Evening all! The first of our back-to-back live La Liga commentaries comes from the Spanish capital as Real Madrid
welcome Real Valladolid
. A terrific run of form has kept Madrid in touching distance at the top of the league table, but they are now six points from Atletico Madrid – who have played a game more – and leaders Barcelona.
REAL MADRID: Lopez; Carvajal, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo; Alonso, Modric, Isco; Di Maria, Benzema, Bale
REAL VALLADOLID: Marino; Alcatraz, Rueda, Valiente, Pena; Rubio, Sastre, Rossi; Larsson, Guerra, Bergdich
So there we have it. Still no Cristiano Ronaldo in the Real Madrid XI this evening, but Isco and Angel di Maria both start. There is also a place on the bench for youngster Diego Llorente. Valladolid, meanwhile, have Daniel Larsson and Javi Guerra available in attack. However, former Manchester United striker Manucho remains on the bench.
Valladolid, meanwhile, are really struggling. A total of just 12 points from their 14 matches has left them in 17th position in the table. They have won just twice in the league this season, suffering six defeats in the process. In truth, how they fare this season will not depend on their results against the likes of Real Madrid.
In terms of the recent meetings between the two sides, it does not make good reading for Valladolid. Madrid have won each of the last five matches, including a 3-2 win and a 4-3 success last season. However, as mentioned, Valladolid have found the back of the net on eight occasions in their last four meetings with the capital outfit.
Madrid could afford to rest Ronaldo in the Champions League in midweek as they made light work of Turkish side Galatasaray. They will have to do without the Portuguese once more this evening. He has already scored 17 La Liga goals this season - nine more than Lionel Messi, but the Argentine has had his fair share of injury problems. Ronaldo aside, Madrid have plenty of goals in their team.
Defensively, Madrid have struggled this season. They have conceded 17 times in their 14 matches, which is nine more than Barcelona and also more than the likes of Villarreal and Granada. What’s more, they have kept just three clean sheets in the league, which will hand Valladolid confidence entering this match.
That said, down the other end, they have scored 40 times. That is in contrast to Valladolid, who have managed just 16 strikes – seven of which have come from Javi Guerra, who is believed to be a transfer target for a number of clubs when the January window opens. Valladolid will need the forward on top form this evening if a shock is to occur.
Remarkably, just four points separates bottom from 14th in La Liga at this particular moment. The title race is certain to be one of the most open in recent seasons, and indeed the race for the top four. However, perhaps more fascinating is the battle at the bottom. There are a number of sides really struggling for form at this stage of the season.
PREDICTION: Madrid are without a certain Ronaldo this evening, but even so, the attacking talent in their team is staggering. I am really trying to make a case for Valladolid, but it is difficult. I would be utterly astounded if Madrid were not comfortable winners in the Spanish capital. My score prediction is 4-1 Madrid.
Here we go then. Both sets of players join us on the pitch. The pre-match handshakes have been undertaken and the flags have been exchanged. Can Valladolid pull off one of the shocks of the season? Or will Madrid move to within three points of the top? The away side get the action underway at the Bernabeu.
Not a full house inside the stadium this evening, but there is a strong atmosphere. The home supporters expect their side to put on a show this evening there is no question about that. You just get the feeling that Valladolid need to stay in the game in the opening 20 minutes or so if they are to take something from their trip to the Spanish capital.
Possession football for Madrid in the opening four minutes of action with Valladolid struggling to get control of the ball. That should be the pattern of proceedings this evening. Benzema finds Di Maria down the right moments later, but his low cross is cleared by Valiente as the home side gain the first corner.
CHANCE! Golden chance for Ramos to open the scoring as the Madrid skipper meets a corner from Isco, but his header is just high of the crossbar. The look on his face says it all. One-way traffic with five minutes on the clock in Madrid.
CROSSBAR! The referee has been more involved than he would like in the last couple of moments as Garcia dives into a challenge with Di Maria, catching the Argentine in the process. The resulting free kick is whipped into the box by Alonso, eventually it falls to Di Maria, but his dipping effort smashes off the underside of the crossbar.
Devastating start from the home side as they continue to cut through Valladolid each time they break past the half-way line. Benzema comes close to opening the scoring as he combines with Isco outside the box, but Pena comes across to clear at the vital moment. You just get the feeling that it is going to be a long night for the visitors this evening.
Not too much to report in terms of chances in the last couple of moments, but the home side are playing all the football. We have seen little from Guerra thus far, who is certainly Valladolid's biggest threat. Di Maria attempts to combine with Alonso moments later, but the move breaks down when Jesus Rueda clears. Goalless with 12 minutes on the clock at the Bernabeu.
CHANCE! Another wonderful chance for the home side as Isco finds the head of Ramos inside the box, but Pena just does enough to clear at the vital moment. It was sensational work from Alonso, who found Isco with a clever flick down the left.
Half-chance for Benzema this time as the Frenchman meets a cross from Di Maria, but his effort is just wide of the post. Valladolid break down the other end with Rossi moments later, but the move breaks down at the vital moment. End-to-end football with 16 minutes on the clock. Still goalless.
Couple of half-chances for Bale in quick succession, but his first effort is high and wide of the crossbar, before he heads straight into the arms of Marino. Valladolid are attempting to force the issue down the other end, but are really struggling to keep the ball. Madrid on top, but are yet to make the breakthrough.
Again Bale is involved for Madrid as the Welshman rolls his marker before delivering a low cross into the Valladolid box, but Rueda is across to clear the danger. Di Maria threatens down the opposite side moments later, but he finds Benzema in an offside position. Valladolid hold on with 21 minutes on the clock.
Half-chance for Carvajal this time as the Madrid right-back collects a long pass from Alonso, but his final touch is just too heavy and Marino is out to collect. Isco finds space down the right moments later, but Pena is across to make a fine challenge. Valladolid can be pleased with their defensive unity thus far.
Marcelo tries his luck moments later as he strikes one from outside the box, but it was always moving high and wide of the crossbar. Pena attempts to force the issue for Valladolid moments later with a through pass towards Bergdich, but Pepe comes across to clear. Little over 20 minutes of the first period remaining.
Di Maria continues to look the most likely for the home side as he strikes a volley from the edge of the box, but Marino collects with relative ease. The home supporters are almost waiting for something to happen at the moment as Madrid continue to pass and probe outside the Valladolid box. At some point Valladolid will need to play a more expansive game.
It's bright work from Bergdich as the Valladolid forward drives past two defenders, but Ramos is across to challenge at the vital moment. That is the first time that the away side have really threatened inside the Madrid area. Bale is down the other end moments later, but his low cross is cleared by Valiente, who has had an impressive 30 minutes.
CHANCE! Another wonderful chance for the home side as Benzema finds some space outside the box before attempting to curl one into the bottom corner, but his effort was always moving wide of the post. You cannot say that they have not had opportunities.
Another half-chance for Di Maria as the Argentine finds some space outside the Valladolid box, but Marino is out to make a fine save. Had Di Maria found Bale, the Welshman would have had an easy finish at the back post. Ramos has another headed chance moments later, but his effort is wide of the post.
GOAL! Real Madrid 1-0 Real Valladolid (Bale)
Madrid open the scoring with 33 minutes on the clock as Bale heads home from close range. It's good work from Di Maria, with the Argentine's cross forcing Marino to make the save. In truth, it had been coming. Bale is settling into Spanish football very nicely.
Good response from Valladolid as they force the issue with a period of possession outside the Madrid box, but the move breaks down, allowing Bale the chance to counter. You just get the feeling that the away side need to stay in the match in the latter stages of the first period.
GOAL! Real Madrid 2-0 Real Valladolid (Benzema)
The home side have their second as Benzema thumps a powerful header into the back of the net after a stunning cross from Bale. Two goals in three minutes for Madrid and this one could be over.
Valladolid were in this match for the opening 33 minutes, but it is a long way back from this position. Who needs Ronaldo?! It is 2-0 and I would be astounded if we had seen the last of the goals. You have to fear for the away side, who have really struggled for form this season.
Incredibly relaxed atmosphere inside the stadium at the moment as the home supporters watch their side pass and probe in the final third. With the Copa del Rey to come at the weekend, the next week or two will hand Carlo Ancelotti the perfect chance to give minutes to a number of his squad players. Little over three minutes of the first period remaining.
Even Pepe is in on the action as the Portuguese drives forward before collecting a through pass from Isco, but his first touch was poor and Pena is across to clear the danger. The home supporters are making their way toward the exits as the half-time interval approaches. It has been very, very comfortable for Madrid.
HALF-TIME: Real Madrid 2-0 Real Valladolid
So there we have it. The referee brings the first period to an end with Real Madrid leading 2-0. Valladolid were in the match for the opening 33 minutes, but goals from Bale and Benzema have left the home side with a two-goal lead. In truth, it is difficult to imagine Valladolid recovering from this position.
STATISTICS: The home side have dominated possession with 64%, while they have had 15 attempts to Valladolid's two. Seven of the home side's efforts have been on target, but Valladolid are yet to register a shot on goal. However, there have been no yellow cards.
BENCH WATCH: The home side have a number of attacking options on their bench in the shape of Jese, Alvaro Morata and Casemiro. Meanwhile, Valladolid have the likes of Baraja, Manucho and Osorio in reserve. It would not be a surprise if the away side made changes at the interval.
Here we go then. Both sets of players join us on the pitch for the second period. Just a reminder that following this match we have action from Espanyol against Real Sociedad. Be sure to remain with us for that. Right, the home side get the second 45 minutes underway on this mild evening in the Spanish capital.
One change for the away side at the interval with Omar Ramos replacing Larsson, which is not much of a surprise. The Swede struggled to influence proceedings in the first period. As expected, Madrid have taken control of the possession in the early stages of the second half. However, one goal for Valladolid would certainly change the atmosphere inside the stadium.
Half-chance for Modric as the Croatian finds space outside the box, but his low effort was always moving wide of the post. It would not be a surprise if Carlo Ancelotti looked to make changes if Madrid scored a third. One thing is for certain, Bale will not want a rest as he continues to build up his fitness after a slow start to his Madrid career.
Half-chance for Madrid as Marcelo is felled by Sastre outside the box. The resulting set piece is taken by Bale, but his effort deflects wide of the post. A corner follows, but Marino is on hand to punch clear under pressure from Ramos. A third for Madrid would surely put this one to bed.
Madrid continue to force the issue as Alonso searches out the run of Benzema, but the Frenchman had just moved into an offside position. Valladolid break down the other end with Rossi moments later, but Lopez is out to collect at the vital moment. Still 2-0 with 55 minutes on the clock in the Spanish capital.
Better from Valladolid in the last couple of moments as Ramos finds some space outside the box before delivering a deep cross towards Guerra, but the Spaniard could not rise under pressure from Ramos. Just the one change made by Valladolid, while Madrid have all three permitted changes remaining. Little over 30 minutes of football remaining in this La Liga contest.
Bale attempts to force the issue as he collects possession on the right before driving past two defenders, but he just loses control at the vital moment. Not too much in terms of clear chances in the second period, but Madrid are comfortable. That said, one goal for Valladolid would change the entire feeling inside the stadium.
Madrid have the ball in the back of the net as Benzema converts from close range, but the offside flag had been raised with Carvajal adjudged to have moved into an offside position. It was close there is no question about that. Valladolid are down the other end with Sastre moments later, but his cross is cleared by Ramos.
Another half-chance for the home side as Carvajal delivers a dangerous cross into the box, but Benzema can only turn wide under pressure from Marino. It does appear that the third goal will soon arrive. Meanwhile, the likes of Morata and Jese are being put through their paces on the sidelines.
GOAL! Real Madrid 3-0 Real Valladolid (Bale)
Bale has his second and Madrid's third after 64 minutes as the Welshman turns home from close range after bright work from Marcelo. The former Spurs attacker is now on a hat trick with little over 25 minutes of football remaining.
Half-chance for the away side this time as Bergdich strikes one from outside the box, but Lopez is on hand to make the save. The end-to-end period of the match continues as Bale breaks down the other end, but the Welshman loses control at the vital moment.
Half-chance for Bale to score his third as he drives past two defenders before striking one from just inside the box, but his effort is high and wide of the crossbar. Who would back against the hat trick with still more than 20 minutes of football remaining? Still no movement on the Madrid bench, which is a surprise.
End-to-end football in the last couple of moments as Guerra comes close for Valladolid with a sweeping effort, before Bale fires one wide of the post down the other end. Moments later Pepe picks up a yellow card for a foul on Guerra. That is the first booking of the match, which is credit to the referee.
Di Maria's impressive night continues as the Argentine drives down the left before delivering a cross towards Benzema, but Rueda is across to clear the danger. It appears that both sides are readying changes with the final 15 minutes of action approaching.
Valladolid make their second change of the match as Manucho replaces Guerra. Meanwhile, Madrid make a double switch with Jese and Morata replacing Benzema and Di Maria, who have both been impressive this evening. It is an exciting time for Madrid, who have a number of young talents on the fringes of the first team. Little over 10 minutes of football remaining in the Spanish capital.
Jese and Morata combine for the home side as the former sets up the latter with a deep cross, but Pena is across to clear at the vital moment. Valladolid break down the other end with Manucho moments later, but his effort is straight into the arms of Lopez. End-to-end football with 79 minutes on the clock.
Not too much to report in terms of chances in the last couple of moments as Madrid continue to pass and probe outside the box. A fourth goal is not out of the question, but it appears that Madrid are content with their three strikes. A deep cross from Carvajal threatens moments later, but Valiente is on hand to clear the danger under pressure from Bale.
CHANCE! Wonderful chance for Marcelo to make it 4-0 as the Brazilian is found by Isco inside the box, but he cannot make proper contact. Bergdich has a long-range effort down the other end moments later, but his effort was always moving high and wide of the crossbar.
Half-chance for Jese as the Madrid youngster collects possession outside the box before attempting to find the bottom corner, but Marino is across to make the save. The resulting corner is met by Ramos, but his header is high and wide. Valladolid make their third and final change of the match moments later as Osorio replaces Sastre.
Morata continues to make smart runs for Madrid, but Ramos's pass towards the striker moves straight into the arms of Marino. Not too much in terms of chances in the last couple of moments as both sides wait for the full-time whistle. Just a reminder that following this match we have action between Espanyol against Real Sociedad.
GOAL! Real Madrid 4-0 Real Valladolid (Bale)
Hat trick Bale! The Welshman scores his third of the evening in the latter stages as he converts from close range. Ronaldo who?! Three on the night for Bale.
The fourth official indicates that we will play an additional two minutes and we are indeed into the second of those. What a night for Bale.
FULL-TIME: Real Madrid 4-0 Real Valladolid
So there we have it. The referee brings the match to a close with Real Madrid winning 4-0. Thanks for joining Sports Mole for the action and be sure to remain with us for Espanyol against Real Sociedad. Until then!