Reyno de Navarra, Pamplona
January 12, 2013; 19:00 GMT
With a tumultuous 2012, which featured the highs of winning La Liga after a gap of three years to the lows of current season when their charge for the title has all but fizzled out, behind them, Real Madrid have started the season 2013 on a bright note; winning the fixtures in some style. Barcelona’s record breaking start to La Liga season means that the race for La Liga is effectively finished, but Real Madrid would have their eyes firmly set on the second spot, and to give chase to their eternal rivals till the end and to re-establish their slightly scarred reputation after the controversies that have simply refused to go away.
Osasuna have endured a nightmare season so far and sit bottom of the table. The Pamplona based club has found victories hard to come by this season and have been unlucky in terms of several late goals scored against them but, surprisingly, they might fancy their chances against a Real Madrid side they have caused troubles in recent memory. Although they will have to be at their very best if they are to take anything away from this game.
Team News and Tactics
The problems continue to grow for Jose Luis Mendilibar as midfielders Roberto Torres and Raoul Loe became the latest additions to a long list of injury concerns and absentees for the manager.
Osasuna will be expected to line up in a familiar 4-2-3-1 formation as they have done for most of the season with Andres Fernandez starting in goal, assisted by a backline of Damia, who has arguably been their best performer in the season, club vice captain Miguel Flaño, Alejandro Arribas who returns from a one match suspension and Marc Bertran. Ruben Gonzalez will be expected to drop to the bench.
Captain Patxi Puñal will form the midfield pivot in front of the back four alongside Oier Sanjurjo, deputizing in place of Masoud Shojaei who remains doubtful for the fixture. The attacking trio will comprise of Emiliano Armenteros who has been another of Osasuna’s better performers, but is yet to replicate his last season heroics, on the left, Nino playing through the middle in the hole behind the striker and Alvaro Cejudo on the right while Enrique Sola will lead the line.
Osasuna have been strong in the air which could come in handy against a Real Madrid side without Cristiano Ronaldo in attack and a backline that is all too makeshift. Their ability to use the flanks and the frequency of crosses into the box could test Real Madrid. Osasuna will like to keep things tight in the midfield, an area where they have not covered themselves in glory and can be expected to be very aggressive in their approach to the game. The absence of Ronaldo might prove pivotal in such a case.
Probable Starting XI [4-2-3-1] : Andres(GK), Bertran, Arribas, Flaño, Damia; Puñal, Oier; Cejudo, Nino, Armenteros; Sola
Like his counterpart, Jose Mourinho too has a burgeoning list of injuries, suspensions and controversies to deal with. The latest on the list of absentees are youngster Antonio Adan and Sergio Ramos, the latter serving a five-match suspension for insulting the referee after being given his marching orders in the last 16 clash against Celta de Vigo in the Copa del Rey. Marcelo and Coentrao continue to nurse their injuries while the biggest blow to Real Madrid will come in the form of Cristiano Ronaldo’s absence. The Portuguese picked up his fifth booking of the season and will be serving a one match suspension.
With Adan ruled out for the fixture, the controversy will take a backseat this weekend as Iker Casillas will start in goal for Real Madrid after being on the bench for fixtures against Real Sociedad and Malaga. The Spaniard displayed why he is considered to be among World’s and Real Madrid’s greatest with several fine saves in the Copa Del Rey clash and will be hoping to return to his form of last season.
For the second game running, Real Madrid will field a makeshift backline, with Michael Essien resuming his duties at right back, Arbeloa on the left flank and Ricardo Carvalho and Rapahael Varane playing in the heart of defence. Nacho could have made it to the line-up, but the anticipation of a physical Osasuna side will tilt Mourinho’s decision to start with the experienced Essien. Sami Khedira and Alonso will form the midfield pivot in front of the back four. And with Ronaldo missing, Real Madrid will turn to Angel Di Maria to provide some natural width to what is expected to be a cagey affair. Mesut Ozil will play through the centre while Jose Callejon will play on the right, meaning that Luka Modric will drop back to the bench. Karim Benzema will lead the line for Los Blancos.
This might be the game that Di Maria might choose to kick start his Real Madrid career again. He has been one of several underperformers in the squad this season, showing his touches of brilliance only occasionally. Mourinho would rely on him to stretch the play, with no attacking full-backs in the line-up, to create space in the middle. Real Madrid will look to dominate the midfield, and with Ronaldo missing, their best chances would come through the midfield rather than the flanks and the onus will fall on Alonso and Ozil to keep the ball moving in the middle of the park. Carvalho and Varane put in solid performances last time around, but they will have to be at their best in a hostile environment against a physical side.
Probable Starting XI [4-2-3-1]: Casillas; Essien, Carvalho, Varane, Arbeloa; Khedira, Alonso; Callejon, Ozil, Di Maria; Benzema
- Osasuna are on a Six-match win-less run in all competitions, having lost five of those.
- Real Madrid have won just one of their last five away games.
- Osasuna have lost only once in their last four fixtures against Real Madrid, at home.
- Cristiano Ronaldo is now Real Madrid’s 7th top scorer of all times.
Player To Watch Out
Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
With the return of Gonzalo Higuain from injury, the Frenchman will be looking to stamp his authority on the starting place as Real Madrid’s Number nine. He has been in an out of form this season, on account of injuries among other things, and with Ronaldo missing, he will need to lead Los Blanco’s charge against Osasuna.
Osasuna 1 – 2 Real Madrid
A cagey affair is to be expected at Reyno de Navarra. Both teams have had dwindling fortunes at the opposite ends of the table. Although Osasuna have generally got the better of Real Madrid at home on recent occasions, the former’s particularly bad run of form and the latter’s recent resurgence would mean that Real Madrid will walk away with three points on this particular occasion.
Blast from the Past