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Real Madrid v Valencia: European champions turn attentions to title race

Real Madrid can ill-afford a slip-up against Valencia on Saturday on the back of a UEFA Champions League defeat at Juventus.

Real lost 2-1 to the Italian champions on Tuesday in the first leg of their semi-final. While the defeat is far from catastrophic, they will face a tough ask at Santiago Bernabeu against a Juventus side who are excellent in defence.

It is understandable that much of their attention will be on overturning the deficit and progress to what would most likely be an El Clasico final against Barcelona, but before facing Juve they have a crucial Liga fixture against the fourth-placed Valencia.

Valencia came from behind to beat Real 2-1 in January thanks to goals from Antonio Barragan and Nicolas Otamendi.

Real remain two points adrift of table-toppers Barca despite a seven-match winning streak. Just three matches of the season remain and the leaders face a Real Sociedad side on Saturday that beat them earlier this season.

Carlo Ancelotti will desperately hope for a repeat – and victory against Valencia – that would put his Real side top of the table.

Real defender Sergio Ramos said the European champions are determined to bounce back from the Champions League defeat.

“[Tuesday] was one of those days when things don’t go for you from the opening minutes,” Ramos told the club’s official website.

“After a bad result you have to stay calm and more united than ever.

“Making mistakes is part of the game and we have to be self-critical and improve so that things go as we’d like at the Bernabeu.”

Cristiano Ronaldo scored Real’s goal in Turin, a close-range header from James Rodriguez’s cross and has netted an incredible 54 goals for the European champions this season – including a hat-trick at Sevilla last weekend. 

Valencia arrive in Madrid in good form, having lost just one of their last 14 Liga matches – a 2-0 defeat at Barcelona.

Midfielder Dani Parejo has netted in their last three matches and the 26-year-old is the club’s top Liga scorer this season with 12 goals.

Nuno Espirito Santo’s side beat Eibar 3-1 last time out and Sevilla’s loss to Real Madrid meant they moved three points clear in fourth.

With fourth spot securing a place in the qualifying rounds of the Champions League, and fifth a spot in the UEFA Europa League, the stakes are high and if Valencia can avoid defeat, they will remain in front of Sevilla – regardless of what they do at Celta Vigo on Sunday.

Valencia have drawn three of their last four matches at Santiago Bernabeu in all competitions, but are without a win at the famous stadium since March 2008.

Last season’s Liga clash in Madrid saw Real need a 90th-minute equaliser from Ronaldo to salvage a 2-2 draw.

Thu 7 May, 2015
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