Real Madrid's faltering La Liga title defense continues on Thursday as they welcome out-of-sorts Valencia to the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu for a must-win fixture.
Despite registering their first home clean sheet in this season's La Liga, Real Madrid could only manage a disappointing 0-0 draw against Real Sociedad on Sunday, losing further ground on leaders Barcelona.
With five points separating the sides at the start of this round, Los Blancos cannot afford another slip-up if they're to stay within touching distance of the high-flying Blaugrana.
However, Carlo Ancelotti's men have experienced a false start to the new calendar year. In addition to suffering a 3-1 defeat to Barcelona in the Supercopa de Espana showpiece, they've blown hot and cold in La Liga.
Indeed, the reigning Spanish champions have racked up just one victory in their three top-flight outings in 2023 (D1, L1), highlighting the importance of winning this contest.
Visiting Valencia sacked underperforming manager Gennaro Gattuso in the build-up to this trip following an underwhelming 1-0 loss at relegation-battling Real Valladolid last weekend.
It'll be up to interim boss Voro to inspire a renaissance in the traveling camp as Los Murcielagos aim to post their first La Liga victory since December's resumption after losing three of their four league games (D1).
As one of only two sides yet to lose a home match in La Liga this season (W5, D3), Real Madrid should be confident about returning to winning ways this midweek.
Adding to this sentiment, they have not lost any of their last 14 home encounters against Valencia in La Liga (W9, D5) and could equal their longest unbeaten run against them on home soil in the top-flight (15).
Worryingly, though, after a near-perfect 11-game start to their title defense (W10, D1), Los Merengues have dropped points in four of their last seven league fixtures (W3, D2, L2).
Valencia's disastrous record of eight defeats across their opening 18 La Liga matches this season (W5, D3) stands as their third-highest tally of losses at this stage of the competition in the 21st century.
Furthermore, Los Murcielagos have lost their last three meetings with Real Madrid in La Liga and could make it four H2H defeats in a row in the competition for only the second time in their history.
Conceding first would likely lead to that scenario, with Voro's men losing three of their four away league matches after falling behind this term (D1).
Real Madrid vs Valencia Potential Line-ups
Real Madrid (4-3-3): Thibaut Courtois; Nacho Fernandez, Eder Militao, Antonio Rudiger, Eduardo Kamavinga; Toni Kroos, Federico Valverde, Luka Modric; Rodrygo, Karim Benzema, Vinicius Junior.
Valencia (4-3-3): Mamardashvili; Thierry Correia, Eray Comert, Mouctaar Diakhaby, Jose Gaya; Yunus Musah, Hugo Guillamon, Andre Almeida; Justin Kluivert, Edinson Cavani, Samuel Lino.