Verdict: Total away goals under 1.5
Best odds: 2/5
Valencia are set to welcome Atletico Madrid to the Mestalla Stadium on Friday evening when the two sides will line up against each other to fight for points in the 24th round of this seasons La Liga roller coaster. As things stand at the moment, the outcome is very likely to affect the success of the campaign for both teams.
It’s been a reasonably good season for Valencia so far. Last time around, they beat Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final and won a major trophy for the first time after an 11-year barren patch, and it clearly showed that they are now perfectly capable of beating the best in important games. However, they lost the opportunity to defend the trophy when they suffered defeat at the hands of Granada earlier this month.
As for the league, Los Ches sit seventh at the moment, which may seem a step down from last season’s fourth-place finish, but the race is far from over. They have racked up 37 points to their name from the 23 games so far, the same tally as Real Sociedad directly above, only two less than Sevilla and Atletico Madrid in fifth and fourth respectively, and even Getafe (42) aren’t far away in third. The title seems, as it almost always does, set to be decided between Real Madrid and Barcelona, but everything else is wide open at this point.
Valencia have been surprisingly good in the Champions League too this term, finishing top of the group also containing Chelsea, Ajax and Lille. The subsequent draw for the round of 16 wasn’t too harsh on them, and they will travel to Italy to face Atalanta in the first leg next week.
The number of players head coach Albert Celades won’t be able to call upon is rather large. Midfielder Alessandro Florenzi is suspended following a straight red card in the defeat at Getafe last week. Defender Ezequiel Garay is out for the season. Goalkeeper Jasper Cillesen, defender Jose Gaya and forward Manu Vallejo are all injured too.
On the other hand, defenders Jaume Costa and Cristiano Piccini, as well as forwards Denis Cheryshev and Kevin Gameiro, are back in training after their respective injuries, though it remains to be seen who among them is fit enough to make the team on Friday.
Just like that of Valencia, Atletico’s season can hardly be described as a disastrous one. As has been already said above, they occupy position number four in the La Liga table right now with 39 points, which in itself isn’t bad. However, having pretty much established themselves as the third best club in Spain a while back under the command of Diego Simeone, the Rojiblancos don’t seem able to make the next step and continuously challenge Real and Barcelona for dominion. The title they won in 2014 now seems a million years ago; they haven’t come close to repeating the feat again.
One of the consequences of that is likely the fact that they’ve started losing their best players again. After a long saga, Antoine Griezmann left the club to join Barcelona. The Frenchman obviously desires to complement the World Cup he won in 2018 with a few trophies at club level, and that should perhaps be a worrying sign for Atletico – especially if it becomes a regular occurrence again. Young Joao Felix arrived from Benfica to replace Griezmann, but so far he hasn’t been able to influence the quality of the team as much as many expect him to. Experienced defender Diego Godin also departed. His absence hasn’t been easy to make up for either.
Another thing that these two teams have in common is that Atletico has done well in the Champions League too, at least when the group stage is concerned. They progressed from a group second to Juventus, while finishing above Bayer Leverkusen and Lokomotiv Moscow. But the draw was much less kind to Atleti than it was to Valencia – holders Liverpool will revisit the place where they won the biggest trophy in European club football last year, Ateltico’s Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid.
The two teams taking each other on in this match have yet another thing in common – a number of absentees. Simeone will be without the services of striker Diego Costa, who is still recovering from neck surgery and has started training, but he isn’t ready to play yet. Defenders Jose Gimenez and Santiago Arias are also working on rebuilding their fitness at the moment, but they haven’t yet been ruled out. Kieran Trippier, however, has, as well as Joao Felix. Striker Alvaro Morata is being assessed on a daily basis, which means a decision on his involvement is yet to be made.
Atletico’s squad is seriously depleted upfront at the moment. Because of it, they brought back Yannick Carasco to the club on loan from Chinese side Dalian Yifang, but they still haven’t been able to score more than one goal in any game since they put three past Barcelona in the Supercopa semi-final over a month ago. They’ve played six games in that time. They scored one goal apiece in three of them while firing blanks in the other three. They won’t easily find Valencia’s net at the Mestalla on Friday.
Verdict: Total away goals under 1.5
Best odds: 2/5
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