Real Madrid will hope to start building a winning momentum when they take the tricky trip to Anoeta to take on Real Sociedad on Sunday.
Sunday is set to be a busy day for football in Europe. La Liga, like Premier League, will see all 20 teams take the field at the same time, as we edge closer to the end of the season. At Anoeta, Real Madrid and Real Sociedad, both of whom have nothing to play for, will lock horns, looking to continue their bid for a strong end to the season.
Real Sociedad have endured a blow hot, blow cold sort of a campaign, having struggled to string together a run of positive results. But, the second half of the season has seen them being more consistent, with two successive wins helping them climb up to 8th on the La Liga table.
Real Madrid, on the other hand, have fallen from grace this season, and will be aching to finish off the remaining two games of the season. Los Blancos’ chances of finishing as runners-up in La Liga are extremely improbable, and Zinedine Zidane would want his charges to end the season on a strong note, so as to lay down a marker for next season.
The reverse fixture, played at the Santiago Bernabeu in Janary, saw Real Madrid being handed a shock 2-0 defeat by Real Sociedad. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the La Liga encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Imanol Alguacil continues to deal with a barrage of injury troubles ahead of the visit of Real Madrid. On Sunday, the Real Sociedad manager will be without as many as eight first-team players, largely due to their respective fitness issues.
Theo Hernandez is the only exception in the aforementioned group, with the full-back ineligible to face his parent club Real Madrid as part of the terms of his loan deal. The injury concerns start right at the back, with key central defenders Diego Llorente (calf) and Aritz Elustundo (knee) missing out.
In the absence of the duo, Hector Moreno and Raul Navas should form the central defensive partnership for La Real, while Aihen Munoz and Joseba Zaldua will complete the backline, which will provide cover to the fantastic Geronimo Rulli.
Up ahead in midfield, club captain and former Real Madrid midfielder Asier Illarramendi continues to serve time on the sidelines due to a groin injury and will be unavailable. Like Illarramendi, David Zurutuza (thigh) and Luca Sangalli also remain on the treatment table, meaning Mikel Merino and Igor Zubeldia pick themselves for the double pivot.
The major absentee in attack is Adnan Januzaj, who is having trouble with his knee. In his absence, Juanmi will continue on the right side of the Real Sociedad attack, with Mikel Oyarzabal starting on the opposite flank. Willian Jose should lead the line for the hosts, with Ruben Pardo playing off him.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Rulli; Zaldua, Moreno, Navas, Munoz; Merino, Zubeldia; Juanmi, Pardo, Oyarzabal; Willian Jose
Unlike his counterpart in the Real Sociedad dugout, Zinedine Zidane barely has any injury troubles on his hands. While captain Sergio Ramos continues to remain unavailable for Real Madrid, Karim Benzema has travelled with the squad to the Basque Country.
Benzema though, is unlikely to start, with Zidane not expected to risk his top scorer, reserving him for a potential emergency situation on Sunday. Mariano Diaz should thus, continue to lead the line for Real Madrid, when they take on Real Sociedad.
Apart from Ramos, Alvaro Odriozola is also on the treatment table, due to a long-term injury that has ended his campaign. Meanwhile, Raphael Varane has been left out of the travelling squad by Zidane, meaning Jesus Vallejo and Nacho will start at the heart of the Real Madrid defence.
Dani Carvajal is the only option for the right-back slot, while Marcelo will start on the opposite flank and don the captain’s armband. Thibaut Courtois is a certain starter in goal, with Keylor Navas also missing from the squad.
Up ahead in midfield, Luka Modric should return to the side after being omitted from the squad to face Villarreal last weekend. In fact, the midfield trifecta should bear a completely new look from last weekend’s 3-2 win, with Isco and Marcos Llorente replacing Toni Kroos and Casemiro.
Up ahead, Mariano should have Vinicius Junior for company on one side, while the impressive Brahim Diaz will hope to keep his place after impressing yet again last time out. Meanwhile, Gareth Bale is also among those who have not travelled to Anoeta.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Carvajal, Nacho, Vallejo, Marcelo; Modric, Llorente, Isco; Brahim Diaz, Mariano Diaz, Vinicius
- The result in the reverse fixture saw Real Sociedad win a La Liga game against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu for the first time since May 2004, when they triumphed 4-1.
- That win was, in fact, only the 25th such instance that La Real have managed to get the better of Real Madrid in 143 meetings.
- The last seven encounters featuring Real Sociedad and Real Madrid have all had a definitive result.
- Real Madrid are on a horrible run of form away from home, having failed to win each of their last four games on the road (D2 L2).
- Real Sociedad have not kept a single clean sheet in each of their last five games at Anoeta, conceding exactly one goal in those outings.
Player to Watch
One of the positive takeaways from a horrible season for Real Madrid has been the emergence of young, enterprising players. One such player is Vinicius Junior, who has set the stage alight in his maiden campaign for Los Blancos, so much so that he is already a first-team star in his own right.
Having overcome an injury that sidelined him for a couple of months, the Brazilian prodigy will be raring to go, in what will be his chance to impress Zinedine Zidane ahead of what will be a summer of rebuild at Real Madrid.
The sample size from this season though, suggests that Vinicius is unlikely to be fazed by the task at hand, especially with the team being encouraged to play without any pressure. If he is able to retrace his steps back to his pre-injury form, the youngster might just have sealed his fate for good.
Real Sociedad 1-1 Real Madrid
This is a match that pits two sides that have not enjoyed the best of forms lately. While Real Madrid have continued to stutter, and are four games without a win on the road, Real Sociedad do not inspire much confidence at home, having managed just six La Liga wins at Anoeta this term.
La Real though, do not concede many at home, making it a tough proposition for a goal shy, by their standards, Real Madrid side. The return of Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior, coupled with the upturn in Mariano Diaz’s form does bode well for Los Blancos.
But, in the end, there might not be too much to separate the two sides, and The Hard Tackle is going for a score draw between the two sides, which will do nothing to help their respective cases.