two clean sheets.
Eleven of the last 12 meetings between the teams, at the Bernabéu and Mestalla, have seen both Over 2.5 Goals and both teams scoring – an impressive form line. Valencia have avoided defeat in five of these 12 meetings and have won two of the last three at Mestalla. There have been four 2-2 draws and two 3-2 thrillers in this period so it’s clear that this fixture produces its fair share of entertainment and Valencia usually raise their game when facing Madrid.
The upcoming Clásico has, as expected, virtually overshadowed this game but this is a really tough task for Madrid. Having said that, there are less doubts about where Zidane’s men are mentally and physically and for that reason, if there is to be a winner, I’m leaning towards a tight away win.
Valencia v Real Madrid – Real Madrid double chance and Both Teams To Score (9/10 Bet365)
Valencia v Real Madrid – Real Madrid to win 2-1 (8/1 BetVictor)
Week 17 Predictions:
Alavés v Leganés X
Granada v Levante X
Real Sociedad v Barcelona X
Athletic Club v Eibar 1
Atlético Madrid v Osasuna 1
Getafe v Valladolid X
Celta Vigo v Mallorca 1
Espanyol v Real Betis 2
Sevilla v Villarreal 1
Valencia v Real Madrid 2
1 = home win, 2 = away win, x = draw
Brendan Boyle (@BrendyBoyle) is an Irish journalist living and working in Madrid. A season ticket holder at Atletico Madrid and Rayo Majadahonda, he covers all things football in the Spanish capital, from Estadio Butarque to the Wanda Metropolitano.