The other day, in one of his interviews, Jose Mourinho talked at length on what he felt about the international fixtures disrupting Club football. He said that while he wanted that his players be not exerted elsewhere and be at his disposal throughout, He respected the requirements of National teams’ managers. Now if he were asked the same question around this time, the response might not quite be the same.
The International break has left Real Madrid crippled, quite literally. The full-backs’ association at Madrid bears a desolate look as Marcelo, Fabio Coentrao and Alvaro Arbeloa all got injured during the World Cup qualifiers, with Marcelo out for as much as three months. Amongst these and other injuries, Real Madrid would look to continue to chase Barcelona, with a relatively easier fixture around this weekend.
Celta de Vigo, back to the Primera division after a gap of five years after a dramatic turn in their fortunes, are looking to establish a foothold in the top flight again and have had a mix start to the season. They will fight for what seems on paper an unlikely point. Nevertheless, they will have been buoyed by their recent 2-0 victory over Sevilla before the International Break.
Team News And Tactical Brief
As mentioned, Real Madrid face a crippling injury list with their three primary full backs out of the game on account of injuries picked up over the weekend. Sami Khedira, Karim Benzema and Raphael Varane are also more than likely to sit out the game and Gonzalo Higuain is racing against time to be fit for the game. He is however expected to make it. With as many as six injuries, it could be a slightly different Madrid out at the Bernabeau, with some players playing out of position as well.
At the back, Real Madrid Castilla graduate Nacho is expected to make his debut in La Liga, at the left back position. Although primarily a centre back, his first appearance under Mourinho a couple of seasons back, was as a full back while he also a part of the team that won the Santiago Bernabeu Trophy. Sergio Ramos is expected to move out wide in the right back position to cover for Arbeloa, which means a start for Raul Albiol in the center of defence looks certain. He’ll be partnered by Pepe.
In the centre of the midfield, with Sami Khedira missing, Michael Essien would be likely to start alongside Xabi Alonso in the double pivot. While Mesut Ozil has been in scintillating form, both for club and country, especially against Barcelona in the Camp Nou two weeks back, Luka Modric could be handed a start to rest the light-footed German.
Angel Di Maria and Kaka would compete to play on the right hand side. Although Di Maria could offer more penetration against a side looking to cut down the spaces through the middle, Kaka’s recent performances for Brazil, where he played as a part of a very fluid front quartet, would not have been missed by ‘The Special One’. He certainly has done enough to warrant a start. Di Maria could come off the bench for him late in the game. Ronaldo would play on the left flank, while Higuain who is expected to be fit in time for the game would lead the attack.
Expected Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Casillas; Ramos, Pepe, Albiol, Nacho; Essien, Alonso; Kaka, Modric, Ronaldo; Higuain;
Celta de vigo
Celta de Vigo come on the back of a morale boosting 2-0 victory over Sevilla. Success at home has been the story of the season so far for them, while the complete opposite has been true away from home. They have suffered defeat in all three of their away fixtures, which certainly does not bode well for a daunting trip to Bernabeu.
Goalkeeper Javi Varas, having had resumed training after having dislocated his finger, would return to the starting XI. Defender Andres Tunez and Midfielder Nacho Insa are also likely to pass the fitness test for the game.
Chu-young Park, on loan from Arsenal, would look to reprise his role as Celta’s No. 10, partnering Michael Krohn-Dehli and Augustus Fernandez. Iago Aspas would be expected to lead the line. Celta de Vigo’s strategy would be to stifle Real Madrid’s play through the middle which could mean midfielder Alex Lopez coming in to shore up the midfield in the place of Krohn-Dehli, who was the least impreesive of the front four in the home victory over Sevilla.
While Celta de Vigo’s aim this season remains to consolidate their position in La Liga and although that success would need to built on the platform of strong home performances, a point here could prove priceless.
Expected Starting XI (4-3-3): Varas; Mallo, Cabral, Tunez, Lago; Oubina, Insa, Lopez; Fernandez, Park, Aspas;
Player to Watch Out For
Former World Player of the year earned his Call-up for the Brazil Squad after a gap of 2 years and did not disappoint His movement in a front quartet comprising the likes Neymar, Hulk and Oscar caught the eye and he was duly named Man of the Match. He also scored two goals, one apiece in the two friendlies. He could be the player to watch out this weekend.
Real Madrid 3-0 Celta De Vigo
As much as a case for a fight might be made, Real Madrid would cruise through this game. Anything other than three points out of this game would be unacceptable.