Goal-shy Real Madrid surrendered top spot in the Spanish first division after dropping two vital points in a disappointing 0-0 draw at promoted Levante on Saturday.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain spurned the best chances for Real, who produced a poor performance in their fifth game in 14 days.
Real top-scored in the league last season with 102 goals but under Jose Mourinho they have scored just six in the first five league games and the stalemate against Levante leaves them two points behind new leaders Valencia.
Valencia warmed up for Wednesday’s Champions League duel with Manchester United by winning 2-0 at Sporting Gijon to make it 13 points from a possible 15 in the league.
“The players are grasping that the most important thing is the team and not the individuals and that is the key to the good start,” said Valencia coach Unai Emery.
“We weren’t thinking about the Champions League whatsoever and our two early goals really hurt them.”
Champions Barcelona, two points behind Real, can move above their arch rivals if they win at Athletic Bilbao later on Saturday.
For Real the Champions League is the next priority as they travel to French side Auxerre on Tuesday.
Mourinho had cited fatigue after Tuesday’s 3-0 win over Espanyol but the manager resisted the temptation to rotate.
Sergio Ramos moved into central defence for the suspended Pepe, with Alvaro Arbeloa deputising for Ramos at right-back.
On 11 minutes Higuain should have scored for Real but the Argentine blasted his shot over the crossbar after a Marcelo pass had split open the Levante defence.
It was a heated game and Ronaldo kicked out at former Chelsea player Asier del Horno on 22 minutes, but the referee failed to take any action.
Ronaldo had a header well saved by goalkeeper Manolo Reina and four minutes later the former Manchester United man went close after latching onto an underhit backpass, but his lob went wide.
Higuain had a goal ruled out for offside as Real pushed close to the interval but Levante held on.
Real were not as inventive after the break and Mourinho brought on striker Karim Benzema and winger Pedro Leon, who used to play for Levante, just after the hour mark.
The visitors had a glut of free-kicks and something special from Ronaldo looked their best hope of scoring.
Reina almost gifted Real the goal they craved five minutes from time when he let a weak Benzema shot squirm out of his grasp but he managed to recover and save his blushes.
Real’s slip-up leaves Valencia as league leaders after two goals in the first 10 minutes did the trick for them in a 2-0 win at Sporting Gijon.
Turkish midfielder Mehmet Topal and Spanish international forward Roberto Soldado both scored their first league goals in the club’s colours to clinch the win.
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