Vincente Calderon Holds No Fear For Valencia
Atletico Madrid v Valencia
Third and fourth meet in Spain when Atletico Madrid entertain Valencia in the Spanish capital on Sunday night with the visitors looking to leapfrog the reigning champions.
A run of only one league win in three games since hammering city Real in the Madrid derby looks to have all but ended Atletico’s chances of retaining the La Liga title they earned so impressively last season. Atleti now find themselves seven points behind Los Merengues and are now just a point ahead of a resurgent Valencia going into this weekend’s fixtures in the Spanish top flight having failed to score in three of their last four games.
Diego Simeone’s side have also surrendered a one-goal deficit in the first leg of their Champions League knockout tie since their record win over Real last month as they approach the business end of the season.
French international forward Antoine Griezmann is Atletico’s top scorer in La Liga with 14 in his debut season for the club while fellow new arrival Mario Mandzukic has 12 in the Spanish top flight and 20 in total.
Four wins on the spin and six from their last seven La Liga games have put Valencia within touching distance of a top three that have seemed so far ahead of domestic rivals in recent times and seven points ahead of Seville in fifth. Pablo Piatti’s two goals within three minutes of each other just after half-time gave Los Che the win last weekend against Real Sociedad while they picked up a second clean sheet in three in a routine 2-0 victory last weekend.
Daniel Parejo is the club’s top scorer domestically this season with eight league goals while Francisco Alcacer has the same it total but only five in La Liga.
The suspension of Griezmann will be keenly felt by Atletico as he’ll have to sit it out here for the hosts, who are also without Joao Miranda as the Brazilian defender serves a ban. Jose Gimenez and Guilherme Siquera are also doubtful for the hosts who are expected to be without Saul Niguez through injury.
Valencia’s only major injury worry is Nicolas Otamendi with an ankle problem the Argentine defender picking up a sprain against Sociedad last time out although Nuno Santo should have a full squad to select from otherwise.
Head to Head
Valencia picked up three points that have helped them secure the joint best haul at home in La Liga this season when Atletico visited the Mestalla last October and were beaten 3-1. All three Valencia goals came before the 13th minute with Mandzukic’s goal on the half hour promising a fightback which never was for the visitors who also had sub Alessio Cerci sent off.
That was a first win in six for Los Che in this fixture, who haven’t won at the Vicente Calderon since 2011 while Atleti have won five of the past nine.
Their fantastic home record of dropping only four points at the Calderon all season makes Atletico justifiable favourites at 8/13, but they don’t hold much appeal at that price on current form and without their top scorer so the 11/8 on Valencia and Draw in the Double Chance market stands out here. A draw and less than 2.5 goals has plenty of appeal at 7/2 too while Piatti looks great value at 5/1 to get on the scoresheet anytime.