La Liga holders Real Madrid will be looking to return to winning ways when they welcome managerless Valencia to the Santiago Bernabeu on Thursday night.
Los Blancos are one of only two Spanish top-flight clubs who are yet to lose on home soil so far this season, while Los Che have only won one of their eight league away matches this term.
Real Madrid have suffered a major blow in their quest to retain the La Liga title after dropping points in four of their last seven top-flight matches.
A 2-1 away defeat against Villarreal in their first league fixture of 2023 was followed by a routine 2-0 victory against Athletic Bilbao, but Los Blancos were then forced to settle for a goalless stalemate at home to Real Sociedad last weekend.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side currently sit five points behind league leaders Barcelona, but they could find themselves eight points adrift before they have even kicked a ball on Thursday should the Catalan giants beat Real Betis on Wednesday.
Real Madrid can ill-afford to drop any more points during the second half of the campaign, but Ancelotti and co will be confident of bouncing back with a victory over a struggling Valencia outfit.
Los Blancos have already beaten Los Che this month, albeit on penalties with a 4-3 triumph in the Spanish Super Cup semi-finals following a 1-1 draw in 120 minutes.
The 35-time La Liga champions have also won 11 and drawn five of their last 16 meetings with Valencia at the Bernabeu, last losing against them on home soil back in March 2008 – a game which saw David Villa score a brace in a 3-2 win for Los Che.
After just seven months in charge at the Mestalla, Valencia confirmed on Monday that head coach Gennaro Gattuso has left the club by mutual consent.
The 45-year-old has departed the club after just 22 games in charge, less than half as many as his predecessor Jose Bordalas and six fewer than Gary Neville during his brief stint back in 2016.
Valencia ultimately came to the decision to part ways with Gattuso after the Italian won only two games out of eight in all competitions since the World Cup break, losing three of his last four league fixtures including Sunday’s 1-0 away loss against Real Valladolid – a game which saw Cyle Larin net a 90th-minute winner.
Los Che have subsequently slipped to 14th in the La Liga standings and they are one of four teams with 20 points, sitting just one point above the relegation zone, albeit with a game in hand.
Valencia have struggled throughout this season, but their form away from home in particular has been a major concern for almost a year, as they have won only three of their last 16 matches on the road, dating back to March 2022.
Voro Gonzalez has taken the reins as interim boss for the seventh time in his career – the first of which back in 2008 – and the 59-year-old is tasked with steering his Valencia team to an unlikely victory against a Real Madrid side whom they have beaten just twice in their last 13 meetings across all tournaments.
Real Madrid left-back Ferland Mendy is set for around two months on the sidelines after sustaining a hamstring injury in the Copa del Rey win over rivals Atletico Madrid last week, while wideman Lucas Vazquez and defender David Alaba remain out with respective ankle and calf problems.
However, midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni and right-back Dani Carvajal are available for selection after spells out through injury, and Ancelotti has confirmed that the former “will start” against Valencia.
Eduardo Camavinga, who operated a left-back last time out, will continue in his defensive role on Thursday in the absence of Mendy and Alaba, while Luka Modric is expected to return to the first XI after beginning on the bench last time out.
2022 Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema – who has scored in each of his last seven La Liga matches against Valencia, netting nine goals overall – is set to lead the line and could be supported in attack by Vinicius Junior and one of Rodrygo or Federico Valverde.
As for Valencia, Jaume Domenech and Nico Gonzalez are both ruled out with respective knee and foot injuries, while Thierry Correia has missed the last four matches with a muscle problem and remains doubtful.
Voro may decide to make changes to the starting lineup, with the likes of Mouctar Diakhaby, Hugo Guillamon, Justin Kluivert and Ilaix Moriba all pushing for recalls after beginning on the bench against Valladolid.
Top scorer Edinson Cavani has failed to score in his last three appearances, but the 35-year-old is expected to continue as the central striker, while Samu Castillejo and Samuel Lino will hope to retain their places on the flanks.
Real Madrid possible starting lineup:
Courtois; Nacho, Militao, Rudiger, Camavinga; Kroos, Tchouameni, Modric; Valverde, Benzema, Vinicius Jr
Valencia possible starting lineup:
Mamardashvili; Foulquier, Comert, Diakhaby, Gaya; Musah, Guillamon, Moriba; Kluivert, Cavani, Lino