Real Madrid will look to make it five wins in a row in all competitions, when they take on Alaves on Saturday.
Reigning La Liga champions Real Madrid will be hoping to pick up all three points when they go head to head against Deportivo Alaves at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday.
Zinedine Zidane’s Galacticos seem to have found their mojo back after a disappointing start to the season that saw them fall way behind rivals Barcelona in the title race. Having notched up five wins in their last six games in the league, the latest being a 3-1 win over neighbours Leganes earlier this week, Real Madrid occupy the third place on the table, 14 points behind the leaders Barca.
Alaves, on the other hand, find themselves in the bottom half of the table, sitting in the 16th position, with 28 points from 24 games. They are in a relatively comfortable position when it comes to the threat of relegation, given that they have a 10-point lead over the 18th-placed Deportivo La Coruna, with three consecutive victories. But, manager Abelardo Fernandez will be intent on taking his team to a higher position and an upset win against their illustrious opponents would be a step in that direction.
Team News and Tactics
Los Blancos will be without the services of captain Sergio Ramos, who is suspended for the game, after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season in the midweek fixture against Leganes. The ever-present midfield pairing of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos will also be missed as both of them are struggling with hamstring and knee injuries respectively.
Brazilian full-back Marcelo is another casualty for Real Madrid while young defender Jesus Vallejo is another absentee. Marco Asensio missed training on Friday due to a dental problem, but is expected to be available for selection.
After being rested for the midweek win over Leganes, Real Madrid’s no.1 choice in goal, Keylor Navas should be reinstated to the starting line-up, with Kiko Casilla making way. Dani Carvajal and Theo Hernandez are expected to hold on to their positions as the full-backs, while Zidane’s compatriot Raphael Varane will be partnered by Nacho in the heart of the defence, with Ramos ruled out.
In the absence of Modric and Kroos, Zidane is likely to go with a 4-4-2 setup with Casemiro and Mateo Kovacic occupying the two central midfield positions. The Brazilian was one of the scorers for Real against Leganes and will be hoping to make a similar impact on Saturday, but needs to be wary of not leaving his back four exposed.
The midfield duo is likely to be flanked by Lucas Vazquez on the right-side and Marco Asensio on the left. Both the Spaniards have been in top form in recent weeks and will once again look to make a difference for their team with their incision from the wide areas.
Up top, Zidane will bring back Cristiano Ronaldo after giving the Portuguese talisman a break in the midweek. He is likely to be partnered up by Welshman Gareth Bale, who has been struggling for form of late, which would mean Karim Benzema will be benched.
Probable Starting XI (4-4-2): Navas; Carvajal, Varane, Nacho, Theo; Vazquez, Casemiro, Kovacic, Asensio; Bale, Ronaldo;
Former Barcelona forward Munir El Haddadi will miss out of the trip to the capital for Alaves as he suspended for one-match for accumulation of cards. Full-backs Carlos Vigaray and Hector Hernandez are both major doubts to be involved due to injuries for the visiting side. Manager Fernandez is likely to continue with the 4-4-2 setup at the Bernabeu, but there will be changes expected from the side that beat Deportivo La Coruna 1-0 in their previous game.
Former Real Madrid academy man Fernando Pacheco is expected to continue between the posts for Alaves. At right-back, Alexis Ruano is likely to come in, replacing the young Martin Aguirregabiria, while Ruben Duarte is expected to hold on to his place at left-back.
In the centre-half positions, Rodrigo Ely and Victor Laguardia are set to start together again. The entire defence will be put under pressure by the in-form Madrid attack and they will need to be on their toes all game long.
Ibai Gomez and Alfonso Pedraza will start on the right and the left-flanks respectively and look to exploit the spaces in behind the Madrid full-backs who are likely to press high up the pitch. Tomas Pina and Manu Garcia will partner up in the centre of the park to try and snuff out the influence of the Madrid midfield.
Leading the line for Alaves against Madrid will be former Manchester City striker John Guidetti alongside Ruben Sobrino who is expected to come in for the suspended Munir. The Madrid defence hasn’t been all that convincing this season and the two forwards could look to exploit any chinks in their armour to put the visitors on the front-foot.
Probable Starting XI (4-4-2): Pacheco; Alexis, Ely, Laguardia, Duarte; Gomez, Garcia, Pina, Pedraza; Sobrino, Guidetti;
- Real Madrid are unbeaten in their last 11 league games against Alaves, winning 10 as well as the last eight in a row – scoring an average of 3.5 goals a game.
- Alaves come into the game high on confidence, having won three back to back games in the La Liga. They, however, have never won four in a row in the competition.
- Real Madrid have scored at least 3 goals in 5 of their last 6 matches in the Spanish top flight.
- Alaves are one of the three La Liga teams Cristiano Ronaldo has faced at the Santiago Bernabeu and failed to score a single goal against, along with Leganes and Tenerife.
- Alaves’ winger Ibai Gomez fancies playing against Real Madrid and has scored three times against them in the La Liga.
Player to watch
Gareth Bale (Real Madrid)
The Welsh wizard has been in for a lot of criticism of late, owing to his dwindling form and the rumours of his exit from Real Madrid never seem to be too far away. The 28-year old Bale has not been able to find the net in his last six appearances and has been left out of the starting XI by Zidane in three of their last four matches.
With speculations over his future continuing to make the news, Bale will be keen on quashing all those rumours with a solid performance against Alaves in order to show that he has plenty to offer to the Spanish and European giants and to wrestle back his status as one of their MVPs.
Real Madrid 3-1 Alaves
Alaves have been in good form coming into the game, but they are facing Real Madrid at a time when they are finally hitting their strides, following some impressive results over the past few weeks. And we at the Hard Tackle expect the Merengues to make light work of their Basque opponents, beating them 3-1 on Saturday.