Real Madrid will be in search of their first victory in six games, when they face off against Viktoria Plzen in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday.
Real Madrid will look to end a five-match winless streak when they take on Czech Republic outfit Viktoria Plzen at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday night.
Following their 2-1 defeat to Levante in the La Liga this past weekend, Real Madrid are on their worst run without a victory since 2009, having lost four of their last five games (1 draw), including a 1-0 defeat to CSKA Moscow in their previous European assignment.
Real Madrid manager Julen Lopetegui finds himself under increasing pressure to turn things around, with rumours of an impending sack already doing the rounds. Currently sitting second in Group G, level on points with third-placed AS Roma, the reigning champions could find their hopes of qualification to the next round deflated if they fail to pick up all three points on Tuesday.
Viktoria Plzen, on the other hand, are bottom of Group G, having picked up a solitary point in their two games, courtesy of their 2-2 draw against CSKA in their first game. They were, however, hammered 5-0 by Roma last time out, but are unbeaten in their three subsequent fixtures in the domestic competitions.
Considering that Real Madrid have failed to win their last two home games in the league, Pavel Vrba’s men will be aiming to heap further misery on Los Blancos, by claiming a shock victory in the midweek.
Team News & Tactics
Full-back Dani Carvajal remains the only major absentee due to a calf injury for the under-fire home team. Lopetegui had opted to leave out a few first-team regulars for the weekend defeat to Levante, but will name his strongest XI, as he looks to get things back on track.
No alterations to the 4-3-3 formation are expected from the Merengues on Tuesday night. There will be a change of personnel in goal, with Keylor Navas expected to come into the team in place of Thibaut Courtois.
Utility man Nacho is likely to get the nod at right-back ahead of Alvaro Odriozola, with Marcelo, who ended Real Madrid’s 482-minute goal drought on Saturday, will stay at left-back. Raphael Varane had a poor outing at the weekend, but should be retained in the heart of the defence, alongside club captain Sergio Ramos.
UEFA’s Best Player of the Year Luka Modric has looked a pale shadow of himself this season for Real, but is set to be backed by the manager to come good. Brazilian international Casemiro too is likely to hold on to his spot at the base of the midfield, with German pass master Toni Kroos expected to come back into the team at the expense of Isco.
Both Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema were benched for the weekend defeat by Lopetegui, but will be recalled for the all-important game. Lucas Vazquez and Mariano Diaz will make way for the duo. Marco Asensio has struggled to live up to the expectations this term, and will be keen on turning things around starting out on the left flank.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Navas; Nacho, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Bale, Benzema, Asensio;
Attacking midfielder Jan Kopic is the only injury worry for the Czech outfit for their visit to the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday night. Radim Reznik and Lukas Hejda returned from injury in Plzen’s 2-2 draw against Bohemians 1905 on Friday.
Manager Vrba is unlikely to tinker with the 4-2-3-1 formation, but will set his team up to sit deep and hit Real Madrid on the counter, considering there are likely to be a lot of open spaces left behind by Los Blancos’ high backline.
First-choice goalkeeper Matus Kozacik will return to the starting XI, after being benched for the league game this past week. No changes are expected in the backline though, with Reznik expected to start at right-back, while David Limbersky will hold on to his spot at left-back. Hejda and Roman Hubnik will start in the centre of the backline.
26-year-old Patrik Hrosovsky will occupy one of the two pivot positions in the middle of the park for the visitors, with the defensive-minded Roman Prochazka expected to partner him. Tomas Horava will be in charge of bringing the creativity starting in the No.10 role for Plzen.
Threat in the wide areas will come from Martin Zeman on the right side and Jan Kovarik on the left side, with Micheal Krmencik, who scored both goals for Plzen in their draw against CSKA, expected to lead the line.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Kozacik; Reznik, Hubnik, Hejda, Limbersky; Hrosovsky, Prochazka; Zeman, Horava, Kovarik; Krmencik;
- This will be the first ever competitive meeting between Real Madrid and Viktoria Plzen. This will be Madrid’s first meeting with a Czech opponent since facing Sparta Prague in 2001-02. The Spanish side won 3-2 away and 3-0 at home en route to winning the trophy for the ninth time.
- Real Madrid are unbeaten in their last 26 home Champions League group stage games (W23 D3), since a 2-3 loss to AC Milan in October 2009.
- This is Viktoria Plzen’s third Champions League campaign. They have not registered a victory in their previous nine matches in the Champions League.
- The Czech Republic outfit have only kept one clean sheet in their 14 Champions League matches (1-0 at Borisov in November 2011), conceding 35 goals in the process.
- Real Madrid have not lost more than once in a Champions League group stage since 2008-09, when they lost twice to Juventus.
Player to Watch
Gareth Bale (Real Madrid)
Following his strong start to the 2018-19 campaign, it looked like Gareth Bale was finally coming into his own at Real Madrid. The Wales international bagged three goals and two assists in his first four La Liga matches and was also on the scoresheet in Los Blancos’ first European encounter against AS Roma as well.
However, things have once again gone downhill for the 29-year-old ever since. Bale, now, has gone without a goal in his last four league appearances, while he missed the game against CSKA with an injury. With the team under so much pressure, the onus is on the Welsh wing wizard to stand up and deliver, as Madrid look to spark a turnaround.
Real Madrid 2-1 Viktoria Plzen
Real Madrid find themselves in a crisis situation. The reigning champions of Europe are without a victory in five matches now and have lost four of those, including each of the last three and have shockingly scored only once in that time.
The Merengues are under heavy pressure and are in dire need of a big performance. And the clash against Viktoria Plzen might be the perfect opportunity for them to get their season back on track. The Czech outfit let in five goals against Roma last time out in Europe and despite their opponents’ recent struggles, will find it hard to compete on equal footing.
And, as a result, we at The Hard Tackle, expect Real Madrid to pick up a much-needed victory and build some momentum ahead of the all-important El Clasico coming up next weekend.