It’s a sign of the times in Spain when a clash between two of La Liga’s most prominent names also serves to highlight the disparity between the best and the rest.
A decade ago, when Jose Mourinho was cutting his managerial teeth back in Portugal, Valencia were the top dogs at home and abroad as Real Madrid and Barcelona looked on in envy.
Those days have long gone as the big two’s duopoly continues to rumble on, despite the insistence of Atletico Madrid to part the pair this season.
For the past three years, Valencia have led the futile pursuit of Barca and Real – finishing third on each occasion and settling for the humdrum of Champions League qualification, a decent cup run and not much else.
However, Los Che’s financial foibles have finally caught up with them and being unable to stem the tide of players leaving the Mestalla, this campaign has been one of their most disappointing in recent times.
Ernesto Valverde has partially resurrected it from the depths of Mauricio Pellegrino’s dismal reign, but even despite posting seven wins from his nine games in charge, Valverde’s Valencia still welcome Real Madrid on Sunday sat in seventh place in La Liga.
Yet ironically, the reigning Spanish champions find themselves in closer proximity to the team in seventh than they do from the side steaming away with La Liga.
Real currently trail Barcelona by a mammoth 18 points and that could instill an air of unpredictability in Madrid’s results between now and the end of the season.
Last weekend, I thought Mourinho’s men would slip up at Osasuna and they duly dropped points courtesy of an insipid 0-0 draw.
A large part of my thinking ahead of the Pamplona stalemate was that Real struggle for goals without Cristiano Ronaldo – who was suspended – but even though the Portuguese poser will be on show at the Mestalla, I still think Madrid will drop yet more points.
Bwin’s 3Way betting market still has Los Galacticos as odds-on favourites at 4/5 with Valencia at 3/1, but I am instinctively swaying towards the draw and a price of 11/4 for it to end all square seems good value to me.
On the road Real have been very iffy this year, winning just four of their ten league away trips and losing four for good measure.
They have won just one of the last six in all competitions outside of the Santiago Bernabeu and their clean sheet at Osasuna last Saturday was only their second shut-out in 16 away games this season.
Madrid do have a fine record against Los Che and this is particularly true in Valencia – they are eight unbeaten in all, having won the last three in this part of Spain.
However, Valverde’s men have scored in all bar one of their last 19 games on their own patch and have won 13 of 17 – losing just two.
Contrasting home and away records add strength to my argument on the draw and at 11/4, I’m inclined to plump for a sharing of the spoils.
Certainly both have got a goal in them and both teams to score at 1/2 is a touch, as is Real to score in both halves at 27/20 if you fancy them to nick the result.
If you were to really push me for a winner, I’d just about go for Real given their firepower and extra quality and if you reckon the champions can keep in touch with Barca, back them to win with over 2.5 goals in the game at 29/20.
But I still won’t be torn away from the draw and 1-1 at 25/4 has got a ring to it to me, while lead-draw – my new favourite option in the ‘run of play’ market – can also coin you a bit of bunce at 333/100 if you think that either side will take the lead with the game ending all square.
If I got myself a free £20 bet this weekend – off bwin for example – then I’d be landing it on a 1-1 draw between Valencia and Real Madrid and if that came in at 25/4, I’d be £145 to the good.