MADRID, Jan. 19 (Xinhua) -- Real Madrid coach, Jose Mourinho faces a selection dilemma ahead of his side' s BBVA Primera Liga match in Valencia on Sunday.
The game is the second of three meetings between the two clubs in little over a week, being as it is sandwiched between the two legs of the Copa del Rey quarter-final. Madrid drew first blood in Wednesday' s quarter-final, winning a controversial game by 2-0 following a display by referee, Muniz Fernandez which united Valencia in protest.
Not only did Muniz give three controversial offside' s against Valencia, but allowed Madrid' s second goal to stand after a handball from Gonzalo Higuain and sent Valencia coach, Ernesto Valverde off for protesting that error.
That performance means Valencia' s Mestalla stadium is likely to be a pressure cooked on Sunday with the fans looking to pounce on any refereeing mistake.
With his side 18 points behind Barcelona in the BBVA Primera Liga, Mourinho knows the cup is one of his side' s options of silverware this campaign and may look to rest some key players. However, with fourth place Betis just three points behind, he cannot afford to allow his side to risk slipping a further place in the table, not to give the impression his side has totally given up on the league.
Therefore the Portuguese coach has to carry out a balancing act, sending out a positive message to fans and players in the league, while at the same time ensuring his key players are at their best when there is silverware at stake.
Valverde has no such luxuries: the side has improved drastically since he took over, taking an impressive 12 points from five league game and climbing up to seventh in the table. However, he needs that league form to continue if his side are to qualify for the Europa League or even the Champions League next season, given that Valencia suffered a poor start to the campaign under Valverde' s predecessor, Mauricio Pellegrino.
Valencia' s need will see players such as Ever Banega and Feghouli and Roberto Soldado start against Madrid, while Mourinho will probably give more minutes to left back Marcelo, while Rafael Varene could get time in central defense due to Pepe' s ankle injury and Sergio Ramos' five game suspension.
Valencia - Real Madrid games have been typified by tension in the past, but following last week' s events, Sunday' s game is likely to be closer than ever...and there is still the return of the cup quarter final to play during the week.