Shkodran Mustafi Primed for Valencia’s Battle Royale vs Real Madrid

Shkodran Mustafi Valencia

What a superb signing Shkodran Mustafi has turned out to be for Valencia this season. Despite missing the first four games through injury, Mustafi has been an ever present since, playing 30 La Liga games, in a season where he’s been an indispensable player for Nuno Espirito Santo’s outfit.

Playing alongside the aggressive Argentine, Nicolas Otamendi, the pair have formed a formidable partnership. The two complement each other very well indeed. Otamendi is the wilder of the two, who often backs himself to step out and stop his opponents, whereas Mustafi is the more cerebral defender, who instead operates more cautiously, and is subsequently forced to cover in behind for his more rash partner. Dermot Corrigan touched on this aptly in his article on the pair’s showing vs Barcelona.

When required, however, Mustafi is more than willing to step out and help a teammate, something he did particularly well in his side’s frantic 1-1 draw with Athletic Bilbao last month. Throughout the contest, he regularly came to the rescue of his right back, Antonio Barragan, when Bilbao played balls over the top and down the right. It was great to see such concentration and, additionally, a desire to sacrifice himself for the good of the team when a potentially dangerous situation unfolded.

Put simply, the Otamendi-Mustafi partnership just works. They complement each other wonderfully well. The duo’s impressive showings have been a key reason why Valencia currently find themselves in the Champions League places. Further testament to how tough Valencia have been to break down comes by way of the fact they have the third best defence in the league, having only conceded 27 goals from their 35 matches.

Mustafi recently commented on what’s it’s like playing alongside Otamendi, saying: “Nobody is unaware of the qualities Nico has – we all know this. I obviously feel very comfortable playing alongside him, but it would be unfair to say all the defensive strength we have is down to us. The whole team is responsible, from the forwards to the goalkeeper.”

The former Hamburg, Everton and Sampdoria player’s stats have also done justice to what’s been a superb campaign. He’s averaging 1.4 tackles per game, three interceptions pg, 2.6 won aerial duels pg and a colossal 6.6 interceptions pg, which ranks him fourth in La Liga.

It’s amazing to think he’s only 23, for he plays with the maturity and immense authority normally associated with a seasoned veteran.

Mustafi’s also added an impressive four goals this season.
Mustafi Goal

This weekend Mustafi and his comrades will have to draw on their all of their strength, ability and fighting spirit, as they make the unenviable trip to the Santiago Bernabeu for their massive clash against Real Madrid. But they will enter the game full of confidence – after all, they did triumph in the home leg earlier this season.

Speaking to Valencia’s website, Mustafi wasn’t getting too carried away though. “Before every game we watch our opponents, but it has been a long time since the first game and we have to approach the game in a new way, forgetting about that and continuing with our philosophy.

“They are a quality team and we cannot think that on Saturday they will give anything away. We have to make every effort, because it will be a tough game,” he said.

Facing the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, James Rodriguez and Gareth Bale always poses a huge challenge, but Mustafi and his defensive partners know they have the quality to stop them.

They will have to well and truly be on their toes for the fixture, especially considering the multiplicity of ways the team from the capital can hurt any side. On top of the fact they possess oodles of pace, power and technical ability, they also are the team that have scored the most goals from outside the area (with 13).

In the air, Mustafi and co. will also have to be very aware of Ronaldo’s threat, as the Portuguese has scored more headed goals than anyone else in Europe’s top five leagues this season, with 10. The World Player of the Year’s two fabulous headed goals vs Sevilla last weekend provided a superb demonstration of just how good he is in this regard.

Upon both listening to Mustafi speak and watching him play, an apparent sense of selflessness is evident, which has, and will continue to, hold him in good stead for what looks set to be an excellent career ahead.

Furthermore, the Albanian descendant is a player who’s always striving to succeed and improve. “My philosophy is not to go game by game but go every day.

“We are a young team to be manufactured in each workout. In every game you have to get one more goal than the opponent and achieve what is intended,” he explained.

The man who was a member of last year’s German World Cup winning setup, despite being injured in the tournament, really has come back beautifully to star for his new club.

Mustafi will be fully prepared to put in a warrior-like shift, in order to help quell Los Merengues, and if he and his team can manage that and get a positive result, it’ll mean they haven’t lost to a team from Madrid all season (in 8 matches). Plus, it’ll mean they remarkably won’t have lost at the Bernabeu in their last five visits.

If Mustafi has his way, the Bats will be every chance to achieve the aforementioned and take something from this fixture.