Real Madrid will pay a visit to the Benito Villamarin as they gear up to take on Real Betis in the La Liga

Real Madrid will look to make it three wins in three games across all competitions, when they take the field against Real Betis in the La Liga on Sunday.

Zinedine Zidane’s Galacticos find themselves in the fourth place in the Spanish top-tier, 20 points behind leaders Barcelona and four below third-placed Valencia, both of whom have played two matches more than Madrid. And the manager will be hoping to close down the gap by collecting all the three points up for grabs on Sunday night. They come into the game on the back of impressive wins against Real Sociedad in the league and Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.

Real Betis, on the other hand, find themselves positioned at ninth in the La Liga standings, having accumulated 33 points from 23 fixtures. Quique Setien’s side too have won both of their preceding fixtures, registering victories against Villarreal and Deportivo La Coruna, and will be intent on causing an upset against the reigning champions at home, having already beaten Madrid 1-0 at the Bernabeu this season.

Team News and Tactics

Real Betis

Setien will go into the game without the services of forwards Joel Campbell and Antonio Sanabria along with defender Zouhair Feddal, all of whom are out injured. 21-year old forward Francis is also a major doubt to be involved for Betis for Sunday’s clash. Defender Antonio Barragan is available for selection though, after missing out against Deportivo.

Betis are likely to stick to their three-man backline against Madrid, meaning Aissa Mandi will partner up with January signing Marc Bartra and Jordi Amat in defence, in front of former Real Madrid man Antonio Adan who will be manning the goal.

Out in the wing-back slots, it will be returning man Antonio Barragan on the right-side and Junior Firpo on the left, who will be tasked with keeping the Madrid wide players quiet, along with trying to provide width going forward in attack. The three-man central midfield will comprise of Joaquin, Andres Guardado and Fabian Ruiz. The three have been Betis’ top creators, having registered four, six and five assists respectively this season and will be looking to make an impact against the champions.

The frontline for the home side should once again comprise of Loren Moron, along with Ruben Castro, in the absence of Antonio Sanabria. 24-year old Loren has scored thrice in his last two games, spearheading Betis to victories and will once again be their chief threat going forward on Sunday night.

Probable Starting XI (3-5-2): Adan; Mandi, Bartra, Amat; Barragan, Joaquin, Guardado, Ruiz, Firpo; Castro, Loren

Real Madrid

Los Blancos will go into the game without academy graduate Jesus Vallejo who has been ruled out with a muscular injury, while midfielder Toni Kroos will also miss out, after having picked up a knee injury in the win over PSG during the midweek. Dani Carvajal, who missed out in Europe due to suspension, will be available for selection.

Zidane is likely to set his team out in a 4-4-2 setup for the game, with Keylor Navas starting between the sticks once again, behind the back four that will comprise of Dani Carvajal and Theo Hernandez as the full-backs, with Sergio Ramos and Nacho as the centre-backs. Marcelo and Zidane’s compatriot Raphael Varane are likely to be given a well-deserved rest on Sunday.

In the centre of the park, defensive midfielder Casemiro should partner up with Luka Modric, who is often the beating heart of this Madrid side. The two should strike a fine balance between their defensive and offensive duties in order to not leave their team exposed on counter. On the wings, it will be the Spanish duo of Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio, who are likely to get the nod. Both the attackers impressed coming on from the bench against PSG and will want to make a mark on Sunday.

Gareth Bale is set to return to the starting XI for Sunday night’s encounter, after not making it in the midweek victory in the European fixture. He will replace the misfiring Karim Benzema, who is enduring a difficult time in front of goal this season.

Bale will be partnered by Merengues’ main man Cristiano Ronaldo in the two-pronged attack. The Portuguese has been in fine form coming into the game, having netted five times in his last two appearances and will once again look to wreak havoc against the Betis defence.

Probable Starting XI (4-4-2): Navas; Carvajal, Nacho, Ramos, Theo; Vazquez, Modric, Casemiro, Asensio; Bale, Ronaldo

Key Stats

  • After their 1-0 win at the Santiago Bernabeu in September 2017, Betis have the chance to win two games against Real Madrid in the same La Liga season for the first time since 1998-99.
  • However, Real Madrid are undefeated in 18 of their last 19 away matches in the La Liga.
  • Betis have only won two of their last seven La Liga games at the Benito Villamarin, failing to keep a clean sheet in all of those.
  • Real Madrid have had more different goalscorers than any other side in La Liga this season (15).

Player to watch

Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)

On a hot streak (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

On a hot streak (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

Real Madrid’s Portuguese talisman Cristiano Ronaldo has been in hot form since the turn of the year, after having endured a difficult start to the 2017/18 La Liga campaign. The 33-year old has already scored seven times in the second-half of the Spanish top tier and has netted five times in the last two games in all competitions, including a hat-trick in the win over Real Sociedad last weekend. His form will once again prove to be a major factor for Madrid and will have a great bearing on which way the result will sway.

Prediction

Real Betis 1-3 Real Madrid

Real Madrid seem to have found their mojo back and will be high on confidence coming into the game, following their win over PSG. Betis, too, are in a good zone, and have beaten Madrid already once this term, but they will find it difficult to stop Zidane’s men on Sunday and we at the Hard Tackle, predict a 3-1 triumph for Los Blancos.

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