After a disappointing draw against Osasuna in their last La Liga match, Real Madrid will look to get back on track against Valencia.
Real had to come back from a 2-0 deficit in order to save a point in the previous contest, although this dropped them to five points back of both Barcelona and Atletico Madrid in the league table.
Meanwhile, Valencia have a lot more work to do if they intend to earn a spot in one of the European tournaments for next season. The club has fallen to ninth in the league table thanks to only two wins in the last seven La Liga matches.
This contest will be a good chance for both sides to get back on track, so there is certain to be a lot of action throughout the 90 minutes.
Who will win?
When: Sunday, Dec. 22 at 3 p.m. ET/8 p.m. GMT
Where: Estadio Mestalla, Valencia, Spain
Watch: beIN Sport en Espanol, Sky Sports 3 (UK)
Live Stream: beIN Sport Play
Odds (via SkyBet): Real Madrid (6-10), Valencia (9-2), Draw (3-1)
Top Storyline: How Will Real Madrid Respond After Osasuna Match?
According to Inside Spanish Football, manager Carlo Ancelotti spoke about the character of his club after the most recent La Liga match:
We lost control after they scored the first goal. The first 20 minutes we played well with quality and pace. It’s amazing that we were down 2-0 and with 10 men. It’s difficult to explain. We were lacking a lot. We were well positioned. We had less balance but we had a lot of intensity. The team showed a lot of character and attitude not to lose.
While the comeback effort was impressive, the early performance was not. Cristiano Ronaldo could not put any of his nine shots on net and there were a lot of struggles in the final third.
Additionally, the defense continues to be an issue as Sergio Ramos was red carded after two bookings in the first half. The entire squad needs to work on maintaining focus for an entire match, especially on the road.
They have had an easy time against weaker opponents, but they will not be able just to outscore everyone they play this season.
Prediction: Valencia 1, Real Madrid 3
Jonas has been a star for Valencia with eight goals in 12 starts this season. At 29 years old, he is on pace for one of the best years of his career as an offensive leader of the talented club.
He skill up front will give Real Madrid some problems and he should be able to get at least one goal on the scoresheet.
However, Real are simply too good offensively to keep down for too long. The Telegraph previously reported that Gareth Bale might play after missing his previous appearance with a calf injury, which would give the club a full line-up. If not, Angel Di Maria can step in without missing a beat.
Paul Bryan of UEFA.com also took at look at the important impact of Xabi Alonso:
Be it 4-2-3-1, 4-4-2 or 4-3-3, Ancelotti's efforts to find his side's most effective shape were hampered by the absence through injury of the man who glues the pieces together: Xabi Alonso. While recovering from a groin operation over the summer, the Spanish international suffered a broken foot. The 32-year-old midfielder's reappearance on the European stage, in the draw at Juve, heralded the return of a player whose intelligent tactical reading of the game, defending, link-up play and accurate passing should be crucial in the matches to come – particularly with Sami Khedira out for the season through injury.
There is plenty of talent throughout this attack, and Real Madrid should be able to get a few goals across against an inconsistent defense of Valencia to secure an important road win.
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