When Valencia fans start thinking about this Thursday’s LaLiga Santander clash with Real Madrid, they’ll have painful memories of dramatic equalisers on their minds.
One will be the 97th minute equaliser they conceded just days ago in their 1-1 draw with city rivals Levante. The other will be Karim Benzema’s 95th minute equaliser at Mestalla, assisted by goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, when these two sides met back in December.
Valencia’s season has been full of ups and downs, yet so too has Real Madrid’s. With ten matches to go for each of these teams and the sides fighting for the LaLiga title and European qualification respectively, there are no signs of the drama letting up when the historic rivals square off this Thursday evening.
Real Madrid are at the heart of the title race and need three points to try to keep pace with their rivals Barcelona. Not since 2017 have Real Madrid won the league title and coach Zinedine Zidane is determined to bring the trophy back to the capital.
Valencia, meanwhile, are pushing to try to qualify for European competition in 2020/21. They’re some way off the pace in the race for the top four, which entails Champions League qualification, and the two points they just threw away against Levante at the last gasp didn’t help. Yet Valencia finished last season strong, taking 21 points from their final 10 matches in 2018/19. Coach Albert Celades, who played from Real Madrid during his playing career, will therefore be confident of springing a surprise.
The visitors front line of Rodrigo Moreno and Maxi Gómez is one of the most potent attacking pairs in LaLiga, with Rodrigo producing an excellent finish from a tight angle in the derby against Levante on Friday. Celades also has the über-talented duo of Gonçalo Guedes and Ferran Torres to call on from the flanks and though both are coming off injuries they’ll be encouraged by the fact they’ve had two days rest more than Real Madrid.
Over Real Madrid, the enforced break due to COVID-19 has given forwards Eden Hazard and Marco Asensio time to recover from injury, despite previously being ruled out for the rest of the season. Zidane can also call on young Brazilian wingers Rodrygo and Vinicius Junior, whose unpredictability is always a wild card. At the other end is Thibaut Courtois, the Belgian international goalkeeper whose currently leading the way in the race for LaLiga’s top goalkeeper. And, if he goes up for a late set piece, who know what can happen!
No matter when in the season these two teams meet and no matter the circumstances, matches between Real Madrid and Valencia tend to be on the entertaining side. These two teams have met 169 times in LaLiga over the years, with Real Madrid winning 87 encounters, Valencia 45 and 37 draws.
Over their past 12 LaLiga meetings, however, it’s been more closely matched. Since 2014, there have been four Real Madrid wins, three Valencia wins and five draws: four 2-2 draws and the dramatic 1-1 from last time out.
It’s anyone’s guess what’ll happen this time around, as both teams look for three points to help with their different ambitions. Another interesting side note for this game: it’ll be played at the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium, usually the home ground of Real Madrid’s reserve side Castilla, as the Santiago Bernabeu undergoes under construction work.