Valencia vs Real Madrid: Issues that will shape top of the table clash

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Real Madrid's first league assignment of the New Year couldn't have been any tougher as they travel to Mestalla and a tantalising match against Valencia.

Los Blancos has certainly held the upper hand in the fixture over the last few years, May 2009 the last time the home side tasted victory on their own patch.

Since then, Madrid have won every game scoring at least three goals in the process. But, can they be stopped from doing the same again? Let's take a look...

Fortress Mestalla

This season, Valencia have been very much at home in the comfort of Mestalla.

A 94th-minute last-kick-of-the-game winner from Barcelona's Sergio Busquets is the only blot on Los Che's copybook at home this season.

Only the Catalans and Athletic Club have stopped Nuno Santo's side from scoring at least three and such has been the attacking and expansive way in which the home side have played that virtually every team has found it hard to live with them.

Even Barcelona can consider themselves fortunate to have walked away with the spoils.

It may be a happy hunting ground for Real Madrid recently, but it's debatable that they've found Valencia in this form at home since their glory days of Rafa Benitez.

To rest or not to rest

Once Valencia had despatched Eibar on December 20, all of the players took a well-earned break from football for the holiday period.

Not so Real Madrid.

A date at the Club World Cup in Morocco was first up before Christmas and then a friendly with AC Milan in Dubai just a few days before this one.

Hardly the ideal preparation for such a big game. Or is it?

Title race wide open again?

One thing is for certain. Should Valencia continue their good work and take the three points, it will blow the title race wide open.

A point ahead and with a game in hand, should Real successfully negotiate this hurdle then there aren't too many games left to trouble them, with the greatest of respect to the other teams in La Liga.

Lose and Barcelona potentially close to within a point with the Camp Nou El Clasico to come.

Valencia will do their own chances of European football no harm at all with a win.

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James Rodriguez
Karim Benzema
Cristiano Ronaldo
La Liga
Real Madrid
Gareth Bale

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