Ancelotti, Rafa, now Zidane - Mestalla curse strikes again as Madrid give Barca a boost

The Liga leaders slipped to a 2-1 defeat at Valencia and gave a lifeline to their fierce rivals as they missed a golden chance to move further clear


First it was Carlo Ancelotti, then Rafa Benitez and now Zinedine Zidane. Real Madrid's Mestalla curse struck again on Wednesday and a surprise 2-1 loss to Valencia has given Barcelona an unexpected lift in La Liga.

Real slip up at Valencia in La Liga

Valencia may be enduring another troublesome season after changing coaches again and finding themselves in yet another relegation battle, but they always seem to give Madrid a tough game at Mestalla and this latest encounter was no different.

In 2014-15, Los Che brought an end to Ancelotti's 22-match winning run, precipitating a decline that ended with the Italian's exit in May. Last season, Benitez's Blancos were held to a 2-2 draw by his former club in what turned out to be his last match as Madrid boss.

Zidane would have hoped to fare better than his two predecessors, but his side were two goals down inside 10 minutes as Simone Zaza produced a wonder-goal and Fabian Orellana scored after a devastating counter-attack. Raphael Varane was culpable both times and Real suddenly had a mountain to climb.

Cristiano Ronaldo Mangala Valencia Real Madrid

Cristiano Ronaldo's towering header made it 2-1 at the break and that was perhaps a fairer reflection on the overall play, but Madrid were unable to find a leveller in an exciting second half in which Valencia could also have added another - and both Varane and Sergio Ramos could have been sent off.

This match took place now - on a Champions League night - because it was originally scheduled for December, when Madrid were out in Japan winning the Club World Cup, and it was one of two games in hand for Los Blancos after their recent trip to Balaidos to face Celta Vigo was postponed due to storm damage at the stadium in Galicia.

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Many Madrid fans had boasted that, even with two games fewer than Barca, they still led La Liga, and although that was true, Real would rather have had the points in the bag. Now, with this defeat, three of those potential points have been squandered and Zidane will be furious at his side's slipshod start to the match.

With Gareth Bale on for the ineffective James Rodriguez in the second half, the French coach at least had his strongest XI on the pitch for the first time in 2016-17, but even that was not enough to salvage something from the game and this loss gives both Barca and third-placed Sevilla a boost in the title race.

Kroos Enzo Perez Valencia Real Madrid LaLiga

Joao Cancelo Karim Benzema Valencia Real Madrid LaLiga

Barca face Atletico in a tough fixture on Sunday but Madrid are in for another difficult night themselves as they face Villarreal at the Madrigal - and that after a gruelling and ultimately fruitless 90 minutes at Mestalla.

Zidane: Barcelona are not in crisis

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Real still have a game in hand, of course, but their potential seven-point lead over Barca is only one at the moment and there is plenty of football still to be played in La Liga this term - including another Clasico clash.

That takes place at the Santiago Bernabeu, of course, and obviously it is the Blaugrana and coach Luis Enrique who are the ones under fire at the moment, after following their 4-0 loss to Paris Saint-Germain up with another disappointing display in a last-gasp 2-1 win over struggling Leganes at the weekend.

Barca are clearly in a delicate moment right now and Real remain favourites to go on and win La Liga this term, for the first time since 2011-12. However, the Mestalla curse has hit yet another Madrid coach in Zidane and Wednesday's loss has given the Blaugrana a boost from a most unlikely source.