Real Madrid will be aiming to move back into second place on the La Liga table, when they face off against Girona at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday.
Real Madrid will play hosts to Eusebio Sacristan’s Girona outfit on Sunday, as they look to continue on their recent winning run in La Liga.
After a few stutters under new manager Santiago Solari, Real Madrid seem to have peaked at the right moment as they have are on an eight-match unbeaten run across all competitions, winning all five of their previous La Liga encounters. The Merengues’ latest fixture ended in a 1-2 win over Ajax in the UEFA Champions League earlier this week.
Real Madrid entered the weekend in second place in the La Liga standings, six points off of leaders Barcelona. But, Atletico Madrid’s 0-1 win at Rayo Vallecano meant Los Blancos slid down a spot in the table and are nine points behind Barcelona following the champions’ 1-0 win over Real Valladolid. They will be keen on reclaiming the second spot and maintaining the pressure on the leaders.
Girona, on the other hand, are struggling towards the bottom of the table. Eusebio Sacristan’s men are currently stationed in the 17th spot, with 24 points from 23 games, just one point above the drop zone. The visitors are without a win in 13 matches across all competitions (D5 L8), with their latest game ending in a 0-2 defeat to rock-bottom Huesca.
Girona played Real Madrid twice in the last three weeks, in the two-legged Copa del Rey quarterfinal tie and were hammered 7-3 on aggregate, while they were thrashed 1-4 in their previous league meeting back in August. They will be hoping to avoid a similar outcome when they make the trip to the Bernabeu.
Team News & Tactics
The hosts will have to make do without the services of midfield mainstay Luka Modric, who is suspended for the weekend encounter. Fellow midfielders Marcos Llorente and Isco remain absent as well. Raphael Varane missed the midweek game against Ajax with a flu, but did train with the squad on the eve of the game, as did Mariano Diaz, who had picked up an injury during the week.
After a series of high-profile games against Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Ajax, Solari could look to give some of his regulars a breather on Sunday noon.
Thibaut Courtois is a guaranteed starter in goal for Real Madrid, while changes in the backline could see Alvaro Odriozola replace Dani Carvajal at right-back and Marcelo start ahead of Sergio Reguilon on the opposite side. Varane is in line to return to the starting XI and could be paired up with Nacho, with captain Sergio Ramos getting a well-deserved rest.
Modric’s absence will pave way for Dani Ceballos to start in the middle of the park on Sunday. The Spaniard will be partnered with German pass master Toni Kroos and Real Madrid’s midfield enforcer Casemiro.
Karim Benzema is unlikely to be rested by Solari against Girona, given Mariano’s recent injury problem. Gareth Bale and Marco Asensio could be in line to make rare starts, with Vinicius Junior and Lucas Vazquez likely to be benched.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Odriozola, Varane, Nacho, Marcelo; Ceballos, Casemiro, Kroos; Bale, Benzema, Asensio
Eusebio Sacristan has a string of injury issues heading into the trip to the capital as Johan Mojica, Aday Benitez, Seydou Doumbia, Marc Muniesa and Borja Garcia are all on the treatment tables. Bernardo Espinosa is suspended for the tie.
Girona are expected to set out with a three-man backline of Jonas Ramalho, Juanpe and Pedro Alcala in front of goalkeeper Bono against the reigning European champions. The wing-back slots are likely to be taken up by Pedro Porro and January arrival Raul Garcia, who started last game as one of the three centre-backs.
Captain Alex Granell did not start against Huesca last time out, but is set to be reinstated in the middle of the park to add some solidity. He will likely be partnered by on-loan Manchester City starlet Aleix Garcia and 25-year-old defensive midfielder Pere Pons.
Portu will slot in as the auxiliary striker and look to pull strings in the final third of the pitch, with seasoned campaigner Cristhian Stuani, who has netted 12 league goals this term, set to spearhead the attack.
Probable Lineup (3-5-1-1): Bono; Ramalho, Juanpe, Alcala; Porro, Granell, Aleix Garcia, Pons, Raul Garcia; Portu; Stuani;
- Real Madrid have scored at least three goals in their previous four encounters against Girona in all competitions.
- Girona have failed to find the back of the net in their last three La Liga encounters, shipping in seven goals in those matches.
- Santiago Solari’s men have managed to keep a clean sheet in five of their previous six La Liga matches. However, they did concede thrice in two games against Girona in the Copa del Rey.
- Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema has scored five goals in his last three appearances against Girona across all competitions.
- Teenage sensation Vinicius Junior is leading the assists chart for Real Madrid, having set up seven goals across all competitions this season.
Player to Watch
The 23-year-old has found it tough going in the 2018-19 campaign, after he was tipped to make the left flank his own in the wake of Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure. In 29 appearances this season, Asensio has scored and assisted five goals apiece in all competitions.
While he was regularly involved under former manager Julen Lopetegui, Asensio has found game time hard to come by under his replacement Santiago Solari, with injuries not helping his cause.
The Spaniard came off the bench against Ajax to score the all-important winner earlier this week, which could earn him a starting berth against Girona. And he should look to make the most of the chance that comes his way on Sunday and earn his manager’s trust. An important fixture lies ahead for Asensio.
Real Madrid 3-1 Girona
Real Madrid come into the game on the back of a solid run of form that has seen them win all of their previous five league games and go eight matches unbeaten. Girona, on the other hand, have lost their last four La Liga games and are winless since the first week of December 2018.
The Merengues have made light work of the Catalan club each time they have come up against them this season and Sunday’s encounter should be no different. A comfortable victory and three points in the bag for Real Madrid on Sunday noon is what we at The Hard Tackle are predicting.