Valencia aiming for vital win over reeling Madrid
Valencia are hoping to take advantage of a shell-shocked Real Madrid on Sunday at Mestalla to earn vital points in their La Liga survival bid.
Los Che won last weekend at Celta Vigo with a last-gasp winner while their relegation rivals Espanyol, Getafe, Real Valladolid, Cadiz and Almeria all lost.
It left them 14th, three points clear of the drop zone with four matches remaining, as they head into a crucial clash with last season’s champions.
Carlo Ancelotti’s Madrid travel to Spain’s east coast on the back of a painful thrashing by Manchester City in the Champions League semi-finals, a week after rivals Barcelona ripped the La Liga title out of their hands.
Valencia will hope Madrid arrive a broken team, desperate for the season to end, rather than aiming to make a point and play for their pride as Dani Carvajal threatened on Wednesday.
“There are still games to go, we want to finish as high as possible (and) respect opponents who still have a lot on the line,” Carvajal told Movistar in the wake of City’s triumph.
“We’ll judge our season on June 4.”
However, Madrid looked lost at the Etihad Stadium, with veteran midfielders Luka Modric and Toni Kroos over-run, Karim Benzema uninvolved, wingers Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo isolated.
Defender Eder Militao scored an own goal, continuing his bad run of form, while Eduardo Camavinga was exposed out of position at left-back, undoing his progress there.
Ruben Baraja’s Valencia have plenty of talented attackers who can try to take advantage of Madrid’s defensive woes, including on-loan Atletico Madrid winger Samuel Lino.
The Brazilian has become crucial for Los Che, with three goals in his last five La Liga games.
“We never thought we couldn’t achieve salvation,” Lino told DAZN earlier this week.
“We’ve always had a strong mentality, we’ve had very tough defeats and we’ve always thought keeping working, that everything is going to work out.
“Nothing is done, but we have to continue working and give everything we have to stay in the top flight.”
Both Lino and striker Justin Kluivert, on loan from Roma, have both said they are open to staying at Valencia next season if possible.
But first they need to keep the six-time champions in La Liga.
Valencia were the last team outside of Spain’s big three to lift the title, triumphing in 2004, before Barcelona, Madrid and later Atletico, monopolised domestic glory.
The lowest they have finished in the top flight since promotion in 1987 was 14th, the following year.
Madrid, second, are 14 points behind newly-crowned champions Barcelona and two ahead of rivals Atletico Madrid, third, who host Osasuna on Sunday.
Player to watch: Nicolas Jackson
Villarreal’s young Senegalese striker has been in red-hot form in the past few weeks, with six goals in his last four league games. His strikes are helping the Yellow Submarine compete for a Champions League spot and he will be on the hunt for more goals at Girona on Saturday.
7 – Real Madrid have lost seven games this season, more than in any campaign since 2018-19, the last time Barcelona were champions
25 – Barca keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen is one clean sheet away from matching the league record of 26
48 – Rayo defender Fran Garcia has tackled more dribblers than any other La Liga player this season
Cadiz v Real Valladolid (1900)
Girona v Villarreal (1200), Athletic Bilbao v Celta Vigo (1415), Getafe v Elche (1630), Almeria v Real Mallorca (1630), Barcelona v Real Sociedad (1900)
Rayo Vallecano v Espanyol (1200), Atletico Madrid v Osasuna (1415), Valencia v Real Madrid (1630), Sevilla v Real Betis (1900)