Real Madrid will be aiming to get back to winning ways when they face off against Eibar at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday afternoon.

After tasting their first defeat of Zinedine Zidane’s second stint as the manager, Real Madrid will be hoping to bounce back strongly, when they welcome 11th-placed Eibar to the Santiago Bernabeu this weekend.

Real Madrid were beaten 2-1 by Valencia at the Mestalla on Wednesday night, in what was an utterly listless display from the Merengues. The defeat meant Zidane’s side fell five points behind second-placed Atletico Madrid in the La Liga standings. With the Rojiblancos set to play Barcelona at the weekend, it offers Real a chance to cut down the gap back to two points.

Eibar, on the other hand, are pushing for a way into the top half of the table. Currently with 39 points from 30 matches, Jose Luis Mendilibar’s men have a chance to move into the ninth place with a victory. Eibar have lost just one of their last five matches (W2 D2), with their latest fixture ending in a 2-1 win over Rayo Vallecano at home.

The last time these two teams had met, back in November last year, Eibar had registered an emphatic 3-0 victory with goals from Gonzalo Escalante, Sergi Enrich and Kike. And Real Madrid will be hoping to avoid a similar fate at home and pick up three points on Saturday.

Team News & Tactics

Real Madrid

Marcelo is suspended for the game against Eibar, while Vinicius Junior still remains sidelined with an injury. Dani Carvajal is back in training, but is unlikely to be rushed back into action. Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is still an injury doubt for Real Madrid. Sergio Ramos and Marcos Llorente are excluded from the 19-man squad named by Zidane.

Keylor Navas seems to have become the first-choice keeper once again for Real Madrid since Zidane’s return and should start between the sticks on Saturday. Sergio Reguilon is set to come in for the suspended Marcelo, while Alvaro Odriozola and Raphael Varane should hold on to their places. Nacho, back from suspension, should come in for captain Ramos.

Real Madrid’s midfield underwhelmed against Valencia in the midweek and Zidane will be expecting for a much-improved display from Luka Modric, who is expected to hold on to his place. Casemiro should, in all likelihood, continue at the base of the midfield, but Toni Kroos could be set to make way for Dani Ceballos.

Isco was left out of the starting XI in the last game, but should be reinstated in a free role at the tip of the midfield diamond for Real Madrid. Karim Benzema has been the leading goalscorer for the Merengues and should start in attack, with Gareth Bale likely to partner him after being benched for the last game.

Probable Lineup (4-1-2-1-2): Navas; Odriozola, Varane, Nacho, Reguilon; Casemiro; Modric, Ceballos; Isco; Benzema, Bale

Eibar

Pape Diop is unavailable for selection for Eibar as he is suspended for the tie, while Anaitz Arbilla, Jordi Calavera and Pedro Bigas are all ruled out with injuries. Mendilibar is unlikely to tinker with the 4-4-2 formation that he has used regularly this term.

Marko Dmitrovic will have the unenviable task of keeping the Real Madrid attackers out on Saturday. The goalkeeper will be seeking all the protection he can get from his defence, that is likely to comprise of Ruben Pena and Marc Cucurella as the full-backs on the right and left sides respectively, with Ivan Ramis and Paulo Oliveira lining up at the heart of the defence.

Former Real Madrid man Pedro Leon was on the scoresheet against Rayo Vallecano last time out and should start out on the right side of the midfield four. On the opposite flank, Fabian Orellana should get the nod for Eibar.

Both the wide men need to make the most of the spaces that the Real Madrid full-backs tend to leave in behind. Gonzalo Escalante and Joan Jordan will form the central midfield partnership.

35-year-old striker Charles is Eibar’s leading goalscorer this term with 13 strikes to his name and should get the nod in attack. Partnering him will be Spaniard Sergi Enrich, who had scored against Real Madrid the last time out.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Dmitrovic; Pena, Ramis, Oliveira, Cucurella; Leon, Escalante, Jordan, Orellana; Charles, Enrich

Key Stats

  • Real Madrid have lost only one of their 9 La Liga fixtures against Eibar (W7 D1), although that defeat came in the reverse fixture this season (3-0).
  • Real Madrid are unbeaten in their five previous games against Eibar at home across all competitions (W4 D1), conceding just one goal in those matches.
  • Only against Barcelona (31) have Eibar conceded more goals than they have against Real Madrid (23) in La Liga.
  • Eibar striker Charles has scored 13 goals in La Liga this season, the second-best ever tally by an Eibar player in a single top-flight season (after Borja Baston, 18 goals in 2015-16).
  • Real Madrid have conceded 36 goals in 30 games in La Liga this season, the most they have let in at this stage of the competition since 2003-04 (also 36 goals).

Player to Watch

Karim Benzema

A lot will be riding on Benzema's shoulders on Saturday (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP/Getty Images)

A lot will be riding on Benzema’s shoulders on Saturday (Photo by Javier Soriano/AFP/Getty Images)

In what has been a rather disappointing season for Real Madrid, Karim Benzema has been the sole saving grace for them. The 31-year-old Frenchman has scored 24 goals in 47 matches across all competitions, including one in the defeat to Valencia in the midweek, while he also has laid on 10 assists for his teammates.

Benzema also possesses an impressive record against Eibar, as he has been involved in four goals (2 goals, 2 assists) in his last four matches against the Basque outfit. If Real Madrid are to make a return to winning ways on Saturday, the French centre-forward will be key to their fortunes.

Prediction

Real Madrid 2-2 Eibar

Real Madrid will be gunning to bounce back after a tame display in their defeat to Valencia, in what will be Zinedine Zidane’s 100th La Liga game as the club’s manager. They possess the quality to hurt any team on their day and boast an impressive record against their weekend’s opponents.

Eibar themselves have been on a decent run of form, having picked up two wins and just one defeat in their last five league outings. Los Armeros will draw a lot of confidence from the fact that they had played Real Madrid out of the park in the reverse fixture.

It promises to be a tightly-contested affair at the Santiago Bernabeu, with Eibar more than capable of pushing Real Madrid. With Sergio Ramos not involved, the Merengues’ defence will be weakened, which the visitors will hope to capitalise on. And that is why we at the Hard Tackle predict the game to end in an entertaining 2-2 draw on Saturday.

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