Real Madrid will be looking for their second win of Zinedine Zidane’s second stint, when they face off against Huesca at the Santiago Bernabeu this weekend.
With the international break now out of the way, Real Madrid will return to La Liga action on Sunday night, when they take on bottom feeders Huesca at the Santiago Bernabeu.
It will be Real Madrid’s second match after their second managerial change of the season, that saw Santiago Solari getting the sack, with Zinedine Zidane returning to the club nine months after he had quit. The Frenchman’s second spell was off to a winning start, as Los Blancos defeated Celta Vigo 2-0 at home a fortnight ago.
Real Madrid are currently third in the La Liga standings, 15 points behind leaders Barcelona and two points below second-placed Atletico Madrid. Should the Rojiblancos lose to Alaves, the Merengues have an excellent chance to move into the second spot on the table with a win on Sunday.
Huesca, on the other hand, are rooted to the bottom of the La Liga table. In what is their first season in the Spanish top-flight, the Oscenses have collected just 22 points from 28 matches till date and are seven points away from safety. Francisco’s side come into the game on the back of consecutive defeats, with their latest game ending in a 3-1 loss to Alaves.
The last time these two sides met, Real Madrid edged to a narrow 1-0 win courtesy of an early Gareth Bale strike. Ahead of this week’s encounter, let’s take a closer look at both the squads.
Team News & Tactics
Zinedine Zidane has opted to leave out a number of his first-team regulars from the 19-man squad named ahead of the match. Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is out with an injury, while Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Raphael Varane and Marco Asensio have all been excluded.
Dani Carvajal and Vinicius Junior are long-term absentees, but Real Madrid have been boosted by the return of Marcos Llorente and Lucas Vazquez. Keylor Navas is a guaranteed starter between the sticks for the home team, with Alvaro Odriozola and Sergio Reguilon likely to feature as the full-backs.
The latter will replace Marcelo in the starting lineup. Club captain Sergio Ramos should feature from the get-go at the heart of the Real Madrid defence. The Spaniard is likely to be partnered by utility man Nacho, with Varane not part of the squad.
The Real Madrid midfield will also see some tweaks, with no Modric or Kroos in the squad. Casemiro is likely to start at the base of the diamond formation in the middle, with Dani Ceballos and Federico Valverde set to get starts. Spanish playmaker Isco, who scored in the last game, should start at the tip of the diamond and look to pull the strings in the final third.
Up ahead, Karim Benzema should feature from the kick-off against the bottom side, while Gareth Bale should also start, with the likes of Mariano Diaz and Brahim Diaz likely to get minutes off the bench in the second half.
Probable Lineup (4-1-2-1-2): Navas; Odriozola, Nacho, Ramos, Reguilon; Casemiro; Ceballos, Valverde; Isco; Benzema, Bale
There are a number of injury-enforced absentees for Huesca heading into Sunday’s game with Luisinho, Pablo Insua, Jorge Miramon, Gonzalo Melero and Carlos Akapo all missing out. David Ferreiro is suspended for the contest.
Francisco has preferred to set his team out with a three-man backline for most parts of the season, although the defence in front of goalkeeper Roberto Santamaria is likely to take shape of a five-man backline with the wing-backs staying deep in their own half against Real Madrid.
The three centre-halves that are likely to start on Sunday night are Adrian Dieguez, Xabier Etxeita and Martin Mantovani. Miramon and Akapo’s absence leaves a void in the right wing-back slot, which is likely to be filled by Jorge Pulido, while Javi Galan should slot in on the opposite side.
On-loan midfielder Yangel Herrera will provide the defensive shield for the Huesca backline, along with seasoned campaigner Damien Musto. Moi Gomez is likely to be tasked with providing the forward impetus from the middle of the park for the visitors. Ezequiel Avila and Enric Gallego will form the two-pronged strikeforce for Francisco’s side.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Santamaria; Dieguez, Etxeita, Mantovani; Pulido, Musto, Herrera, Gomez, Galan; Avila, Gallego
- This will be the first ever competitive game between Real Madrid and Huesca at the Santiago Bernabeu. Real Madrid have won each of their last 11 La Liga games against sides to have visited their ground for the first time.
- Real Madrid have lost four of their last five games at the Santiago Bernabeu in all competitions (W1), half the number of home defeats as in Zinedine Zidane’s first stint in charge (8 in 70 games).
- Huesca have lost their last two La Liga games and could lose three consecutive matches for the first time under manager Francisco.
- Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema has been involved in 17 goals in La Liga this season (13 goals, 4 assists) – more than in his previous two campaigns.
- Ezequiel Avila has been involved in six of Huesca’s last eight goals in La Liga (5 goals, 1 assist).
Player to Watch
In what was a season filled with gloom for Isco, Zidane’s return as the Real Madrid manager has offered a ray of hope to get his career back on track. The Spaniard had been frozen out of the first-team picture by Santiago Solari, but made a comeback into the team against Celta Vigo as soon as Zidane was reinstated.
Upon returning to the side, Isco proved his quality as he went on to score a goal and was quite impressive with his all-round play. With Luka Modric not available for the fixture, the former Malaga man will have to shoulder extra creative responsibilities on Sunday night and he should be looking to build on his display against Celta and establish himself as a regular in the starting XI again.
Real Madrid 3-0 Huesca
The La Liga title is out of reach for Real Madrid, but they still have to battle for the bragging rights of being the better-placed team in the Spanish capital. Since their mauling at the hands of Ajax, Los Blancos have won both their matches, scoring six and letting in just one in the process.
Huesca, on the other hand, come into the game having lost their previous two matches to Getafe and Alaves. The bottom-placed side have won just one of their last five fixtures – a 2-1 win against Sevilla earlier this month.
Real Madrid have opted to rest a number of regulars for the Sunday’s encounter, but the positive atmosphere at the club following Zidane’s return, coupled with Huesca’s stuttering form and the gulf of quality between the squads should see the Merengues pick up another home win.