After having dropped points against Valencia and UD Las Palmas, Real Madrid travel to Gipuzkoa to face SD Eibar in what will be their most important League fixture of the season
The last time these sides met in the League, the points were shared at the Santiago Bernabeu. An early goal from Fran Rico was followed by an 18th minute equalizer by Gareth Bale. The scores would remain level, but Real would lose Varane and Benzema through injury.
Now, Zinedine Zidane’s men are under intense pressure and risk losing out on the title race. Inconsistent performances of late have drastically shortened their lead at the top of the table and they now sit one point behind Barcelona, with a game in hand.
This may very well be their most important fixture of the season. Should Eibar come away from this tie will all three points, then the tables would have completely turned in Barcelona’s favour. Should Los Blancos win, it would take them back to the top of the table and another step closer to the title.
Probable lineups and tactics
Defender Florian Lejeune joins Los Armeros‘ list of sidelined players after he picked up 2 yellow cards in their 2-2 draw against Real Sociedad. The Frenchman joins goalkeeper Asier Riesgo, left-back David Junca and center-forwards Kike and Nano, who are all injured.
While José Luis Mendilibar has also used a 4-4-2 and 4-3-3 formation on occasion, he has mostly stuck with the trusty 4-2-3-1 formation for most of the campaign. The 55-year-old used the 4-3-3 formation against Real Sociedad, but it is likely he will revert to the 4-2-3-1 for this tie.
And that change in formation will likely provide more defensive solidity. Yoel Rodriguez will retain his place in goal, while Tony Luna, Ivan Ramis and and Anaitz Arbilla will retain their place in the back four. Mauro Dos Santos will likely come in for the suspended Lejeune.
Dani Garcia and Gonzalo Escalante will make up the midfield pivot, mainly the combat and subdue to threat of Madrid’s midfielders. Adrian Gonzalez will be charged with playmaking in behind Sergi Enrich, while Takashi Inui and former Real Madrid winger Pedro Leon will be deployed on the wings.
Predicted Starting XI(4-2-3-1): Rodriguez; Luna, Ramis, Dos Santos, Arbilla; Garcia, Escalante; Inui, Gonzalez, Leon; Enrich
Gareth Bale’s silly sending off in their last tie against Las Palmas will mean that he joins Raphael Varane, Fabio Coentrao and Danilo, all of whom are injured, on the sidelines. Besides this quartet, Real Madrid will likely have everyone else available for this tie.
No change in formation is expected for this tie, but we can surely expect some rotation within the squad as Zidane will look to leave nothing to chance. Isco and Kovacic who both started in the draw against Las Palmas, will likely be sacrificed for Casemiro and Modric in the middle of the park.
Further upfront, Ronaldo will take his place on the right wing while it remains to be seen if Zidane chooses to go with stick with Morata to lead his attack, or bring back Benzema. Gareth Bale’s suspension means that either Lucas Vazquez or James Rodriguez can start on the right wing.
Predicted Starting XI(4-3-3): Navas; Marcelo, Pepe, Ramos, Carvajal; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Ronaldo, Benzema, Vazquez
- In their last 7 meetings, Real Madrid have beaten Eibar 5 times and drawn 2 games.
- Sergi Enrich, with 10 goals, is SD Eibar’s top scorer in the La Liga.
- Cristiano Ronaldo, with 18 goals, is Real Madrid’s top scorer this season.
- SD Eibar have lost only 3 La Liga games this calendar year, while Real have lost 2.
- All of SD Eibar’s losses this year have come against a side in the top 4.
Players To Watch
SD Eibar: Sergi Enrich
It hasn’t been an easy season for the Spaniard. The controversy which surrounded an alleged sex-tape of him and another woman, which also featured teammate Antonio Luna that was released, could have completely derailed his season, but he has managed to maintain his focus to his side’s cause.
The 27-year-old has been in superb form this season and is well on his way to having his best ever individual season. He has already matched last season’s tally of 11 goals in all competitions and has surpassed his 9 goal haul in the La Liga from the previous campaign.
Real Madrid: Cristiano Ronaldo
The 32-year-old came to his side’s rescue when they most needed him against Las Palmas and helped them salvage a point by scoring his 24th and 25th goals of the season in quick succession and now without Gareth Bale, Zidane will once again depend on his star player to help them get a result.
While up until recently, Real haven’t had to depend on him as much as Barcelona have on Messi and Suarez this season. But Real need him now more than ever, and now is the time for the Portuguese Captain to step up, whilst also trying to catch up with the Barcelona duo in the goalscoring charts.
SD Eibar 1-2 Real Madrid
With an opportunity to get back on top of the La Liga, Zidane and his men absolutely cannot afford any result other than a victory. A draw would only bring them level on points with Barcelona, while a draw would effectively end their title hopes.
Los Blancos have their backs to the wall and every performance from this game onward is going to be a test of character, focus and resolve. On paper, they should never have dropped points against the likes of Valencia and Las Palmas, given the squad they have.
Barring Gareth Bale, they will have a full strength squad and certainly no excuses to come away from this tie with a victory. Mendilibar and his men will definitely not make it easy on their visitors and will be sure to put up a fight, it remains to be seen whether Madrid are up to the task.