As the Champions League was prepping for their night matches across Europe, Real Madrid snuck in a day game at La Mestalla in Valencia to take on a home side that was ready from the get go. Unfortunately for Los Blancos fans, Madrid was not as equally ready from the get go.
Valencia quickly stuck the back of the nets thanks to goals from Italian international Simone Zaza and Fabian Orellana. 19-year-old Munir El Haddadi nearly made it 3-0 as early as the 13th minute but Madrid were lucky to see it go just off the mark. Both Valencia goals came within the match's first 10 minutes.
La Mestalla has always been a tough place for Madrid to play, although they did win the Copa del Rey there back in 2012. However they were playing Barcelona that night, not the team that actually occupies the stadium every other time. Cristiano Ronaldo added a goal via a header before halftime, but Los Madridistas were never able to even threaten to pull even.
With Madrid's loss none of the top teams in Spain are performing particularly well. Sevilla has now lost its hold on second place, yet Barcelona are struggling in La Liga and the Champions League. Therefore Madrid shouldn't have to panic. They still hold a one point lead over Barcelona, even though they still have one less match played.
Madrid are also better positioned down the stretch, as they have been knocked out of the Copa de Rey since early January, which should mean they are fairly rested. Although Barcelona may be able to hold the same advantage after next week, that is unless they can make history and overcome a 4-0 deficit against PSG in their Champions League tie.
Zinedine Zidane made a few questionable moves in the match, leaving Isco on the bench after he turned in a Man of the Match type performance against Espanyol over the weekend. Instead he trotted out James Rodriguez, who has really seen his form dip the past two years after coming on strong in his debut season with Carlo Ancelotti.
Madrid face a tough stretch coming up, playing three matches in the next 10 days and four in the next 12. Next up they travel to Villarreal, who have given them trouble this season and have been a thorn in the side for many of Spain's top clubs. Then they have two more matches before playing Napoli in the second leg of their Champions League round-of-16 match. They hold a 3-1 aggregate advantage.