Real Madrid will be hoping to keep pace with Barcelona when they host a strong Real Sociedad side at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday.
La Liga football is back this week after the culmination of the last international break of 2019. High stakes are involved on Saturday, with four of the top five teams in action on the day. The marquee fixture on Saturday will pit second-placed Real Madrid with Real Sociedad, who are fifth, at the Bernabeu.
Real Madrid have found a stable footing following an inconsistent start to the season. Beaten just once in La Liga this term, Los Blancos were struggling to put teams away initially, but are now starting to impose themselves better. 10 goals scored in their last two games, Zinedine Zidane’s men are displaying menacing form lately.
Real Sociedad, on the other hand, have done well to keep pace with the bigwigs of Spanish football. Defending champions and table toppers Barcelona are just two points ahead and there is a sense that this could be the season wherein La Real might just break into the top four again.
The corresponding fixture last season had ended in a shock 2-0 defeat for Real Madrid, with Willian Jose and Ruben Pardo on target for Real Sociedad. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
The injury woes are easing up for Zinedine Zidane, who is only without four first-team players ahead of the visit of Real Sociedad. The big news this weekend is the return of Marcelo, who is fit again and should make the starting lineup, with Ferland Mendy set to make way for the Brazilian.
Marcelo will line up on the left side of the Real Madrid defence, with Dani Carvajal a certain starter on the right flank. Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane are automatic picks for the central defensive partnership, with Thibaut Courtois starting in goal once again.
Up ahead in midfield, Zidane ought to recall Toni Kroos, with Federico Valverde dropping to the bench. Kroos will have Casemiro and Luka Modric for company in the middle of the park. Meanwhile, Gareth Bale finds a place in the squad picked to face Real Sociedad, despite posing behind a controversial banner while on Wales duty.
Bale, though, is unlikely to start, with Rodrygo expected to return to the starting lineup. The young Brazilian will line up on the right wing, with Eden Hazard starting on the left. Karim Benzema will lead the line for Real Madrid once again, with Luka Jovic missing out.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Rodrygo, Benzema, Hazard
Imanol Alguacil does not have many pressing injury concerns to deal with ahead of the trip to the capital. Against Real Madrid on Saturday, the Real Sociedad manager will only be without three first-team players, with captain Asier Illarramendi being the major absentee.
The good news, though, is that Martin Odegaard, on loan from Real Madrid, is set to return to action after recovering from an ankle complaint. The likes of Joseba Zaldua, Mikel Merino and Portu are expected to be fit enough to start as well, with Alguacil set to field a near full-strength lineup.
Alex Remiro will take his place between the sticks ahead of Miguel Angel Moya, with Zaldua expected to line up on the right side of the Real Sociedad defence. On the opposite flank, Nacho Monreal is a certain starter, with Aihen Munoz sidelined with an ankle injury. Diego Llorente and Robin Le Normand will form the central defensive partnership for the hosts.
In the middle of the park, Merino will have Igor Zubeldia for company in the midfield double pivot, with Real Madrid loanee Odegaard set to reprise the no. 10 role. Portu, if deemed fit, will start on the right flank, with Mikel Oyarzabal the difference maker on the left. Willian Jose could get the nod over Alexander Isak to lead the line for Real Sociedad.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Remiro; Zaldua, Le Normand, Llorente, Monreal; Zubeldia, Merino; Portu, Odegaard, Oyarzabal; Willian Jose
- Real Sociedad have prevailed in just three of their last 15 meetings with Real Madrid, although two of those victories came last season in a historic double.
- Real Madrid are yet to be beaten at the Bernabeu this season, with their record in La Liga reading four wins and two draws.
- Real Sociedad have been the most dangerous side on their travels in La Liga this term, having amassed 13 points in seven away games so far.
- Real Madrid have conceded in three of their six home matches in the league so far, but come into the game having kept five successive clean sheets.
- Karim Benzema is leading the race to win the Pichichi trophy, with nine goals to his name till date in the 2019-20 La Liga season.
Player to Watch
There was much hype when Odegaard arrived at Real Madrid in 2015. That hype would soon dissipate away before the talented forward worked hard away from the club to bring the spotlight back on him.
Real Sociedad have given him his third such spell away from Real Madrid, with Odegaard being on a tear for the Basque club. And chances are, he could soon be turning out for his parent club as a regular.
For now, though, the task at hand would be to condemn Los Blancos to a third successive defeat at the hands of La Real. On his part, Odegaard has revealed that he is up to the job, with the belief that a strong showing here being a big step towards breaking into the Real Madrid first-team setup.
Real Madrid 2-1 Real Sociedad
The early stages of the season have seen Real Sociedad establish themselves as bonafide candidates to break into the top four this season. As far as an unlikely title charge is concerned, it is still early days, although a shock win at Real Madrid for a second successive season ought to bring them into the discussion.
However, despite La Real’s solid form on the road this season, Real Madrid should have enough firepower to edge this contest, if only narrowly so, with Eden Hazard and Karim Benzema leading the way for the hosts.
The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-1 win for Real Madrid, who could even go to the top of the La Liga table, depending on the result in Barcelona’s game at Leganes earlier on Saturday.