Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid
20 April, 2013; 1600 GMT
Real Madrid and Jose Mourinho now enter into their most significant period of the season. The Champions League encounter with Borussia Dortmund is making all the headlines and rightly so. The match against Betis will hardly matter compared to the upcoming encounter.
After all the brouhaha around Real Madrid throughout the season, the club seems to have finally settled and all the focus is on football. The team has regained their aura and are probably in the best shape of the season. The goals are coming and games are being dominated – all healthy signs at this important juncture.
Betis, having assured themselves of safety are not in contention of a Champions League spot this season. Their only hope is the Europa League and with quite a few games to go, they have a realistic chance of making it to Europe. Their season hasn’t been as consistent as they would have liked. Last week’s draw in the Seville derby was a terrific moment for the club as they made a stirring comeback to win a point against their hated rivals.
Earlier in the season, when both these sides met, Betis beat Real Madrid 1-0 at home to clinch a sensational victory against the reigning League champions.
Team Line-up and Tactics
Jose Mourinho will select his line-up with one eye inevitably on the Champions League clash against Borussia Dortmund. It is well known how difficult it is to play in Dortmund, the stadium being especially loud. With the league title already out of grasp, Real Madrid will have ample opportunity to keep key players fit for the all important Champions League clash.
Iker Casillas has been named in the squad but with Diego Lopez looking in ominous form, it will be hard for the Real Madrid captain to reclaim his place. Mourinho has been clear about starting Lopez till he keeps performing at such a high level. Casillas will have to wait patiently for his opportunities.
Real Madrid will line-up in the familiar 4-2-3-1 formation. Diego Lopez will start in goal and will hope to continue his remarkable run of form, assisted by a back four of Nacho, Albiol, Carvalho and Marcelo. Fabio Coentrao, Alvaro Arbeloa and Michael Essien have all trained separately and are unavailable. Pepe has lost his starting position to Varane and with Varane certain to play on wednesday, Pepe will look to prove his abilities against a much less fancied Betis in the midfield alongside Modric. Sami Khedira and Xabi Alonso have been rested as Real Madrid will need their best combination in midfield against Dortmund.
On the attacking front, Morata may play on the left flank as he did in the league Clasico with Kaka playing through the middle of the park, pulling the strings for Real Madrid in the midfield. On the right flank, Jose Callejon is expected to feature helping the team with his impressive off-the-ball movement. With Higuain looking in better form at this moment, he will be benched in anticipation of the Champions League clash and Benzema will lead the line for Real Madrid.
Ronaldo is expected to make this presence felt at some point during the match and so is the youngster Casemiro who has been training with the first team recently.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1) : Lopez (GK); Nacho, Carvalho, Albiol, Marcelo; Pepe, Modric; Callejon, Kaka, Morata; Benzema
Pepe Mel has been frank in assessing his chances at the Santiago Bernabeu admitting that Real Madrid would win. After all, no team has won at Bernabeu this season. But Pepe Mel has no midweek concerns next week and is expected to field a full strength team against in the capital city.
Benat Etxebarria has indicated that he would no longer be a part of the club next season and he would be hard to replace. The good news is Joel Campbell, on-loan from Arsenal has indicated his willingness to stay at the club for another year.
Betis are a team who are very well organized and can attack with great pace and verve. Their main striker, Ruben Castro has been exceptional this season with 16 goals so far. Another player to watch out for is Benat who leads in the assists column with seven assists. Pepe Mel will rely on the experience of these two players to pull off an upset at the Bernabeu.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1) : Adrian (GK); Chica, Paulau, Amaya, Martinez; Canas, Benat; Campbell, Pabon, Carlos; Castro
Player to watch out for
Luka Modric (Real Madrid)
With several big names not starting, Luka Modric has got a huge opportunity to impress the coach and the fans with his display against Betis. He will be the man to go to in the absence of Alonso and the former Spurs playmaker has to ensure that he plays a key role in this game to stake his claim for any starting berth in the upcoming Champions League clashes.
Real Madrid 2 – 1 Betis
Real Madrid are not playing their best XI but considering they are at home and with the talent at their disposal in the squad, a victory for them is a good prediction. It would be difficult for Betis to repeat their early season heroics at Santiago Bernabeu.