Venue: Estadio de Mestalla, Date: 03/01/2016, Kick-off: 7:30 PM GMT / 02:30 PM EST
Television coverage:Sky Sports 3/HD; beIN Sports en Español, beIN Sports USA
2016 has arrived and the hope of a fresh start is there for Real Madrid. Coincidentally, a year ago they also kicked off La Liga against Valencia. That loss was a bad omen, as 2015 wasn’t a year any Madridista would like to remember. Now it’s time to look at the present, as Los Che sit at the middle of the table, but still look to complicate things. It’s not only about the three points now.
Preferred Formation: 4-2-3-1
Rafa Benítez is potentially facing his most important match as a Real Madrid manager. The referee and a bit of luck saved him a few days ago versus Real Sociedad. A bad result could mean his dismissal from the position. This is all speculation, yet he better not risk it or he might regret it. He will have Carvajal and Ramos back, bringing a much-needed boost to the team and the defense.
GK: Keylor Navas
He couldn’t do much in the equalizer last Wednesday. However, he did save the team a few times in key moments. He wasn’t present in the 2015 defeat, so he could bring something different and change the outcome.
RB: Dani Carvajal
He’s one of the good news for this game, as he’s recovered from his injury. Danilo’s bad form makes his return come at an ideal time. His strength can help the defense gain the attitude they need for a clash like this one.
CB: Raphaël Varane
He was ready to play during the week, still his coach decided to save him for Mestalla. He also wasn’t part of the lineup that lost 2-1 in the previous January. If he’s focused, he could be a great addition.
CB: Sergio Ramos
The captain is also back from his injury. Apparently the team hasn’t lost when he’s away. He needs to get past that bad reputation and be the leader everyone is expecting him to be. Pepe is currently doing better than him.
He had an off day and the attack clearly noticed that, as the left wing wasn’t as threatening as usual. The Brazilian may get a competitor if the club decides to sign another left back, so he should be focused on doing his best.
RCM: Luka Modrić
Slightly better than his counterparts, this wasn’t enough to make him stand out. Kovačić came in and contributed more to the midfield. For titles to be won, the squad will need Luka to be the boss.
LCM: Toni Kroos
His second half of 2015 wasn’t as positive either. Modrić had more power in defense and attack. The German must regain his best version or Casemiro and Kovačić could swoop in and take his spot.
RW: James Rodríguez
He was unrecognizable against La Real, proving that his form isn’t on par with what we saw last year. Whether it’s Benítez or something else, a change is needed. As an influential member, playing him when he’s doing poorly is wrong.
CAM: Gareth Bale
Slowly improving his form, as his goals and assists are being very helpful to the whole squad. If this trend continues, 2016 could be a huge improvement from his inconsistent 2015 performances.
LW: Cristiano Ronaldo
He missed a penalty, scored another one and scored the tiebreaker. A decent match was enough this time. Valencia will require a lot more effort if the three points are the primary goal for him and the whole team.
ST: Karim Benzema
He did try his best, but luck wasn’t on his side. He’s truly fought during the big games and that’s something that must be acknowledged. This year could be his last as a Madrid player, yet good performances could change that.