After seeing off Napoli in the Champions League, Real Madrid will shift their attention to Real Betis, as they look to regain their place at the summit of La Liga.
Los Blancos are currently a point behind Barcelona, but with a game in hand. Having conceded their 6 point lead at the top of the table, they are now under very real danger of losing their lead at the top of the table, something they can’t afford now if they wish to win the League.
The last time these two sides faced each other, Zidane’s men put 6 past Real Betis, who currently sit at 14th place on the table. They have since played in a new formation, with a new manager in the form of former Real Madrid player Victor Sanchez.
Gareth Bale will be serving his two-match suspension, so he won’t be available for this tie, meaning youngster Lucas Vazquez will come into the squad on the right wing. Cristiano Ronaldo will return after having missed out on last week’s trip to Eibar.
Morata will also be available for selection after having served his suspension and will likely start ahead of Karim Benzema to allow him some rest, having two played two games on the trot.
Casemiro will likely be rested for this tie, which will allow the likes of Isco, James Rodriguez or Mateo Kovacic to get a start. It is unlikely that both Kroos and Modric will be left out of the starting XI due to Casemiro’s absence, so one of them should surely start.
Pepe missed their last training session, so it is unlikely that he will feature and since Raphael Varane is out with a long term injury, Nacho Fernandez will almost surely start in the middle of defence alongside Ramos and Danilo can also be expected to start instead of Dani Carvajal, who played the entire 90 minutes at Naples.
Predicted Starting XI (4-3-3): Navas; Marcelo, Fernandez, Ramos, Danilo; Modric, Kroos, Rodriguez; Ronaldo, Morata, Vazquez
The last time Betis faced Real Madrid was with Gus Poyet still at the helm. Then, they had deployed a 4-3-3 formation, which resulted in them getting thrashed 1-6 at home. This time however, they have Victor Sanchez at the helm, who has begun using a new 5-4-1 formation.
He has often switched between a 5-4-1 and 5-3-2 in the La Liga this season, but what has remained a constant is his usage of 5 men at the back. With a near fully fit squad available, it is unlikely he will make any change from the side that drew against Deportivo La Coruna last week.
Durmisi and Piccini on the flanks will be especially focused on keeping Lucas Vazquez and more importantly, Cristiano Ronaldo at bay, with Tosca and Mandi assisting them for the same, while also trying to keep Karim Benzema or Alvaro Morata in check.
Donk and Pardo will have to try and reduce the interplay and restrict the buildup between the Madrid midfield as much as they possibly can, while their wingers along with their wingbacks will have to unlead counterattacks and try and feed David Sanabria, who will be the lone striker upfront.
Predicted Starting XI (5-4-1): Adan; Durmisi, Tosca, Pezzella, Mandi, Piccini; Ceballos, Donk, Pardo, Brasanac; Sanabria
- Real Betis have not beaten Real Madrid in 13 La Liga games at the Santiago Bernabeu, with their last victory coming nearly 19 years ago in October 1998.
- Real Madrid are the only team who are unbeaten in the La Liga at the Santiago Bernabeu this campaign.
- Karim Benzema has scored 6 goals in his last 6 games against Real Betis.
- Real Betis have won only 2 games in all competitions this calendar year.
- Real Betis have won only 3 games away so far this season.
- Cristiano Ronaldo is yet to score against Real Betis at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Players To Watch
Real Madrid: Alvaro Morata
The Spaniard will likely start this match after returning from suspension and also having scored in their midweek victory over Napoli after coming on as a late substitute. Morata is the club’s second highest scorer in the La Liga with 8 goals, despite having started only 8 games.
Rumours of his departure in the summer haven’t died down and it is unlikely they will, given his form. The Spaniard will once again hope to show Zidane what the Frenchman leaves out on the bench whenever he plays Benzema upfront, despite already having a better minutes per goal ratio.
Real Madrid 4-1 Real Betis
Having smashed 6 past the Béticos at the Benito Villamarín earlier in the season, Real Madrid will be expected to put up a repeat of that performance, even though they will be without some key names in the squad such as Varane, Casemiro and Gareth Bale.
They still have more than enough firepower within their ranks to put a beating on Victor Sanchez’ side in front of their home fans and the Bernabeu will expect just that. No match between now and the end of the season can be taken lightly, since they have given up their huge lead at the top of the table and Los Blancos cannot let complacency set in at this point in the season