RACING SANTANDER
v
REAL MADRID

Campos de Sport de El Sardinero
07.03.2011, 01:30 IST kick-off

After an exhilarating display against Malaga, in which Los Blancos put seven goals past the hapless Malaga defense, Real Madrid would be surely very high on confidence when they travel to face Racing Santander at their home, El Sardinero. It has been a rather eventful week for Real after their draw against Deportivo. Real Madrid did manage to put a commanding display but in the process have lost Cristiano Ronaldo to a thigh injury. Ronaldo is expected to be out for 2 weeks which leaves him doubtful for the highly anticipated clash against Lyon in the Champions League. This will be the first time in this season that Ronaldo will not be available for a match. Many doubt that this injury was caused due to reluctance of Jose Mourinho to give adequate rest to his talisman.

The other big talking point is the form of Racing Santander coming into this match. After the takeover by the Indian businessman, Ahsan Ali Syed, Racing seems to have turned a new chapter in their history. They have beaten Sevilla and drew with Villarreal and are playing well at home especially. They have not lost their last nine home games which speaks volumes about the confidence level in Racing players when they play at home. Jose Mourinho will be wary of the this threat and will look to exit El Sardinero with all the 3 points. Any more slip ups and Barcelona will surely have one hand on the La Liga title, if they are already not having one.

Team News and Tactical Brief

Real Madrid

Undoubtedly this will be one of the biggest challenges Mourinho is going to face this season. His 7 first team players are injured and Lass will serve a one match suspension for this match. With Real Madrid remaining relatively trouble free with injuries since the start of the season, Mourinho, for the first time will be short of options in almost all the departments.

The recovery of Pepe is one bit of happy news for Real as he will surely start against Racing. Carvalho and Pepe have been rock solid and Mourinho would need them to be on top of their game more than ever. According to reports from the training field and the official site, Alvaro Arbeloa is injured and might not be available for the game which leaves Mourinho without a back up full back and hence Castilla defender, Casado, has been called up to the first team. Benzema and Adebayor are available and considering Benzama’s splendid display against Malaga, he would start for sure. Considering the lack of options in the midfield, Mourinho might decide to go with 2 strikers and hence Adebayor might also start. Morata has been called up to the first team as a back up striker.

But the real problem for Jose Mourinho lies in the midfield. Khedira is injured and will take 2 more weeks to recover. His replacement, Lass Diarra is suspended for the clash and the back up, Fernando Gago has been ruled out for 3 weeks due to an injury. This is obviously a very major problem for Mourinho. Alonso will definitely boss the central midfield but the lack of a proper destroyer beside him could spell doom for Real. Alonso needs some support to weave his magic from the midfield. Alex Fernandez, the Real Madrid Castilla star was called to train with the first team and has been named in the squad. But considering that he is 18 and has never played for Real Madrid in any match in this season, Alex may just prove to be a risky option.

The Real midfield Maestro

The only option Mourinho has got is Granero,who is more of an attacking midfielder but who can definitely serve in a double pivot. Don’t be too surprised if Pepe is called to play as DM and Albiol makes the cut. You never know with Jose.

The attacking midfield is the biggest problem for Jose. With injuries to Cristiano and Kaka, Jose would be surely working overtime to get his formation correct. Pedro Leon has been called up to the first team and it already seems an eternity since Leon has been on the pitch for Real. He is being treated unfairly and the Ronaldo injury might just give him that one chance to prove Mourinho wrong in his case. But, chances of Leon and Canales starting are less and Mourinho might stick to Ozil as the playmaker and play Di Maria as a RWM, effectively giving Los Galacticos a 4-2-1-3 shape with a license for all out attack.

It is a very difficult assignment for Real considering Mourinho has got a very serious situation to deal with, in the form of injuries to his star players. Madridistas will be hoping that Mourinho proves that he is indeed the Special One and win this match.

Probable Starting line up: Casillas; Ramos, Pepe, Carvalho, Marcelo; Alonso, Granero; Oezil; Di Maria, Adebayor, Benzema

Football Fans Know Better

Probable starting line-ups

Racing Santander

Racing have been on the rise since their take over by Ahsan Ali and have not lost in six games and have beaten teams like Getafe and Sevilla while drawing with heavyweights such as Villarreal. Their heroics have lifted them to 12th position in the table and the combination of new coach and the new owner, Marcelino Toral and Ahsan Ali, seems to have done the trick for Racing. Marcelino would not like to change much from his previous encounters and would not stay back and defend like Deportivo did at Riazor. He has players like Munitis and Rodriguez who can damage the opposition badly.

Racing are on a roll at home and have made El Sardinero their fortress and considering that Real Madrid will be missing Cristiano Ronaldo, Racing would be looking at a historic result to boost their confidences. With Levante, Depotivo and Zaragoza just behind them, Racing would look to increase that gap further more and move ahead of Getafe in the Liga table.

Probable Starting line up: Tono; Torrejon, Henrique, Domingo, Pinillos; Giovani, Colsa, Gonzalez, Rodriguez; Munitis, Rosenborg

TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR

Angel Di Maria (Real Madrid)

Angel Di Maria: Man of the moment

The Argentine sensation is having a splendid year at the White House. His performances have been simply brilliant most of the times. But everytime he had Ronaldo running the show with him on the other flank; this will be his real test as for the first time this season, Di Maria would have to showcase his skills without the Portuguese talisman and would be hoping that he helps his team in such a difficult phase.

TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION

Racing Santander 1 – 2 Real Madrid

It will be a very difficult match for Real but considering their brilliant performance against Malaga, Real Madrid would be favorites but they would have to fight very hard for clinching the victory here.