Estadio de La Romareda, 7PM GMT
Real Madrid will resume their La Liga campaign with an away trip to relegation strugglers Real Zaragoza as they continue their pursuit of the second spot in the Primera Division. For Los Blancos, famous lines from Rocky Balboa- “It ain’t over till it’s over” have come to symbolize this season in the last few weeks, before the International break decided to creep in. Even though success in La Liga remains unlikely as ever but the victories over Barcelona, twice in the space of a week clearly signaling the end of the psychological block that Real Madrid faced against their arch-rivals, and Champions League triumph over Manchester United means that the Real Madrid squad is in a better shape, mentally, than anytime under Jose Mourinho and nothing but sky is the limit now. La Decima remains firmly in sights and there is a genuine prospect of beating their cross town rivals Atletico Madrid to the second spot in La Liga and in the Copa Del Rey as well.
In Real Zaragoza, Real Madrid will face opponents who have suffered a dramatic slump in form since the turn of the New Year. Clearly, 2013 hasn’t been lucky for Los Blanquillos who are now genuine relegation strugglers, having looked comfortable in the first half of the season as regards the Drop. Even so, the better of their results have been at home and they will be looking to snatch an unlikely point from Real Madrid, as unlikely as it may seem. This particular fixture, however might assume lesser of an importance with 17th placed Zaragoza facing off against the bottom three in the coming weeks and if they are to avoid the drop, the performances in these fixtures instead of tonight will be of greater significance if they are to steer clear of the drop zone.
Team Line-up and Tactics
Real Zaragoza come into the game on the back of a 4-0 thrashing away from home at the hands of Sevilla and must pick themselves up quickly for the crunch period ahead. Apart from three critical fixtures mentioned they will face both Real Madrid, tonight, and Barcelona in a couple of weeks with the game against Depor crunched in between. It is a tough time for the Los Maños and manager Manolo Jimenez will need to get his priorities right.
A host of players remain sidelined for Zaragoza, with Franco Zuculini, Ivan Obradovic and Javi long term absentees. Fran Gonzalez, Fernandez and right back Cristian Sapunaru are also missing on account of suspensions. Even so, Real Zaragoza will be expected to send out the best squad to face Real Madrid. They will be expected to line-up in their familiar 4-2-3-1 formation. A back-four comprising of Litri, Glenn Loovens, Alvaro Gonzalez and Abraham is expected to line-up in front of goalkeeper Leonardo Franco.
The duo of Jose Mari and Adam Pinter will form the midfield pivot with Paco Montañes, Apoño and Ruben Rochina playing ahead of them in attacking roles. Zaragoza’s star of the campaign so far, Portuguese forward Helder Postiga will lead the line. The duo of Apoño and Postiga has been the major attacking threat for Zaragoza this season and the two will have to be at their very best if they have to snatch a result against Real Madrid.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1) : Franco (GK); Litri, Loovens, Gonzalez, Abraham; Jose Mari, Pinter; Montañes, Apoño, Rochina; Postiga
Jose Mourinho will select his line-up with one eye inevitably on the Champions League clash against Galatasaray. It is well known how difficult it is to play in Turkey, Gala’s stadium being especially loud. With the added advantage of playing the second leg at home, Real Madrid will have everything to do in the Quarter Final first leg. With no fresh injury concerns, Real Madrid will have ample opportunity to keep key players fit for the all important Champions League squad.
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 Arbeloa, Ramos, Varane and Fabio Coentrao. Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira will be rested as Real Madrid will need the industrious presence of Khedira more than they are going to need the finesse of Modric in midfield against Galatasaray. Ergo, the duo of Modric and Michael Essien will form the midfield pivot.
In the attacking trio, Alvaro Morata will be expected to feature in the starting line-up. The young academy graduate has shown glimpses of the future in whatever little time he has been afforded on the pitch. His desire to get into crucial spaces and his ball hold-up skills have been particularly impressive. Morata will be play on the left flank with Kaka playing through the middle of the park, pulling the strings for Real Madrid in the midfield. On the right flank, Cristiano Ronaldo will be expected to feature. With Mourinho preferring Higuain over Benzema in critical fixtures for Real Madrid, the former will be benched in anticipation of the Champions League clash and Benzema will lead the line for Real Madrid.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1) : Lopez (GK); Ramos, Varane, Pepe, Coentrao; Essien, Modric; Ronaldo, Kaka, Morata; Benzema
Player to watch out for
Alvaro Morata (Real Madrid)
The young Spaniard has caught the eye of Real Madrid faithful in the last few weeks. The prevailing circumstances in La Liga have given the young Castilla graduate an opportunity in the first team and he has not let it slip. If he starts tonight, expect him to score a goal.
- Real Madrid are only 1 point away from reaching a landmark 4000 points in La Liga, and will be the first one to do so, should they draw or win tonight.
- The duo of Postiga and Apoño have scored a total of 17 goals between themselves this season
- Real Zaragoza have not won a single La Liga fixture since the turn of the year, a runs stretching back to 11 Primera Division fixtures.
- Real Madrid’s winning streak now extends to 7 in all competitions.
Real Zaragoza 1 – 3 Real Madrid
Real Zaragoza will put up a fight and can be expected to score a goal, but on the current run of form and squad quality, this should be a relatively easy fixture for Real Madrid and they will walk away with three vital points.