MADRID (Reuters) - Valencia v Real Madrid is usually one of the biggest fixtures in Spanish football but the La Liga champions will meet a crumbling institution as they look to end their poor recent record at the Mestalla on Sunday.
Six times La Liga champions and Copa del Rey winners as recently as 2019, Valencia are currently in a state of decay, facing financial difficulty off the pitch and left with an ever-falling number of experienced players in the squad.
After failing to bring in a single new player, the club sold Geoffrey Kondogbia to Atletico Madrid last week, making the French midfielder the seventh key player to leave since the end of last season, when the team finished ninth.
They are on track to do far worse this season, currently sitting 13th in the standings after taking eight points from eight games.
Coach Javi Gracia, meanwhile, is continuing to lose patience with club owner Peter Lim and president Anil Murthy, saying earlier in the season that he is yet to speak to Lim personally and has hardly any contact with Murthy.
He offered his resignation last month but withdrew it after being told he would have to pay 3 million euros to end his contract. He also lashed out at the club for the manner in which they sold Kondogbia behind his back.
“I got a call from the president to tell me the player wasn’t leaving, so words fail me,” he said after last week’s thrilling 2-2 draw with Getafe.
The situation has become so desperate that former captain David Albelda is now just crossing his fingers that the club do not get relegated.
“When results don’t go your way you’re always worried about what could happen at the end of the season, and that concern is now accompanied by all the uncertainty from selling so many players and not strengthening the team,” he said.
“We hope things turn out ok and that we will be able to say that next season we are still in the top flight and can turn the situation around.”
Real have won only one of their last six trips to Valencia but head there feeling confident after a vital 3-2 win over Inter Milan in the Champions League.
Midfielder Martin Odegaard is set to return for Zidane’s side, who are a second in the standings behind Real Sociedad, after a three-week injury lay off.
Elsewhere this weekend, Barcelona host Real Betis on Saturday searching for a first league win in five matches while leaders Real Sociedad play Granada after winning their last four league outings.
Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Toby Davis
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.