Valentino Rossi starts the European stage of the MotoGP World Championship 29 points behind title leader Andrea Dovizioso after the costly non-score in Argentina was followed by a subdued fourth place in Austin.

It's been a topsy-turvy start to the season for many of the top riders - no-one has been on the rostrum at all three events, while only Marc Marquez has managed two podiums.

Rossi - like Dovizioso (Ducati), Zarco (Yamaha), Iannone (Suzuki), Rins (Suzuki) and Vinales (Yamaha) - has made one podium appearance, with Yamaha yet to win a race.

Jerez will be an especially important event for Rossi and Vinales' title chances, having been the scene of their first major struggle of last season, which eventually resulted in a return to the 2016 chassis for this year.

The good news is that the Jerez circuit has been resurfaced for 2018, and so should offer more grip. The bad news is that Rossi and Vinales are one of the few not to have taken part in a private test on the new asphalt.

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"I'm happy to come back to Europe. The first races of the season didn't go very well but we tried something positive. Our M1 is improving and now we arrive at Jerez, a very important track to understand our potential," Rossi said.

"Last year we struggled a lot, but this year I think we can be better. Jerez is a circuit that I like very much, I have had some good races here and I would be happy to be back on the podium.

"Together, me and my team, we'll work hard to find the best set-up and understand the behaviour of the bike with the new asphalt. On Monday we will also have a very important test. We want to improve and fight for this championship."

"It will be interesting to see how the resurfacing of the track will affect us," admitted team director Massimo Meregalli.

"Last year we struggled, but we made some big steps with our YZR-M1 in the recent weeks and we are optimistic that we can confirm our findings this weekend and fight at the front of the pack.

"It will be a busy few days, especially with the Official IRTA Jerez Test right after the GP weekend, but we are looking forward to getting as much work done as possible."

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