Real Madrid will be desperate to build a winning momentum when they visit Estadio Benito Villamarin to take on Real Betis on Sunday night.
Matchday 19 of La Liga will continue on Sunday, with major implications on the title race as the ‘Big Three’ of Spanish football feature. The final game of the day will see Real Betis welcome Real Madrid to Estadio Benito Villamarin, with both sides eager to grab all three points.
After failing to record a single win in their first five games, Real Betis have recovered considerably, taking maximum points in seven of the subsequent 13 games. Los Verdiblancos’ recent form, in particular, has been quite strong, with Quique Setien’s men even notching up a shock 4-3 win over Barcelona.
Real Madrid, on the other hand, have been unable to build any sort of momentum upon the turn of the year, despite riding a wave of confidence in their aftermath of their FIFA Club World Cup triumph. Los Blancos have failed to win either of their La Liga games in 2019, dropping down to 5th on the table as a result.
The corresponding fixture last term was one of the best games of the season, with Real Madrid beating Real Betis 5-3 in a pulsating contest. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the La Liga encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Quique Setien does not have many pressing concerns hampering his preparations for the visit of Real Madrid. On Sunday, the Real Betis boss might be without just four first-team players in the worst case scenario, with Junior Firpo facing a race against time to make himself available, as he recovers from a hamstring injury.
Those who will certainly miss out are Sidnei (shoulder), Wilfrid Kaptoum (muscle injury) and Takashi Inui, with Inui representing Japan at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. The absence of Sidnei, in particular, will affect Betis the most, with Setien building his team’s success on the back of the three-man defensive line.
In Sidnei’s place Zouhair Feddal should line up alongside Marc Bartra and Aissa Mandi in the Real Betis back-three. Meanwhile, Setien should name a five-man midfield so as to create overloads in the middle of the park, with Giovani Lo Celso, William Carvalho and Andres Guardado likely to man the central roles.
Francis Guerrero will likely be the right wing-back, with Cristian Tello expected to start in Junior Firpo’s stead on the left. Up ahead in attack, Antonio Sanabria should lead the line for the hosts, with star man Sergio Canales playing off the 22-year-old.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Lopez; Mandi, Bartra, Feddal; Guerrero, Lo Celso, Carvalho, Guardado, Tello; Canales, Sanabria
Santiago Solari has a full blown injury crisis on his hands, with as many as five first-team players on the treatment table. In addition to the quintet, Lucas Vazquez is also set to miss out on Sunday after being sent off against Real Sociedad last weekend.
The injury problems start right out at the back, with Thibaut Courtois sidelined for the rest of the month due to a hip injury. In the Belgian’s absence, Keylor Navas is set to start in goal for Real Madrid. Defence though, does not present many pressing issues, with Javi Sanchez also recovering from his injury.
On Sunday, however, Solari should pick his first-choice back four of Dani Carvajal, Raphael Varane, Sergio Ramos and Marcelo, although Marcelo’s form is quite concerning to say the least. In midfield, Toni Kroos and Marcos Llorente are unavailable for the rest of January due to their respective groin injuries.
Solari is thus, down to his bare bones, as far as midfield personnel are concerned, with Dani Ceballos, Luka Modric and Casemiro becoming certain starters. Up ahead in attack, Marco Asensio (thigh) and Gareth Bale (calf) are on the sidelines, leaving Vinicius Junior, Karim Benzema and Isco as the only viable options, although Brahim Diaz could make his La Liga debut.
Vinicius though, is touch and go this weekend after missing training due to flu. If he is unable to recover in time, either the fit-again Mariano Diaz or Cristo could be thrown into the deep end against Real Betis on Sunday.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Navas; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Modric, Casemiro, Ceballos; Isco, Benzema, Vinicius Junior
- In 25 league games, Real Betis have only managed three victories over Real Madrid, including a 1-0 win at the Bernabeu last season.
- Real Betis boast a strong record at Estadio Benito Villamarin, having been beaten just twice in their last 15 home games in La Liga.
- In the last seven meetings between the two sides, Real Madrid have scored five or more goals on four occasions.
- Away Day Blues – Real Madrid have won just two of their last eight away clashes in La Liga.
- Real Madrid have kept just one clean sheet in their last 13 La Liga matches on the road.
Player to Watch
Ever since Santiago Solari took over at Real Madrid, Isco’s future at the club has been shrouded in uncertainty. Now though, with a number of midfielders and attackers sidelined with injuries, the manager has no choice but to trust Isco for the foreseeable future.
With that in mind, the Spaniard has the golden opportunity he has needed over the last few months to showcase his abilities and prove that he can still contribute at the club. With Real Madrid not in the best of forms in recent games, a match winning performance could make all the difference for Isco.
Real Betis 2-1 Real Madrid
The fortunes just refuse to improve for Real Madrid, although the Copa del Rey first leg win over Leganes would have eased the pressure somewhat. The result would have also showed Santiago Solari that he can do well to trust some of his fringe players as well as youngsters, especially at a time when he is dealing with an injury crisis.
Real Betis are no pushovers either, with their 4-3 win over Barcelona showcasing their abilities perfectly. And, a stuttering Real Madrid side provides Los Verdiblancos the perfect opportunity to notch up another big scalp.
The Hard Tackle predicts another tough outing for the recently crowned FIFA Club World Cup champions, with Real Betis edging the closely contested affair by the odd goal in three.