Real Madrid – Valencia Preview: Los Blancos begin title defence with tricky home tie

Real Madrid campeón

Real Madrid campeón 2011/12

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.

  • 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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