Real Madrid's title credentials to be tested by visit of Valencia

Reuters , Thursday 27 Apr 2017

Real Madrid
Real Madrid's midfielder Isco (2R) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the Spanish league football match RC Deportivo vs Real Madrid CF at the Municipal de Riazor stadium in La Coruna on April 26, 2017. (AFP)

Real Madrid's bid for a first La Liga title in five years will be put to test on Saturday when they host Valencia, who won their earlier meeting in the season.

A Cristiano Ronaldo double saw Madrid squeak past them 3-2 on the penultimate day of last season, but that was Real's first victory over Valencia either home or away in the league since 2013.

A largely second-string Madrid side, missing the rested Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos and without the suspended Sergio Ramos, recorded an impressive 6-2 victory away to Deportivo La Coruna on Wednesday.

Coach Zinedine Zidane admitted that he has some big decisions to make regarding team selection for the business end of the season.

"For me there's not a first and second choice side; they all show their importance when they have the chance. We'll see about Saturday and then the Champions League after that," he said.

"I must pick a side and it's true that I'll tell some of them after that performance that they won't be playing. It's tough but they understand how difficult it is given the phenomenal squad we have here.

"On Saturday I have to pick a team from the 24 players we have and that's what I'll do."

In the day's late kick-off, Barcelona, who are level on points with Real but ahead on head-to-head record having played a game more, travel to cross-city rivals Espanyol in the Catalan derby.

Their 7-1 victory on Wednesday over Osasuna condemned the Navarre outfit to relegation and took Barca to over 100 goals in La Liga this season.

Manager Luis Enrique said his side are ready to capitalise should Madrid slip up in their remaining five games.

"The win has given us strength for the run in," he said. "It is a game that has given a lot of players and the side as a whole belief. We played fluently and created a lot of chances."

Atletico Madrid face a tough trip to Las Palmas ahead of their Champions League semi-final with Real next Tuesday, while Tony Adams' Granada will be relegated should they lose at Real Sociedad on Saturday and Leganes defeat Eibar on Sunday.

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