Sergio Canales (R) of Valencia duels for the ball with Sergio Canales of Barcelona during the La Liga match between Valencia and Barcelona at Estadio Mestalla in Valencia, Spain. Canales' parent club Valencia plays Real Madrid on Saturday, November 19, 2011. (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)
Valencia are a big club who should present a serious challenge to Real Madrid, but Los Merengues are heavy favorites as they are perhaps the hottest team in the world.
This is Real Madrid's second most difficult home game of the season. They won it 2-0 last season, with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring both in the last twenty minutes. It wasn't necessarily comfortable, but it was, in the end, straightforward. And that is the problem, how hard Madrid's second most difficult game of the season ends up being is entirely up to Valencia. Should they win, they will have had to play magnificently (they played magnificently last year, for an hour and ten minutes) and probably to the detriment of their chances against Rayo Vallecano next week: one step forward, two steps back.
Valencia are further hamstrung in this game by the enforced absence of their main creative force: the terms of Sergio Canales' loan exclude him fromplaying against his parent club. Real Madrid may be hamstrung by Alvaro Arbeloa's, well, hamstring.; though with Fabio Coentrao having sat out Portugal's incredible victory over Bosnia Herzegovina on Tuesday evening the likelihood is that Arbeloa will start. Not that anyone really cares about that, Cristiano Ronaldo, who everyone cares about and who emphatically did not sit out his country's win has apparently paid for his exertions (2 goals, 2 assists) by incurring a minor calf strain and may miss out.
So it looks like being the case that one of Spanish football's few marquee fixtures will take place minus the sides' key creative talents, which is a shame. Especially since Valencia's will be fit, frustrated and in all probably replaced by Pablo Piatti, while Madrid's loss will be compensated by World Player of the Year alum, Kaka.
We'll have live coverage of Real Madrid vs. Valencia in our La Liga Week 12 StoryStream. For more on Los Merengues, visit SB Nation's Real Madrid blog Managing Madrid. For more on the entire world of football, check out SB Nation Soccer.