Real Madrid will be looking to consolidate their position at the top of the La Liga table when they play hosts to Celta Vigo on Sunday night.
Real Madrid will be looking to open up a three-point lead atop the La Liga standings when they face off against relegation battlers Celta Vigo outfit at the Santiago Bernabeu this weekend.
Real Madrid had a three-point lead over arch-rivals Barcelona heading into the matchweek. But, with the Catalans winning against third-placed Getafe on Saturday, the two teams have leveled up, although Zinedine Zidane’s side remain at the top owing to a superior goal difference.
Having defeated Osasuna 4-1 last time out, the Merengues will be hoping to register their sixth consecutive league win on Sunday and open up a lead on Barcelona once again.
Celta Vigo find themselves at the other end of the spectrum, sitting eighteenth in the table with just 20 points from 23 matches so far. The Sky Blues ended their eight-match winless run in La Liga last weekend, beating Sevilla 2-1 at home and will be hoping to draw confidence from that performance when they visit the Bernabeu this weekend.
The reverse fixture, played in August last year, saw a ten-man Real Madrid side defeat Celta Vigo 3-1, with goals coming from Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos and Lucas Vazquez. And ahead of their latest meeting this Sunday, we at The Hard Tackle take a closer look at both the teams.
Team News & Tactics
Real Madrid will be handed a major boost as Eden Hazard is set to return to action after having not featured for almost three months. The Belgian has been named in the 19-man squad by Zidane, but James Rodriguez, Marco Asensio and Mariano Diaz are sidelined, while Rodrygo Goes and Lucas Vazquez have also been omitted from the squad by the manager.
There are likely to be a couple of changes to the side that started against Osasuna, but none of them are expected in defence. Thibaut Courtois is a guaranteed starter in goal for Real Madrid while Dani Carvajal and Ferland Mendy ought to be the full-backs. Raphael Varane and captain Sergio Ramos will partner up at the heart of the defence.
Casemiro has been in exceptional form of late and is a certainty to feature at the base of the midfield for Real Madrid. Federico Valverde has also been in fine form and should start again, while Toni Kroos is likely to return to the playing XI, having not started last time out. Luka Modric will be the one to make way for the German international.
Gareth Bale struggled to make an impression last time out and could be dropped against Celta Vigo. Replacing him in the lineup should be Vinicius Junior, with the Brazilian likely to slot in on the left flank, while Isco is in line to start on the right wing. Eden Hazard is unlikely to start, having been out of action for a long time.
Karim Benzema is the undisputed choice to lead the Real Madrid attack with Luka Jovic, who scored his first La Liga goal against Osasuna last time out, providing an option from the bench.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Mendy; Valverde, Casemiro, Kroos; Isco, Benzema, Vinicius
Celta Vigo manager Oscar Garcia has no injury concerns heading into the trip to Madrid. Jeison Murillo has recovered from a minor knee problem he picked up earlier in the week and is part of the travelling squad. Hugo Mallo misses out due to suspension while Jorge Saenz, David Junca and Pape Cheikh have not been included by Garcia.
— RC Celta (@RCCelta) February 15, 2020
Ruben Blanco has been preferred ahead of Sergio Alvarez for most of the season and should start in goal once again against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. The fit-again Murillo should feature in the Celta Vigo defence along with Nestor Araujo.
Kevin Vazquez, who is back after serving his suspension, will walk right into the starting XI in place of the suspended Hugo Mallo as the right-back. On the opposite flank, Lucas Olaza is likely to get the nod against Real Madrid.
Turkish midfielder Okay Yokuslu will be in charge of stopping Real Madrid’s momentum in the middle of the park. He will have 21-year-old Fran Beltran for company, with Beltran being the workhorse, while the creative onus will be on the shoulders of former Barcelona man Rafinha Alcantara.
Fedor Smolov, who arrived on loan from Russian side Lokomotiv Moscow in January, should spearhead the attack for Celta Vigo. Support from the wide areas should come from leading goalscorer Iago Aspas and Pione Sisto, both of whom were on the scoresheet in the win against Sevilla.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Blanco; Vazquez, Murillo, Araujo, Olaza; Beltran, Yokuslu, Rafinha; Aspas, Smolov, Sisto
- Real Madrid are unbeaten in their last 11 La Liga games against Celta Vigo (W10 D1), their longest unbeaten run against them in the top-flight, scoring 3.6 goals per game.
- Celta Vigo are winless in their last 12 away La Liga games against Madrilean sides (D2 L10). They have failed to score a single goal in eight of them, last winning in January 2017 vs Leganes (2-0).
- Real Madrid have won their last five La Liga games. They haven’t won six or more consecutive games in the competition since March-August 2017 (7), also under Zinedine Zidane.
- Celta Vigo have only won one of their last 23 away La Liga games (D7 L15) – a 3-1 victory against Villarreal in November 2019.
- Real Madrid have scored seven goals in a single La Liga game on two occasions under Zinedine Zidane, the last one coming against Celta Vigo in March 2016 (7-1).
Player to Watch
The 32-year-old Frenchman has been the go-to man for Real Madrid this season. Benzema has already netted 18 goals in 31 matches in all competitions, while setting up nine more. He is also the second-highest goalscorer in La Liga currently (13 goals), only behind Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi (14).
However, Benzema has been going through a bit of a dry patch of late, having scored just one goal in his last seven league matches, although that was the crucial winner in the derby against Atletico Madrid. Nevertheless, he will be hoping to shake off this recent barren run and get back to his early season form when Celta Vigo come visiting.
Real Madrid 3-1 Celta Vigo
Celta Vigo ended their eight-game winless run in the league last time out against Sevilla, but remain mired in the relegation battle. And going up against a Real Madrid side that has notched up five straight wins in La Liga and are perched at the summit of the table, at the Santiago Bernabeu will be anything but easy.
Zinedine Zidane’s side bounced back from their Copa del Rey defeat in style last week against Osasuna beating them 4-1 and should be in for a comfortable victory once again on Sunday night, opening up a three-point lead over Barcelona at the top once again.