26th of January 2018 Author: Johnny Karp
Under-pressure head coach Zinedine Zidane faces a tough test on Saturday as his Real Madrid visit third-placed Valencia at Mestalla Stadium. The reverse fixture ended 2-2 in August and Real Madrid nearly lost the match as Marco Asensio scored the equalizer on 83 minutes after Carlos Soler and Geoffrey Kondogbia had put Valencia ahead. Real Madrid have won just two of the last six direct meetings and the Blancos have not won a match in Valencia since 2013.
Valencia are having a really good season and they have a very good chance of finishing inside the top four at the end of the campaign, a placement which would grant them access to next season's Champions League. They have lost just 4 of their 20 league matches so far this season and they have also qualified for the semi-finals of the Spanish Cup this week. Gabriel and Ruben Vezo got sent off last weekend and are suspended for this match, Javi Jimenez and Jeison Murillo are injured, so new signing Francis Coquelin might have to play as a central defender this time.
Real Madrid are going through a very tough time, they are fourth in the league table, five points behind Valencia but with a game in hand, but a whole 19 points behind leaders Barcelona. Moreover, in midweek they suffered a shock 2-1 defeat at home against Leganes in the Copa del Rey and crashed out of the competition despite having won the first leg 1-0. Jesus Vallejo and Dani Ceballos are the only injury concerns for head coach Zinedine Zidane, who is under increasing pressure due to his team's poor results this season.
Valencia: Neto - Montoya, Coquelin, Garay, Gaya - Maksimovic, Kondogbia, Parejo, Guedes - Mina, Moreno
Real Madrid: Navas - Carvajal, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo - Modric, Casemiro, Kroos - Bale, Benzema, Ronaldo
My prediction: 1-1 draw.
Here are the odds for the match at Bet365:
Valencia win - 5.00
Draw - 4.33
Real Madrid win - 1.61
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No doubt a vital win for Zidane, maybe not so for Real M but for the coach is a crucial one.
Usually the players step up when they need to save the coach's head but the question is how long this would last.
Valencia had a great season so far but maybe this big margin loss will put some doubts in their heads, still a nice season by their standards though.
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