Real Madrid - Valencia Preview: Los Blancos begin title defence with tricky home tie
After finally breaking Barcelona's stranglehold on La Liga, Jose Mourinho's men now face the challenge of defending their domestic crown while chasing a historic 10th European Cup
By Karthick Arvinth
Arbeloa, Ramos, Pepe, Marcelo
Di Maria, Ozil, Ronaldo
Pereira, R. Costa, Rami, Mathieu
T. Costa, Gago
Feghouli, Jonas, Guardado
Real Madrid defender Pepe has recovered from an ankle sprain picked up while on international duty for Portugal and will be ready to face Valencia in Sunday's curtain raiser at the Santiago Bernabeu.
The Liga champions, who have been uncharacteristically quiet so far in the summer transfer window, are expected to conclude a deal for Tottenham Hotspur playmaker Luka Modric soon, although the Croat is extremely unlikely to be involved in the opener.
Striker Gonzalo Higuain will be fit despite picking up a nasty blow to the head during Argentina's friendly win over Germany.
Valencia boss Mauricio Pellegrino is set to hand competitive debuts to summer arrivals Joao Pereira, Fernando Gago and Andres Guardado, while new loan signing Nelson Valdez could also feature.
Goalkeeper Vicente Guaita (thigh) and midfielder Ever Banega (ankle) are both out. Roberto Soldado is a minor doubt with a hamstring problem.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Real Madrid have won five of their last six meetings with Valencia.
- Los Merengues recorded victories in five of their six pre-season friendlies - against Real Oviedo, LA Galaxy, Santos Laguna, AC Milan and Celtic, respectively - losing the other to Benfica.
- Jose Callejon (pictured right) was Madrid's top scorer in pre-season with five goals.
- Valencia's last victory over Madrid at the Bernabeu was a 3-2 success in March 2008.
- Despite coming third in last season's Primera Division, Los Che finished a mammoth 39 points adrift of champions Real.
- New Valencia signing Fernando Gago made 92 league appearances for Madrid between 2007-2011, scoring one goal.
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Top 3 Predictions
Real Madrid CF 3-1 Valencia CF
- 15.71 %
Real Madrid CF 3-0 Valencia CF
- 12.86 %
Real Madrid CF 2-0 Valencia CF
- 8.06 %
|Spain - Copa del Rey (ESPC)||Jan 23, 2013||Valencia CF 1 - Real Madrid CF 1|
|Spain - Primera Division (LIGA)||Jan 20, 2013||Valencia CF 0 - Real Madrid CF 5|
|Spain - Copa del Rey (ESPC)||Jan 15, 2013||Real Madrid CF 2 - Valencia CF 0|
|Spain - Primera Division (LIGA)||Aug 19, 2012||Real Madrid CF 1 - Valencia CF 1|
|Spain - Primera Division (LIGA)||Apr 8, 2012||Real Madrid CF 0 - Valencia CF 0|
|Real Madrid CF|
|Dec 10, 2013||FC Copenhagen 0 - Real Madrid CF 2||UCL|
|Dec 7, 2013||CD Olímpic de Xàtiva 0 - Real Madrid CF 0||ESPC|
|Nov 30, 2013||Real Madrid CF 4 - Valladolid 0||LIGA|
|Nov 27, 2013||Real Madrid CF 4 - Galatasaray 1||UCL|
|Nov 23, 2013||Almeria 0 - Real Madrid CF 5||LIGA|
|22||Ángel Di María||Midfielder|
|18||Jose Andrés Guardado||Midfielder|
The Portuguese ace will look to pick up where he left off last season when he finished with an incredible 60 goals in 55 games in all competitions. The 27-year-old's ability to have a decisive impact on a football match remains remarkable, and his duel with compatriot Joao Pereira should add an interesting subplot to proceedings.
The Brazilian was Valencia's man in form during pre-season, the biggest highlight of which was his spectacular 25-yard screamer against Tottenham Hotspur at the Mestalla. The former Gremio star will have to play the perfect foil to Roberto Soldado and breathe new life into the Los Che attack, which looked toothless and bereft of imagination for large stretches of last season.
Mauricio Pellegrino may prove to be an inspired appointment at Valencia, but his methods will take time to bear fruit. Madrid won 16 of their 19 home Liga games last term and should get off to a winning start here.
Times In BST
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed