Real Madrid will be hoping to continue their scintillating winning run when they welcome Deportivo Alaves to the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday.
Matchday 22 of the 2018-19 La Liga season will continue on Sunday, with four games on show. The big match-up on the day will pit two top four contenders against each other, as Real Madrid play hosts to Deportivo Alaves at the Santiago Bernabeu, looking to make it four La Liga wins in a row.
Real Madrid have been on a scintillating run of form in the last few weeks, having won each of their last four games in all competitions. While defensive problems remain for the hosts, Santiago Solari’s men seem to be wearing their scoring boots once again, having found the back of the net 13 times during this run.
Alaves, on the other hand, have seen their momentum slow down in recent weeks, even though they have only been playing one game per week. Babazorros El Glorioso have failed to win any of their last three games in the league, a run of results that has left four points adrift of a place in the top four.
The reverse fixture, played at the Mendizorrotza back in October, saw Alaves record a shock 1-0 win over Real Madrid, courtesy a solitary goal by Manu. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the La Liga encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Santiago Solari has a few concerns at the back, with three players from the defensive unit unavailable for the visit of Alaves. While Jesus Vallejo (thigh) is the only first-team player recovering from an injury, Dani Carvajal and Raphael Varane are suspended, the former for accumulation of yellow cards with the latter missing the game due to his dismissal against Espanyol.
But, the Real Madrid boss has enough cover in his ranks to compensate for the absence of the duo, who also get the benefit of indirectly receiving a rest ahead of the midweek El Clasico in the Copa del Rey. In Carvajal’s stead, Alvaro Odriozola will start as the right-back, while Nacho will replace Varane as Sergio Ramos’ partner at the heart of the Real Madrid defence.
Sergio Reguilon will likely complete the back four that will provide cover to Thibaut Courtois in the Real Madrid goal. The midfield unit should see Luka Modric and Casemiro returning, with the former likely to be taken off early in the second half if the result is sealed. But, Toni Kroos should be rested with the cup game in mind, with Dani Ceballos taking his place.
Up ahead in attack, Gareth Bale and Marco Asensio are likely to be handed their first starts since recovering from their respective injuries, with Vincius Junior and Lucas Vazquez being rested. There is no such luxury for in-form striker Karim Benzema, however, with Mariano Diaz still not fully fit.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Odriozola, Nacho, Ramos, Reguilon; Modric, Casemiro, Ceballos; Asensio, Benzema, Bale
Abelardo does not have many injury problems hampering his preparations for the trip to the capital. On Sunday, the Alaves manager will likely be without just three first-team players at worst, with Rodrigo Ely a certain absentee due to his long-term knee injury.
In addition to Rodrigo, Adrian Marin and Darko Brasanac are major doubts and are likely to miss out on Sunday. But, Abelardo has more than enough cover in his squad to not be overawed by the three absentees.
Fernando Pacheco should line up in the Alaves goal, with Martin Aguirregabiria, Guillermo Maripan, Victor Laguardia and Ruben Duarte comprising the back four. Aguirregabiria and Duarte will be tasked with providing the width in the final third and creating the bulk of the chances from the flanks.
In midfield, the match-winner from the reverse fixture, Manu Garcia will be partnered by Tomas Pina, who is available again after serving his suspension last week. Jony and Burgui are likely to be the wide midfielders who will look to veer infield in an attempt to create overloads in midfield and final third. Jonathan Calleri and Borja Baston will be the strike partnership for Alaves.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Pacheco; Aguirregabiria, Laguardia, Maripan, Duarte; Burgui, Pina, Manu, Jony; Calleri, Baston
- The 1-0 win in the reverse fixture was only the second time Alaves beat Real Madrid, having lost 12 times in 15 overall meetings (D1).
- Real Madrid will be aiming to win five games in a row across all competitions for the first time this season.
- Los Blancos can also win four successive La Liga games for the first time this season. Meanwhile, their 1-0 loss to Rayo Vallecano was the first instance this season that Alaves have lost back-to-back games.
- Real Madrid have kept a clean sheet in each of their last three outings against Alaves at Santiago Bernabeu. The hosts will fancy their chances of adding to that record, considering they boast the second best defensive record at home in La Liga this season, having conceded just five times in ten games.
- Alaves have scored more than a goal just once in their last ten outings and it happened in the 2-1 win over Valencia. Indeed, only four teams have scored fewer than their total of 22 goals this term.
Player to Watch
Marcos Llorente’s return from injury and a swift return to top form gives Santiago Solari a luxury that he hasn’t had a lot of times this season. The Real Madrid boss now has two top class options for the holding midfield role, which bodes well for Los Blancos ahead of arguably their toughest monthly schedule this season.
With three games against Barcelona looming, another convincing performance could help the Brazilian reassure Solari that he is the right man for the job and keep Llorente at bay. Either way, the situation is quite a healthy one for Real Madrid to continue turning around what has been a difficult season.
Real Madrid 3-0 Deportivo Alaves
Real Madrid have been on a roll lately, with goals finally starting to flow. Alaves, on the other hand, are threatening to fall off a cliff right at the time when they should be launching their charge for a place in next season’s UEFA Champions League.
Judging by the recent form of the two sides, coupled with Alaves’ struggles in front of goal, there is only way this tie can go, especially with Real Madrid being quite the force at home. The Hard Tackle predicts a 3-0 win for Santiago Solari’s men, who should make it five wins in a row.