It’s not Barcelona or Atlético; Real Madrid’s real nemesis in recent seasons has been Valencia. Starting with 2015-16, the 2-2 draw in Mestalla, the first game after the winter break, was the curtain call for Rafa Benítez’s short-lived tenure. A year earlier, the same stage saw Carlo Ancelotti’s run of 22 consecutive victories ended in another match straight after Christmas, which ended 2-1 to Los Che. Valencia have also made a habit of gaining points in the Bernabéu, as they did in a 2-2 draw just before the 2014 Champions League final that ended Madrid’s title challenge. There was another draw two seasons ago when Cristiano Ronaldo missed a penalty and another 0-0 further back when Vicente Guaita put in an excellent performance.
I put all of this catastrophic preamble before you to highlight the importance of Madrid’s rescheduled match against Valencia in Mestalla on February 22. Although it will be played early because of European matches, Mestalla will be bouncing, as it always is when Real Madrid come to town. For Voro and his side it will be a huge boost to morale and their position in the table to beat the league leaders. For that reason, I have February 22 circled in red on my calendar. An away win would not only widen the advantage over Barcelona and Sevilla to seven points (as things stand at the moment). Furthermore, it will allow Madrid to focus fully on the return leg of the Champions League tie against Napoli on March 7.