Real Madrid will be aiming to return to winning ways in the La Liga, when they face off against Real Sociedad at home this weekend.

Real Madrid will be looking to cut down the gap to the top, when they welcome Real Sociedad to the Santiago Bernabeu on Matchday 18 of the La Liga on Sunday evening.

Santiago Solari’s men were held to a 2-2 draw by a struggling Villarreal outfit earlier this week and they will be out to pick up their first victory of the New Year. Currently occupying the fifth spot in the standings, Real Madrid are seven points behind leaders and arch-rivals Barcelona and a point below fourth-placed Alaves.

With Atletico Madrid and Sevilla, who sit second and third respectively, set to face off on the same dayLos Blancos could finish the week third on the table if they pick up all three points against Real Sociedad and the result at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan goes their way.

Real Sociedad will be playing their first match after the winter break and will be looking to spark a turnaround of fortunes. La Real are stationed 15th on the table, just three points above the relegation zone, having picked up just five wins in 17 league matches this season.

Real Sociedad have tasted defeats in their previous three matches against Alaves, Getafe and Real Valladolid, leading to the sacking of Asier Garitano from the managerial post after Christmas. Reserves’ head coach Imanol Alguacil has been handed the reins to try and get things back on track.

Team News & Tactics

Real Madrid

Gareth Bale is a major doubt for Real Madrid after he came off with a calf injury in the draw against Villarreal earlier this week. Fellow attackers Marco Asensio and Mariano Diaz remain sidelined for Solari, while midfielder Marcos Llorente is also likely to miss out with injury.

The home team will continue to line up in a 4-3-3 formation with summer signing Thibaut Courtois starting under the woodwork. The back four of Dani Carvajal, Raphael Varane, Sergio Ramos and Marcelo is unlikely to be tinkered with by the manager.

Brazilian enforcer Casemiro will start as the deepest of the three central midfielders for the Merengues. He will be flanked by Croatian international and Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric on one side and German pass master Toni Kroos on the other.

With Bale sidelined, Isco is in line for a start on the left wing, while Lucas Vazquez is expected to hold on to his place in the starting XI on the opposite flank. Spearheading the attack for Los Blancos will be Frenchman Karim Benzema.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Vazquez, Benzema, Isco

Real Sociedad

On-loan left-back Theo Hernandez is ineligible to face his parent club Real Madrid, while Kevin Rodrigues is sidelined with an ankle injury. Andoni Gorosable, Martin Merquelanz and Miguel Angel Moya are all unavailable for Sociedad with injury problems as well.

Imanol is expected to set his team out in a 4-2-3-1 formation against the reigning European champions. Geronimo Rulli should start in goal for the visitors. Joseba Zaldua will be stationed at right-back, while Aihen Munoz is in line to be promoted from the reserves at left-back in the absence of Rodrigues and Hernandez. Hector Moreno and Diego Llorente will partner up at the heart of the defence.

Club captain Asier Illarramendi will take up one of the two pivot positions in the middle of the park against his former employers. He is likely to be paired up with Igor Zubeldia, who has missed just two league games this term. David Zurutuza will be in charge of the playmaking duties starting in the No. 10 role.

Threat from the wide areas will be provided by the dynamic duo of Adnan Januzaj and Mikel Oyarzabal from the right and left flanks, respectively. Leading the line for Real Sociedad on Sunday will be 27-year-old Willian Jose.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Rulli; Zaldua, Llorente, Moreno, Munoz; Zubeldia, Illarramendi; Januzaj, Zurutuza, Oyarzabal; Jose

Key Stats

  • Real Madrid have suffered just one defeat in their last 22 games against Real Sociedad in La Liga (W18 D3), which came away from home (2-4 at Anoeta in August 2014).
  • At home, Madrid are unbeaten in their last eleven games against La Real in La Liga (W10 D1), with their last defeat at the Santiago Bernabeu coming in May 2004 (1-4).
  • Real Sociedad have lost their last four La Liga games, failing to score in three of them. Last time they suffered five defeats in a row in the top-flight was in April 2011.
  • Real Madrid have won their last three home games in a row without conceding in La Liga; the last time they won four successive games with clean sheets in the competition was in February 2010 with Manuel Pellegrini as manager.
  • Karim Benzema has been involved in nine goals in his 11 games vs Real Sociedad in LaLiga (six goals & three assists), but none have been in his last three matches against them.

Player to Watch

Karim Benzema

In his elements. (Picture by Oscar Del Pozo/AFP/Getty Images)

In his elements. (Picture by Oscar Del Pozo/AFP/Getty Images)

The 30-year-old was Real Madrid’s standout player in their last game even as they went on to be held to a 2-2 draw by Villarreal. Benzema scored against the Yellow Submarine to take his tally for the season to 12 goals in 27 matches across all competitions, and he also has six assists to go along with.

The Frenchman boasts a decent record against Sociedad, having been directly involved in 9 goals in 11 league games against La Real (6 goals, 3 assists). However, he has fired blanks in all three of his La Liga appearances against the club and will be looking to change that on Sunday evening.

Prediction

Real Madrid 2-0 Real Sociedad

Real Madrid came away with a disappointing result from their first match of 2019, but have lost just once in their last nine matches across all competitions, while winning their previous three matches at home in La Liga. Real Sociedad, on the other hand, have lost their last four league matches and come into Sunday’s game with a new manager at the helm.

Solari will be without the likes of Gareth Bale and Marco Asensio for the game, but that shouldn’t stop his side from picking up a victory at the Santiago Bernabeu this weekend. The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-0 win for Santiago Solari’s men.