Real Madrid’s pursuit of La Liga glory will take centre stage as they host Valencia at the end of a week in which the club secured a spot in the Champions League final.
Wednesday’s 1-0 triumph over Manchester City ensured Zinedine Zidane’s men set up a repeat of the 2014 showdown against rivals Atletico Madrid, which will take place at San Siro on May 28.
A run of 10 consecutive top-flight wins since February’s 1-0 reverse to Diego Simeone’s side has also rekindled dreams of domestic success in Zidane’s maiden campaign at the helm.
Just one point separates the top three sides, with Barcelona and Atletico separated only by virtue of the Catalan club’s superior head-to-head record, while Madrid lie in wait for any slip-ups from the leading two.
Though Madrid need favours from elsewhere, the focus will be on taking maximum points from their final two matches in the hope of winning a first league crown since 2012.
If they are to come up short in that bid, Valencia are one of the sides who can claim to have helped deny them, having twice come from behind to earn a 2-2 draw in January’s reverse fixture, which turned out to be Rafael Benitez’s last at the helm.
Gareth Bale, whose cross deflected off Fernando for an own goal that proved decisive in the win over City, put Madrid 2-1 up in that game, but Paco Alcacer levelled almost immediately against the 10-man visitors.
Bale is set to be one of several absentees for the hosts at Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday, with a strained knee sidelining the Wales international.
Joining him in taking a watching brief will be Casemiro (hip), Karim Benzema (hamstring) and goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who has tendinitis in his left Achilles.
Like Madrid, Valencia have made changes at the top this season, with Pako Ayestaran their third permanent head coach of a turbulent campaign.
The 53-year-old bounced back well from his opening-game loss to Las Palmas, with Los Che securing three consecutive league victories for the first time this season.
However, a 2-2 draw at Getafe was followed by a 2-0 home loss against Villarreal last time out and even back-to-back wins to close the season would leave them 27 points short of last season’s tally.
Valencia are waiting to discover whether they will have to contend with the attacking talents of Cristiano Ronaldo, who returned to action at the Etihad Stadium in midweek but could be carefully managed ahead of the Champions League final.
One player who will not feature is winger Denis Cheryshev, who is ineligible to face parent club Madrid.
Key Opta stats:
– Real Madrid have lost just one of their last 13 league games against Valencia (W7 D5), but they have gone four without a win (D3 L1).
– In their last five league meetings, Real Madrid and Valencia have scored an average of two goals per game.
– At Santiago Bernabeu, the last four games with Valencia in La Liga have ended in draws.
– Valencia have won in three of their last six league away games in La Liga (D1 L2), one win more than in their previous 12 on the road this season (two).
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