La Liga Preview: Real Madrid look to bounce back against Valencia

La Liga leader Real Madrid will host Valencia on Saturday as it tries to rebound from a disappointing 1-0 loss to Getafe last weekend.

La Liga leader Real Madrid will host Valencia on Saturday as it tries to rebound from a disappointing 1-0 loss to Getafe last weekend.   -  AP

La Liga leader Real Madrid will host Valencia on Saturday as it tries to rebound from a disappointing 1-0 loss to Getafe last weekend when coach Carlo Ancelotti slammed his players after a sluggish performance.

It will face a much improved Valencia side, whose coach Jose Bordalas Jimenez has received much praise after it went undefeated in La Liga from late October until it suffered a 2-1 home loss to Espanyol in its last league outing.

“Our team took a few more days of vacation after Christmas,” an angry Ancelotti said after Real's loss at Getafe, adding that what he saw "was not the same team" that managed to build a comfortable lead at the top in the weeks prior to the winter break.

Real was flat again as it rode its luck to edge past Alcoyano in the last 32 of the Copa del Rey on Wednesday, winning 3-1 with two late goals that helped it gain revenge for its defeat to the third-tier side last year.

READ | Copa Del Rey: Real Madrid, Barcelona struggle to beat third-tier rivals

Real is still the league leader with 46 points from 20 games, but second-placed Sevilla is now only five points behind and has a game in hand.

As Getafe snapped Real's 15-match unbeaten streak, it brought back memories of the 2014-15 season, when -- with Ancelotti as its coach -- Real's 22-match winning run was ended by Valencia in January.

That year, Barcelona, which struggled at the start of the season, stormed back to capture the treble of La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League titles.

The Catalans are currently a long way off top, in fifth and 15 points below Real.

Yet they managed to climb into the European spots last weekend for the first time since Xavi Hernandez replaced Ronald Koeman as coach in November with a 1-0 win at Mallorca, when they where missing 14 players due to COVID-19, injuries and suspensions.

Barca will stay in Andalusia, where it beat third-tier Linares 2-1 in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday, and will face Granada, which is unbeaten in La Liga since late November.

Sevilla will try to maintain its momentum at home on Sunday against Getafe, which is led by former Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores.

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With its win in the derby against Real Madrid, it extended its unbeaten streak in La Liga to six matches and is 16th in the standings, two points above the relegation zone.

Champion Atletico ended a run of four consecutive league losses with a 2-0 home win against Rayo Vallecano thanks to a brace from Angel Correa.

It will travel down south to face in-form Villarreal, which is on a four-game winning run under former Paris St Germain and Arsenal manager Unai Emery.

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