Real Madrid will be aiming for their third win in three games in La Liga, when they welcome neighbours CD Leganes on Saturday night.

Title hopefuls Real Madrid will look to continue their perfect start in the 2018-19 La Liga season, when they face off against Leganes at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Los Blancos are off to a solid start to the league campaign, under new manager Julen Lopetegui. Following their 2-0 win over Getafe on the opening day, they registered a 4-1 triumph over Girona. Madrid find themselves at the top of the table, ahead of rivals Barcelona on goal difference and will be keen on carrying the early momentum into Saturday’s game.

Leganes, on the other hand, are yet to win a game in the new campaign, but produced a spirited comeback to draw 2-2 against Real Betis last weekend. Having beaten the Merengues at the Bernabeu last season in a cup tie, Mauricio Pellegrino’s men will be no pushovers and will look to cause another upset on their short trip to the capital.

Team News & Tactics

Real Madrid

The 13-time UEFA Champions League winners will be without the services of defender Jesus Vallejo, who is out with an injury. Madrid have loaned out promising young striker Borja Mayoral to Levante, on the Spanish transfer deadline day. New signing Mariano Diaz will be available for selection, but is unlikely to start the game.

Thibaut Courtois is still waiting for his debut since joining from Chelsea in the summer, but Keylor Navas should keep his spot under the crossbar for the Spanish capital club.

Dani Carvajal and Marcelo have the full-back spots nailed down and will look to provide a constant outlet going forward on the flanks. Captain Sergio Ramos is expected to be paired up with Nacho, with Raphael Varane set to miss out again, after that disappointing display in the defeat to Atletico Madrid in the Super Cup.

Brazilian enforcer Casemiro is a almost a certain starter in the middle of the park for the Merengues and will look to screen his back four. German pass master Toni Kroos should also feature from the get-go on Saturday, with Spanish playmaker Isco set to take the third spot in the midfield for the home side.

The attacking trident of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio have started the new season on a strong note. Both Bale and Benzema were on the scoresheet last weekend, while Asensio caused all sorts of problems with his movement from the left-side. No changes expected from the manager here.

Probable Starting XI (4-3-3): Navas; Carvajal, Nacho, Ramos, Marcelo; Kroos, Casemiro, Isco; Bale, Benzema, Asensio;

Leganes

Goalkeeper Andriy Lunin, brought in on loan from Real Madrid earlier this week, will be ineligible to feature for Los Pepinero, along with another loanee Oscar Rodriguez. Defender Ezequiel Munoz is a doubt for the game, while winger Alexandar Szymanowski remains sidelined for the visitors.

With Lunin unable to make his debut, veteran goalkeeper Ivan Cuellar is expected to hold on to his spot in the starting lineup for Saturday’s trip to the Santiago Bernabeu.

The full-back slots on the right and the left sides will be occupied by on-loan defenders Juanfran and Jonathan Silva respectively. They will have their tasks cut out against the danger posed by Asensio and Bale. In the heart of the defence, with Munoz a doubt, Unai Bustinza could come into the team, to partner up with Dimitrios Siovas.

Former Barcelona youth team player Gerard Gumbau is set to hold on to his place in one of the two pivot positions in the middle of the park. Captain Ruben Perez is expected to partner the youngster as they look to thwart Madrid from settling into their rhythm.

Javier Eraso will be Pellegrino’s preferred option in the No.10 role, with support arriving from Nabil El Zhar and Daniel Ojeda from the right and the left flanks. El Zhar will be the man to watch out for Madrid, having scored both of his team’s goals in the last match.

On-loan Southampton striker Guido Carrillo is expected to spearhead the attack for Leganes against their illustrious neighbours. The 27-year old is yet to score a goal and will be hoping to get off the mark on Saturday night.

Probable Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Cuellar; Juanfran, Bustinza, Siovas, Silva; Gumbau, Perez; El Zhar, Eraso, Ojeda, Carrillo;

Key Stats

  • Real Madrid have won 8 of their last 10 home matches in the La Liga.
  • The two sides have met sixes times, with Real winning five of those (L1). The only defeat came for the Merengues came in the Copa Del Rey in January earlier this year, that saw them getting eliminated from the competition.
  • Leganes have lost their last 8 away matches in the La Liga and have conceded at least two goals in each of those defeats.
  • Karim Benzema has scored 18 goals in the La Liga over the last three seasons (including the ongoing term), same as what Mariano Diaz netted for Olympique Lyon in Ligue 1 in 2017-18 alone.
  • Welsh wing wizard Gareth Bale has now scored in six consecutive La Liga matches for Los Blancos.

Player to watch

Mariano Diaz (Real Madrid)

Real Madrid's new No.7 (Photo by BENJAMIN CREMEL/AFP/Getty Images)

Real Madrid’s new No.7 (Photo by BENJAMIN CREMEL/AFP/Getty Images)

Having only completed a move on Thursday, Madrid’s latest signing is unlikely to start against Leganes this weekend and but is in line to make an appearance from the bench. And when he does that, all eyes are set to be on him, as he is set to take over Cristiano Ronaldo’s No.7 jersey.

25-year old Mariano scored 21 goals in all competitions for Lyon last season, which was the second-best tally for number of goals scored by a player born in Spain across Europe’s top five leagues. However, he was goalless in Lyon’s first three games of the new season and has failed to find the net since April.

There will be a lot of pressure on him to make immediate impact upon his return to the Santiago Bernabeu and a goal on his debut, should he get the chance on Saturday, could set the tone for a strong campaign.

Prediction

Real Madrid 3-1 Leganes

Leganes may be winless so far in the season, but their performances against Athletic Bilbao and Real Betis have been strong and competitive. Under Pellegrino, they are developing into a tactically astute unit, but as has been seen in the last two games, there is still plenty of work to be done.

Real Madrid too are still getting used to the methods of Lopetegui and are still some way from being the finished article under their new manager. However, given the quality of the players at his disposal and combined with the strong start that all of his attackers have had, we expect the reigning European champions to make light work of their neighbours on Saturday night.

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