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Pucela gear up for Real Madrid clash

Real Valladolid host second-placed Real Madrid in the Sunday evening fixture to bring Round 21 to a conclusion.

A late Sergi Guardiola goal earned Pucela a 1-1 draw when the sides last met in August last year at the Santiago Bernabéu. After Karim Benzema had given the hosts the lead in the 82nd minute, Guardiola gathered a delightful through-ball from Óscar Plano in the last minute of regulation time and finished past Thibaut Courtois to grab an unlikely point for Sergio’s team.

Luka Modric scored the fourth for Real Madrid the last time these teams met in Valladolid

However, since that day the two sides have been on very divergent paths. Real Madrid come to the José Zorrilla level on points with rivals Barcelona and second in the table only by way of goal difference. They have suffered just one defeat this season so far, a surprise 1-0 loss at Real Mallorca in Round 9. They have won 60% of their league matches, scoring just shy of an average of 2 goals per outing. This is thanks in large part to their talismanic French forward, Karim Benzema. He has twelve goals so far this campaign and often figures very prominently when he plays against Real Valladolid. In his last eight matches against the blanquivioletas, he has scored five goals and contributed three assists. Three of these goals, and one assist, has come in the last two meetings.

Defensively, los blancos are solid too. They have an average of just 0.65 goals conceded per match in twenty La Liga appearances, and the 13 goals against them is their second-lowest total at the point of the season since the 1987/88 campaign where they had let in 12. They have managed to keep a clean sheet in five out of their last eight away matches.

This is all very bad news for Real Valladolid who will face a monumental task to gain a positive result from this clash. Sergio’s outfit have been shut out in six of their last eight La Liga matches and are in a three-way tie for the lowest number of goals scored (17) with bottom-of-the-table Espanyol and Celta Vigo, who occupy one of the three relegation spots. This translates to an average of 0.85 goals scored per game and has contributed to them languishing in 15th place coming into Round 21. They have ten draws this season, equalled only by Athletic Club and Osasuna. They are enduring their most barren spell, no wins in eight league matches, since the 2009/10 season where they failed to register a win in eleven 11 outings. Coupled with a shock defeat to La Liga SmartBank’s Tenerife this week to send them crashing out of the Copa del Rey, it has been a torrid time for the men from Valladolid. However, there are positives to take for the home side; they have lost just once in front of their own fans this season – a 1-0 defeat to high-fliers Sevilla in November – and a packed house at the José Zorrilla may well be able to roar their side onto a giant-killing night and, as much as scoring goals has been a problem, they have quite a tight defence. Only five teams in La Liga have conceded less than them, so they will need all their defensive capabilities when facing Zinedine Zidane’s side who have the second-best scoring record in the division.

Overall, the men from the capital hold a superior record over their opponents. In 94 matches played in all competitions, los blancos have won 59 of them. Real Valladolid have triumphed in 20 meetings and there have been 15 draws. Pucela have not beaten Real Madrid in their last ten league encounters since José Luis Mendilibar guided them to a 1-0 win at home in 2008.

Last season, Real Madrid won both of the meetings between the two teams. In November 2018, late goals from Vinicius Junior (although heavily influenced by a deflection from Kiko Olivas) and a Sergio Ramos penalty saw them edge Pucela by a score of 2-0 in the capital. In the return fixture, in March 2019, a frankly bizarre affair ended with Real Madrid emerging 4-1 victors. In a match that literally had a bit of everything, Rubén Alcaraz missed an early penalty for the hosts and Sergi Guardiola had the ball in the net twice only to be denied by VAR on both occasions, before Anuar put the blanquivioletas ahead. With a little over ten minutes before halftime, Jordi Masip was less than convincing dealing with a high ball and paid the price when Raphael Varane knocked in a close-range equaliser. In the second half, the visitors quality showed as they pulled ahead through a Karim Benzema double (including one from the penalty spot) and Luka Modric rounded off the scoring with five minutes to play after Casemiro had received a red card.

Karim Benzema is a source of constant threat for Real Madrid

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