?Real Madrid will be looking to keep the pressure up on table-toppers Barcelona on Sunday as they travel to Valencia.
Should Madrid and Barça win their matches this week, they will head into the Clasico level on points, with the Catalonian club just two goals superior.
They face Valencia, who currently sit in eighth place, and eight points behind Real Madrid. However, they have won four from five games, so this will not be an easy ride for Los Blancos.
Added to that, Zinedine Zidane has a number of key players missing, with Eden Hazard, Marcelo, Marco Asensio and James Rodriguez all injured.
So, how will they line up?
Goalkeeper and Defenders
Thibaut Courtois (GK) – The Belgian goalkeeper has been Zidane’s preference this season, although he has missed three games in La Liga. However, Valencia are no pushovers and the boss will want his best 11 on the pitch, so Courtois should start.
Alvaro Odriozola (RB) – With very limited game time this season, Real Madrid’s full-back crisis might provide Odriozola’s chance at proving himself to Zidane. After receiving a red card against Mallorca, the Spanish defender has not featured for six league games, but with very limited options, he may well get his first league start since October.
Raphael Varane (CB) – Arguably one of the best defenders on the planet, Varane has formed a fantastic partnership with Sergio Ramos. He has started all but three league matches this season as Zidane likes to rotate his options. He boasts six clean sheets in 12, and would be a huge miss to the side.
Sergio Ramos (CB) – Ramos has only missed out on 30 minutes of league action this season, and does not look like sitting out any time soon. With three goals to his name, he provides a threat from set pieces and acts as the wall in front of Courtois. It would take an injury or suspension for Zidane to drop his captain.
Dani Carvajal (LB) – Carvajal is integral to the way that Real Madrid play, and this has been proven by his four assists and one goal this season. With Alvaro Odriozola on his tail and gaining minutes in the cup, Carvajal has stepped up his game and cemented his starting place. However, considering the injury to Marcelo and suspension for Ferland Mendy, Carvajal would have to shift to the left-hand side.
Casemiro (CM) – The Brazilian midfielder is bound to start against Valencia, as he has missed just 30 minutes of league football this term, much like Ramos. As he links the defence and midfield, he plays a crucial role in Real Madrid’s system. The only thing that would stop Casemiro from starting would be injury or suspension.
Toni Kroos (CM) – Kroos has started 12 of the 14 games that he has featured in this season, and only failed to come on once. His range of passing and technical ability is indispensable to Los Blancos, which has been prevalent with the amount of minutes that the German has played.
Federico Valverde (CM) – The 21-year-old has been something a revelation this year. Valverde struggled to break into the side earlier in the season, but has thrown himself into contention for a starting place with some impressive displays. He has started three of the previous four, and looks set to showcase his abilities again.
Gareth Bale (RW) – The most contentious inclusion within this whole prediction, but Bale might feature against Valencia. Injuries to Hazard, Asensio and Brahim Diaz has left Madrid lacking in depth up front, and Bale has been rested for two matches. Although tensions are high between the two parties, he has started all but one game that he has featured in.
Karim Benzema (ST) – Since Cristiano Ronaldo departed for Juventus, Benzema has stepped up his game. The Frenchman has managed 11 goals in 14 matches in La Liga so far, as well as four assists. He has missed out on only one game this term, and has lead the line superbly. Zidane will not bench his top scorer for this crunch tie.
Vinicius Junior (LW) – The young Brazilian has found it tough to gain momentum this season, but has started Real Madrid’s last two matches in all competitions. Much like Bale, he may profit from his sides lack of depth on the wings and get some form going. However, with one goal and one assist in nine matches, he will have to perform.