Real Madrid will be looking to keep pace with Atletico Madrid in the race for second when they lock horns with Leganes at Estadio Municipal de Butarque

Matchday 33 of the 2018-19 La Liga will come to an end on Monday, with a Madrid derby on show. Real Madrid will be in action on the night, facing off against a Leganes side that will be harbouring hopes of finishing inside the top half of the table come the end of the campaign.

For a long time this season, Leganes had been looking over their shoulders, staring at the possibility of relegation. But in recent months, Mauricio Pellegrino & co. have found a stable footing, having been beaten just thrice in their last 11 league games – a run of results that has propelled them to 13th and just a point outside the top half of the table.

Real Madrid, on the other hand, have continued to stutter despite the return of Zinedine Zidane to the managerial hotseat, suggesting just how complicated his job will be in the summer. As far as results since his return are concerned, Los Blancos have one thrice and lost once, having not looked completely convincing in any of the victories.

Leganes and Real Madrid have already met three times this season – twice in Copa del Rey – with the reverse fixture in the league ending in a 4-1 win for Real Madrid. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.

Team News & Tactics

Leganes

Will Mauricio Pellegrino oversee another giant killing act? (Photo by Oscar del Pozo/AFP/Getty Images)

Will Mauricio Pellegrino oversee another giant killing act? (Photo by Oscar del Pozo/AFP/Getty Images)

Mauricio Pellegrino does not have many pressing concerns hampering his preparations for the visit of Real Madrid. On Monday, the Leganes boss will only be without two players due to fitness troubles, with Kenneth Omeruo struggling with a knock, while Youssef En-Nesyri has seen his campaign brought to an abrupt end.

The 21-year-old, who has been one of the key players for Leganes this season, picked up a knee injury during the international break last month and his presence in attack will be sorely missed. However, with Guido Carrillo back from suspension, Pellegrino will have an able strike partnership starting against Real Madrid.

Carrillo will partner Martin Braithwaite upfront, with Javi Eraso being the creative supremo for the hosts. In the middle of the park, Ruben Perez is a certain starter. But, with Oscar Rodriguez ineligible to face his parent club, the 29-year-old’s partner will be a toss-up between Mikel Vesga and Gerard Gumbau.

With Leganes expected to focus on having men behind the ball for the most part on the night, Vesga will likely get the nod to create a double pivot of holding midfielders alongside Perez. Jonathan Silva and Allan Nyom should be the two full-backs for Los Pepineros, with the former in particular posing quite a threat on the counters.

At the back, Omeruo’s absence means Rodrigo Tarin will get an extended run in the side alongside Unai Bustinza and Dimitrios Siovas in the back-three, while Ivan Cuellar will be deployed between the sticks once again.

Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Cuellar; Tarin, Siovas, Bustinza; Nyom, Perez, Vesga, Silva; Eraso; Braithwaite, Carrillo

Leganes

Real Madrid

Zinedine Zidane does not have a plethora of injury troubles to deal with ahead of the short trip to face Leganes. But, the Real Madrid manager will be without club captain Sergio Ramos, who has begun his recovery from a calf injury.

In Ramos’ absence, Nacho will continue to deputize at the heart of the Real Madrid defence, with Raphael Varane now taking on the mantle of being the leader at the back. The big news though, is that Dani Carvajal has made his recovery from a thigh injury and is in contention to feature.

But, the Spaniard is likely to be eased into the side, so as to not risk a recurrence of his injury, meaning Alvaro Odriozola will continue as the right-back on Monday. On the opposite flank, there is no looking past Marcelo as of now, with Sergio Reguilon now playing second fiddle to the Brazilian.

Thibaut Courtois, like Ramos, is no longer injured, but has not been included in the travelling squad, meaning Keylor Navas will man the Real Madrid goal once again. Another notable absentee from the squad is Toni Kroos, meaning a spot in the middle of the park will be available.

Isco should thus, retain his place in the midfield trident alongside Luka Modric, while Casemiro will return to the starting lineup. While Modric will shoulder the bulk of the creative responsibility, Isco will look to drive the visitors forward with his clever runs.

Up ahead in attack, Zidane seems to have zeroed in on the trio of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio to take Real Madrid into the run-in. Benzema, who is Los Blancos’ top scorer this term, will particularly hold the key, with his goalscoring exploits earning a big portion of the points for the team over the course of the campaign.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Navas; Odriozola; Varane, Nacho, Marcelo; Modric, Casemiro, Isco; Bale, Benzema, Asensio

Real Madrid

Key Stats

  • Real Madrid have won each of their last five La Liga matches against Leganes, scoring an average of 3.2 goals per game.
  • Leganes have only scored 31 goals in as many league matches this season – only Real Valladolid have a less potent attack in La Liga.
  • Zinedine Zidane has managed 100 games for Real Madrid across all competitions, winning 71 per cent of those fixtures.
  • Mauricio Pellegrino is winless in his four La Liga games against Real Madrid to date, losing three of those ties (D1).
  • No La Liga player has scored more headed goals in all competitions this season than Benzema (nine).

Player to Watch

Luka Modric

Time to step up and star delivering. (Photo by Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images)

Time to step up and star delivering. (Photo by Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images)

It has been an enigmatic season for Luka Modric. Coming off the back of a spectacular World Cup campaign with Croatia, expectations were naturally sky high, especially seeing as he also won the Ballon d’Or over the course of this campaign.

But, the Croat has simply failed to stand up and deliver. Against a Leganes side that has been much improved this season, however, Modric will need to step up, if Real Madrid are to continue keeping pace with Atletico Madrid. But, should he fail to come to the party once again, Los Blancos could be in for a long night.

Prediction

Leganes 0-2 Real Madrid

The match pits two sides that have not exactly been known to be prolific enough, by their own respective standards. While Leganes have the second worst scoring record this term, Real Madrid have only managed to find the back of the net 55 times – a staggering 26 goals behind Barcelona.

So, one thing that is certain is that there is unlikely to be a lot of goalmouth action. But, with Karim Benzema being in such fine form, Real Madrid can bank on their star striker to deliver for the umpteenth time this season and get the visitors the required three points. Expect Gareth Bale to step up as well.