With the Champions League now on the backburner until February, Real Madrid captain Iker Casillas has said that his side can focus on reducing the 11 point gap to La Liga pacesetters Barcelona. Having already recorded more defeats than they did through the entirety of their title-winning campaign last season, many observers have already written off Madrid’s chances of retaining the championship.
But after beating second-place Atletico Madrid last Saturday, Casillas is still desperate to improve Los Blancos’ position in the league.
“The targets set for the end of the year are there,” the goalkeeper explained, according to Real Madrid’s official website. “The pity is perhaps that the distance between us and Atletico in the league, despite having reduced it last weekend, and with Barcelona is quite big.
“But we made it through to the next round of the Champions League and we expect a tough opponent in a difficult knockout tie, but between now and February there will be time to prepare. Now we want to focus on the league, and cut the points difference with the teams above, and keep getting through the rounds in the Copa del Rey."
On Saturday, Madrid travel to face a Real Valladolid side that have impressed on their return to the op flight. Miroslav Dukic’s men currently sit in seventh place and have particularly excelled at home where they have lost just once to date.
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Valladolid had an impressive 2-1 victory over Sevilla last weekend, but the win came at a price with central defender Jose Rueda picking up a knee injury that will keep him out for the rest of the year. There is better news, though, with former Manchester United striker Manucho and Marc Valiente returning to fitness.
While Jose Mourinho made a number of changes to the side that defeated Ajax on Tuesday, one of the first-team players retained, Fabio Coentrao, picked up a hamstring injury that will rule him out against Valladolid.
Real Valladolid (probable)
D: Rukavina, Serano, Valiente, Balenziaga
M: Perez, Alvaro
Ebert, Oscar, Ramos
Real Madrid (probable)
D: Ramos, Pepe, Varane, Arbeloa
M: Khedira, Alonso
Di Maria, Ozil, Ronaldo
Prediction: Valladolid have only conceded six goals in seven home games this season and Madrid may have to bide their time before making the breakthrough. It might not be the prettiest, but Mourinho’s men should just edge the victory.
Real Valladolid 1-2 Real Madrid
Where to watch: The La Liga contest kicks-off from the Estadio Nuevo Jose Zorrilla at 2 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sport. A live stream, which you view at your own discretion, will be available here.