Written by @Chadley_N for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!
Valencia vs Real Madrid | Sunday 04 January | Mestalla Stadium | 18:00
With the short Christmas break all over, the return of the Spanish La Liga sees leaders Real Madrid travel to the Mestalla Stadium to take on high-flying Valencia. Los Blancos boast an excellent head-to-head record against Valencia – unbeaten in their last twelve meetings having won eight times with four draws. A stat that must have manager Nuno Santo quaking in his boots.
To Win (90mins)
Real Madrid 11/20
Valencia have been impressive this season having won nine of their sixteen matches played with four draws, suffering three defeats. They’re currently in fourth place on 31 points, eight off their opponents who are top of the table. With a difficult run-in to the league campaign, Santo must quickly arrest the decline to get some decent points on the board if his team is to compete for a Champions League spot. The new coach seemed to have instilled a renewed confidence at the Mestalla, and this early promise was highlighted by an excellent 3-1 victory over champions Atletico Madrid. It was a far cry from the turbulence that pervaded the summer, the ever-present financial problems and departure of nearly twenty players, including the loss of Jeremy Mathieu to Barcelona and Juan Bernat to Bayern Munich. Yet Valencia fought fire with fire, namely firepower, and their attacking verve was eye-catching most notably in the early stages of the season. This was based on an intense pressing game, the signing of Alvaro Negredo, and the form of new number nine Paco Alcacer and on-loan Rodrigo Moreno. Since suffering a 1-0 defeat at home to Barcelona, Valencia have gone on to draw 1-1 with Granada and claim wins over Rayo Vallecano and Eibar respectively. They’ll be hoping for the home crowd to be the twelfth man and spur them on to victory against probably the best team in the world right now.
It has been an eventful year for Carlo Ancelotti’s side. For the first time in the club's history, they’ve managed to win four trophies in a single year, which is a great accomplishment, something a certain ‘special’ manager couldn’t even achieve. But, most importantly, 2014 is the year in which Real Madrid finally won La Decima (their tenth European title), after waiting twelve years. Los Blancos are on a phenomenal 22-game winning streak and will come back fresh following their short holiday. Winning is hard as it is. Extremely. Unrelenting dominance even more so. There's a collective sacrifice that must be made to perpetually triumph. The price that's paid is an immeasurable toll on the body. Real Madrid have been prepared to pay that price and have yielded staggering results. The valuable time off to recharge their batteries will certainly help prolong their incredible run but the road won’t be easy, especially as January will be a very difficult month. The complete second leg in La Liga is also the most complicated. Nevertheless, if one thing’s sure with this team it is that you can never count them out of anything. Cristiano Ronaldo has been in extraordinary form this season and even has a statue to prove it. The Portuguese forward won the Ballon d'Or award this year and is favourite to win it again on January 12. He’s currently the top goalscorer in the league with 25 goals, ten more than his adversary Lionel Messi but here’s the crazy part, he warns 2015 will be “even better”. La Liga look out and Valencia beware.
VERDICT: Real Madrid 11/20
Real Madrid come into the game strong favourites at 11/20 while Valencia are priced up at 9/2. The attacking trio of Ronaldo, Benzema and Bale spark fear into any defence. They're as good on the field as they are on paper and it would be deranged to bet against the European Champions. They’ll be looking to kick off the New Year with a bang and build on their phenomenal form which is a 22-game winning streak. Valencia just can’t seem to beat them and I don’t expect them to in this match. Put everything you have on a Real Madrid win and add them in your multiples.
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