With ten straight wins in all competitions producing 38 goals, it’s safe to say Real Madrid are the form team in Europe’s top five leagues right now. Jose Mourinho’s side have been breathtaking of late, signing off for the international break with a 7-1 Bernabeu destruction of Osasuna as they lead La Liga by three points from bitter rivals Barcelona.
This Saturday sees them face their stiffest test to date, though, as they travel to third-placed Valencia. Unai Emery’s side have bounced back from the loss of Juan Mata this summer, showing a resilience that sees them sit just a single point behind Barca with only one league loss this season so far. A six match unbeaten run serves notice of their form but there’s little doubt who the favourites will be this weekend at the Mestalla.
Home v Away Form Guide
When it comes to possession, Valencia have averaged 54.5% in front of their own fans- just the seventh best in La Liga this season. Madrid’s away dominance is shown by an average 64.5% on the road- only Barcelona (69.4%) have seen more of the ball on their travels.
Madrid have proved the greatest goal threat on the road, though- they average 18 shots per game away from the Bernabeu, with Valencia producing 17 shots per home fixture. Clearly, if this pattern continues, you’d expect the match to be an open, attacking affair.
This is backed up by each side’s goalscoring. Valencia have grabbed 17 goals this season but have found the net with far greater regularity in front of their home fans, averaging 2 goals per game at the Mestalla compared to just 1 on the road. Madrid have bagged 39 goals in La Liga so far, with 15 of those coming on the road- an average of 2.5 per away game- further illustration, then, of the likelihood of goals this Saturday.
Key Creators Sidelined
Given Madrid’s form and lethal goalscoring, it’s highly unlikely Valencia will be able to keep a clean sheet. The only way Emery’s side may stand a chance is to fight fire with fire and although they’ll be less inclined to go gun-ho in with every attack, they will be heavily reliant on their attackers to provide a spark. Both sides are set to be without their chief creators this week, though- Ever Banega is out with strained knee ligaments for Valencia, while Angel Di Maria limped out of Madrid’s win over Osasuna with a hamstring problem.
WhoScored analyses each player’s performance so far and looks at the player most likely to provide a creative spark in their respective absences.
Ever Banega is the top-ranked Valencia player in the WhoScored ratings to date with an average of 7.75 and is the only player from neither Barca nor Real to feature in our top ten La Liga players. The Argentine has mainly played in the double pivot of his side’s preferred 4-2-3-1 but has also featured further forward centrally this season.
His stats show just how crucial he has been to Valencia in the opening eleven La Liga matches- he’s made more key passes (2.4) and successful dribbles (3.4) than any team mate over his eight appearances. Banega has also managed 2.4 shots per game- the third best of any Valencia player- though has picked up just 1 assist and failed to find the net at all.
Much could depend on the performance of Pablo Hernandez this weekend. The right winger has almost equalled Banega in terms of creativity, with 2 key passes, but has managed a mere 0.8 successful dribbles on the flank. In terms of goal threat, he has failed to impress, though, with only 1.1 shots per game over his nine appearances. Hernandez has returned a goal and assist so far and although his WhoScored overall rating is 6.87, he has averaged 7.13 when playing wide right in the 4-2-3-1, an encouraging sign for the home side.
Angel Di Maria is top of the tree for assists across Europe’s top five leagues this season. The Argentine has picked up 10 in his ten games from an average of 2.3 key passes. His 1.5 successful dribbles is bettered only by Marcelo (1.6) for Madrid and an average 2.2 shots is third to Ronaldo and Higuain. Di Maria’s shooting has been fairly wayward though, with only a single goal to show from his 22 attempts. An average of 7.47 is the seventh best of Mourinho’s side but his ability to create opportunities for others will be sorely missed.
Mesut Ozil has been second to Di Maria for producing goal scoring opportunities. The German has picked up 4 assists from an average of 1.8 key passes, though his tendency to shoot less is reflected in just 1 shot per game, with no goals to his name as of yet. Ozil is something of a reluctant dribbler too, happy to keep possession rather than embark on a mazy run (his pass accuracy is 88.6% to Di Maria’s 79%) and has made a mere 0.7 successful dribbles per game this season. Despite a respectable WhoScored average of 7.05, Ozil is fifteenth in the rankings of Real Madrid players, an indication of just how well the rest of his team mates have performed to date.
Ronaldo and Soldado Go Head to Head
With 24 goals between them, Ronaldo (13) and Gonzalo Higuain (11) have scored more than any other team in La Liga bar Barcelona. Valencia are more reliant on just one man to grab the goals, though- Roberto Soldado.
Valencia’s preference for 4-2-3-1 means Soldado can at times have a thankless task in some games- with an average of only 16.5 passes per game, it’s fair to say he doesn’t see too much of the ball. When in possession, he rarely tries anything fancy- an average of 0.1 successful dribbles per game is indicative of his type of game and with 0.9 key passes, he’s not particularly outstanding when it comes to creating chances, either.
An average of 2.8 shots per game sums up what he’s best at and with 6 goals so far, Soldado is Valencia’s top scorer by some distance (Adil Rami and Sofiane Feghouli are joint-second with 2 apiece) and is the fifth-top scorer in La Liga this season, with a WhoScored average of 6.79.
There’s no surprise to see Ronaldo as Madrid’s main goal threat, with an average 6.3 shots per game, but compare his stats with Higuain, however, and you see just how clinical the latter has been. Ronaldo has scored 13 goals from 69 shots, which equates to a goal every 5.3 attempts, whereas Higuain has scored 11 from a total of 26 shots, finding the net with every 2.3 efforts in comparison- a clear example of why Mourinho’s side are far from a one-man team this term.
Ronaldo has also produced 1.5 key passes, third only to Di Maria and Ozil, and has bragged 5 assists as a result. His tendency to take on opponents has dropped this season- 1.1 this time compared to 2.2 in 2010/11, suggesting he’s become less of an individual and more of a team player, too. A WhoScored average of 8.39 is second in Europe’s top five leagues- no surprise that Lionel Messi (8.69) leads the way but if Real continue in the rich vein of form, it may well be Ronaldo who has the last laugh by the end of the season.