Real Madrid-Valencia Preview: Champions League finalists keen to keep Liga hopes alive

Real Madrid will look to keep their faint Liga title hopes alive on Sunday and pile further misery on Valencia at Santiago Bernabeu.

Carlo Ancelotti masterminded the capital club’s progression to the Champions League final on Tuesday night, at the expense of defending champions Bayern Munich, who were hammered 4-0 at the Allianz Arena  – and lost 5-0 on aggregate.

Madrid have already won the Copa del Rey, defeating Barcelona in the tournament decider, and could still snatch the league title, but city rivals Atletico Madrid are strong favourites to be crowned Spanish champions.

Diego Simeone’s side – Madrid’s opponents in the Champions League final on May 24 – are six points better off than Ancelotti’s men, though Los Blancos do have a game in hand.

Two days after Madrid had celebrated their stunning victory in Munich, Valencia were left heartbroken following a dramatic defeat in the Europa League on Thursday.

With a minute of stoppage time to play in their semi-final with La Liga rivals Sevilla, Juan Antonio Pizzi’s troops were on the verge of the final, having overturned a 2-0 deficit from the first leg to lead 3-0 in the closing stages of the second leg.

However, they were left stunned when Stephane M’Bia’s 94th-minute header at the Mestalla ensured Sevilla progressed on away goals.

Pizzi has called on his players to lift themselves in Madrid as they strive to finish in the top half of the table.

“We can rest assured, though, that this road leads to good things,” he told AS after Thursday’s defeat. “I told the players I’m proud of them and they deserved to get to the final.

“Unfortunately, these things are part of our career and shocks are worth more than the victories, I’d say.

“Everyone has to work for each other. We must learn and value learning, and try to be better every day.”

Valencia’s trips to the Bernabeu have not proved to be fruitful in recent seasons, though, as they have not taken all three points since 2008.

Madrid have won their last five games in all competitions – scoring 14 goals and conceding just one – so they will fancy their chances of maintaining their impressive form.

Madrid have Alvaro Arbeloa back in training ahead of the fixture, but it may be too soon for the full-back to return to action, while Luka Modric and Jese Rodriguez should be involved despite sitting out training on Friday,

Germany midfielder Sami Khedira could feature after a lengthy absence with a knee injury.

Valencia duo Oriol Romeu and Philippe Senderos continue their rehabilitation so are unlikely to start, while Juan Bernat, Diego Alves and Victor Ruis are also sidelined due to injury.

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05 2014
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