Real Madrid Valencia, Sun 20:30
With just three league wins in 2012 so far, Valencia just about remain in the hunt to earn automatic qualification for next season’s Champions League but will have to turn recent form around if that is to be the case for much longer, as Ladbrokes offer long odds on Unai Emery’s side taking the points back to the Mestalla.
However, under-fire manager Unai Emery isn’t likely to receive a moment’s reprieve this weekend when his team travel to league leaders Real Madrid who are looking to finish a 2011-12 double over Los Che
It seems a progress in European competition isn’t quite enough to ease the tempers of club critics and despite booking their place in the Europa League semi-finals following their victory over AZ Alkmaar, Emery’s men will have to improve again and soon if he is to be in charge of the club next season.
Real won’t be the most probable side to start that resurrection off though, considering Los Merengues have lost just once at home this campaign.
Jose Mourinho’s side haven’t failed to score in a home fixture this term and have racked up a superb average of 4.00 goals per game at the Santiago Bernabeu.
One particular boost for the hosts will be the return of Sami Khedira, who after missing the midweek win over APOEL due to illness, seems likely to return to action on Sunday.
Both Real Madrid and Valencia will have one eye on their respective European commitments with the former set to go up against Bayern Munich later this month, but their respective league goals will all that is on their minds at the moment.
Mourinho’s men won’t be keen to drop any more points but draws against Malaga and Villarreal reminded the Portuguese that his team can certainly be halted; a boost Emery is in dire need of both on a professional and personal level.
Sergio Ramos will be missing through suspension at the back but Portugese international Pepe should return after serving his ban, while Xavi Alonso should return to the starting line up after being given a rest in Real’s midweek Champions League win against APOEL Nicosa.