Valladolid v Real Madrid Preview
Estadio Municipal Jose Zorrilla, Valladolid
by Jerrad Peters (@jerradpeters)
MATCH IN A SENTENCE: On Saturday reigning Spanish champions Real Madrid will make the short trip north to Valladolid, where Miroslav Dukic’s side s quietly putting together one of the better campaigns in La Liga.
BREAKDOWN: Quietly—without the fanfare that so often accompanies their high-profile guests—Valladolid have been writing one of La Liga’s feel-good stories so far this season.
With just one loss in seven home matches, the promoted side have risen all the way to seventh in the table—just a point back of the European places and eight points behind Real Madrid after 14 rounds. It’s not inconceivable that they could trim that gap to five points this weekend, and Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas has warned his teammates of the perils of complacency ahead of one of their trickier trips of the season.
“It will be a difficult match,” he told Madrid’s official website. “It is a tough ground to visit where the fans are enjoying a team playing in the Primera Division again. Valladolid are playing some very good football and come into the match after beating Sevilla convincingly. I think Saturday’s game will be a tough match and they will make things very difficult for us.”
Only Real Madrid and Malaga have allowed fewer goals than Valladolid so far this season, and central to their success in the defensive third has been the tandem of Jesus Rueda and Marv Valiente.
Up front, former Manchester United striker Manucho has contributed four goals, but it’s been playmaker Oscar Gonzalez, who operates just behind the Angola international and has scored seven times this season, who has really shone in attack.
Madrid, meanwhile, arrive in Valladolid on the back of a 4-1 win at home to Ajax in the Champions League. Since losing 1-0 away to Real Betis on November 24 they’ve won three straight matches in three different competitions while outscoring their opponents a combined 9-1.
Right-sided attacker Jose Maria Callejon has been in particularly good nick over that stretch with four goals, two of which came against Ajax on Tuesday.
ESSENTIALS: Valladolid are without defender Henrique Sereno, who is injured. Other than that, manager Miroslav Dukic has a fully-fit, fully-available squad from which to make his selections.
Madrid manager Jose Mourinho is still without Marcelo, the self-proclaimed “best left-back in the world,” and defender Raul Albiol is injured as well. Michael Essien has returned to the Spanish capital for training after undergoing treatment in London for a reaction he suffered from some medication he was taking, but he won’t be part of the matchday squad. Nor will striker Gonzalo Higuain, who is still sidelined.
KEY BATTLE: Oscar Gonzalez will torment Madrid in their defensive third unless one of the Meringues’ defensive midfielders pay him some attention. With Luka Modric playing so well it’s possible only one of Sami Khedira and Xabi Alonso will start in the centre of midfield, but whoever it is he will have to stick with the 30-year-old number 10, who will be looking to link up with Manucho.
FORMATIONS: Both sides will deploy a 4-2-3-1 formation. Dukic will start Manucho alone up top with Patrick Ebert, Oscar Gonzalez and Omar Ramos just behind him. Mourinho will use Karim Benzema as his lone centre-forward and will have one of Callejon and Angel Di Maria, Mesut Ozil and Cristiano Ronaldo supporting him.
BETLINE: Valladolid 9/1; Draw 5/1; Real Madrid 1/4. Valladolid’s last win over Madrid came on this ground in 2008. Since then they’ve lost three matches on the bounce to Los Blancos.