Pucela welcome high-flying Real Madrid
Estadio José Zorrilla, Valladolid, Spain
REAL VALLADOLID (19th, 21pts) vs REAL MADRID (2nd, 49pts)
In Matchday 24, Real Valladolid welcome reigning LaLiga Champions Real Madrid to the José Zorrilla on Saturday evening. To say that the Blanquivioletas face a tough task against the side from the capital would be a severe understatement, as they have not toppled Los Blancos since they met at this stadium back in November 2008 when Fabián Cannobio’s goal was enough to give them a famous win.
The visiting side are, without doubt, one of the most famous and successful clubs in world football. Led by manager Zinedine Zidane, himself a former Real Madrid player, the club boasts a trophy cabinet unlike any other. Los Blancos have captured the LaLiga title a record 34 times, the Copa del Rey 19 times and have won the Supercopa de España on 11 occasions. Moreover, their success on the European and global stage is unparalleled. They are the record 13-time winners of the UEFA Champions League (including its predecessor, the European Cup), twice winners each of the UEFA Cup and UEFA Supercup, four-time winners of the FIFA Club World Cup and three-time winners of the Intercontinental Cup. Their success is literally unsurpassed. Zidane, one of the world’s finest players of his generation and a World and European Champion with his country, has translated his success from the pitch to the touchlines. The 48-year-old from Marseille in France, in his second spell at the helm of Real Madrid, has two league titles, two Copa del Rey triumphs, three Champions Leagues, two UEFA Supercups and 2 FIFA Club World Cups to his name as well as being voted World’s Best Club Coach on two occasions. His managerial record speaks volumes, amassing 177 wins from 280 matches as coach of both the club’s B-team, Real Madrid Castilla, and the first team. This season, his charges have been defeated just four times, with newly-promoted Cádiz springing a surprise on them in October, before further losses to Valencia, Alavés and – most recently – Levante in January. Since that home defeat to Los Granota, Real Madrid have gone on a three match unbeaten run in LaLiga. Overall, they have taken 49 out of a possible 69 points (71%) and the fact that lying second in the league is seen as underachieving gives a sense of the craving for success at the club. Playing second fiddle to rivals Atlético will do nothing to improve their disposition and Pucela must be wary of playing cannon fodder as Los Blancos look to gain ground on their neighbours.
Real Valladolid will need to harness the spirit of that 2008 squad if they are to overcome a side against whom they have only won twice in the 21st Century. The numbers do not reflect favourably on Pucela to pull off a shock win as Real Madrid hold a 60 to 16 overall advantage in their 97 previous meetings, with 21 draws being played out. In that span, Los Blancos have amassed a +94 goal difference, scoring 197 times to their opponents 103.
On two separate occasions, Real Madrid have put seven past Real Valladolid, both of these while playing at home. The first was in September 2003, at the height of the fabled Galáticos era, where they ran out 7-2 winners thanks to a hat-trick from Raúl who remains the leading scorer in this fixture with 18 goals, ahead of the legendary Alfredo di Stéfano on 13. Also on the scoresheet that day was Ronaldo Nazário, now president of Real Valladolid, who would score a total of six goals in five matches against his future club, in the colours of both Real Madrid and Barcelona. He never lost to the Blanquivioletas while playing for Real Madrid. In February 2008, the scoreline was even worse for Real Valladolid, finishing 7-0 to the hosts, as they exacted revenge for that defeat at the José Zorrilla three months earlier in devastating fashion. The scoring was opened by Brazilian Julio Baptista, a good friend and former teammate of Ronaldo who is now in charge of the Real Valladolid youth categories, and a further two from both Raúl and Guti. The tally was complimented by one goal each from Dutch duo Arjen Robben and Royston Drenthe. It handed Pucela their second-heaviest defeat in club history, with only 1941’s 14-2 loss to Real Sociedad topping it. It was the third time that Real Valladolid have lost by a score of 7-0 and, curiously, all three have come in Madrid with the other two occasions occurring at the hands of their city rivals Atlético in 1951 and 1958.
Since their return to the Primera in season 2018/19, Pucela have been unable to beat Real Madrid and have taken only one of 15 available points, drawing one match and losing four. That draw came in Matchday 2 last season, when Sergi Guardiola’s goal in the 88th minute cancelled out Karim Benzema’s opener just six minutes earlier. Since then, the meetings have been decided by a solitary goal each time; Nacho scored in the 78th minute at the José Zorrilla in January 2020 and Vinícius Jr. netted the decisive goal on 65 minutes in September when the sides faced off in Matchday 4 of this season at the Estadio Alfredo di Stéfano, Los Blancos’ temporary home while their Santiago Bernabéu stadium is being redeveloped.
However, after climbing back into Spain’s top flight, Real Valladolid have managed to reduce their overall average of 2.03 goals conceded per match to Los Blancos down to 1.81, but their defence will be severely tested by a Real Madrid side who are tied for the best away record in the league, tied first for most away goals scored (21, sharing top spot with Barcelona) and have scored 41 goals across all their LaLiga matches this season, which is third-best behind Barcelona (49) and Atlético Madrid (45). This equals their placing when you look at goal difference; Los Blancos are on +22 while Atlético lead the way with 31, followed by Barcelona with 28. Real Valladolid have not recorded a clean sheet against Real Madrid since that famous 1-0 win in 2008 and have just two clean sheets all season to this point, both coming in away fixtures, therefore they are yet to play at home without conceding. It will be crucial for Sergio’s men to not concede the first goal as they have not won any of their LaLiga games in the last two seasons combined when they have allowed the opener. Real Madrid have strength in defence too, conceding just 19 goals this campaign, third to Atlético’s 14 and Sevilla’s 16. They have recorded 10 clean sheets on their way to conceding an average of 0.83 goals per match, where Real Valladolid have managed just 0.96 goals per match so they will be hard pressed to find much joy against a stingy visiting defence.
It may be clutching at straws, but there are certain factors which may assist Pucela in their quest for an unlikely victory. Real Madrid seem particularly hit by injuries at this present time. Defenders Marcelo and club captain Sergio Ramos, the only survivors from that losing side in 2008, will miss the match through injury, as will striker Karim Benzema. The Frenchman has netted 266 times for Los Blancos, placing him fifth in the club’s all-time scoring records, and has 12 goals to his credit this season which sees him sit fifth in the race for the Pichichi. His absence is a major blow for the men from Madrid who will also be without defenders Eder Militao, Álvaro Odriozola and Dani Carvajal, midfielder Fede Valverde and forwards Eden Hazard and Rodrygo. There remains undoubted amounts of quality in the squad with elite players such as Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modrić set to start, alongside Thibaut Courtois who, at a price of £35 million, is LaLiga’s most expensive goalkeeper.
In a season blighted by injuries, illness and suspensions, it is rare that Sergio is not the manager with the most absences going into a match. He will be without defenders Javi Sánchez, Kiko Olivas and Raúl Carnero through injury, new left-back Lucas Olaza is suspended for one match and will be replaced by Nacho Martínez, while midfielder Pablo Hervías and striker Marcos André are also unavailable through injury.
Their average league position prior to meetings with Los Blancos since their return to Primera is 13th, while it is fourth for the team from the capital. The Blanquivioletas are languishing in ninteenth place and have a run of difficult games on the horizon, starting with this one. They are currently five points behind their total at this stage last season and, although they have scored three goals more, they have also conceded an extra seven. Lying in the relegation zone is not ideal positioning for the arrival of Real Madrid and on paper it looks like we could be in for a very one-sided match but – with 4,480 days passed by since that famous night at the José Zorrilla – Real Valladolid are long overdue a slice of luck.
Maybe, just maybe?