Real Madrid will be looking to move to the top of the La Liga table when they take on Real Sociedad at the Reale Arena on Sunday night.

Real Madrid will have a great chance to knock Barcelona off their perch in the La Liga table when they travel to the Basque country to face off against Real Sociedad this weekend.

Following Barcelona’s goalless draw against Sevilla on Friday, Real Madrid are three points below the reigning champions in second. And a win on Sunday would see them go to the top. Often this season, Zinedine Zidane’s men have failed to capitalise on any slip-ups from their rivals, but cannot afford to do so this weekend as a difficult run-in lies ahead.

It bodes well for Los Blancos that they have been in fine form since the resumption of the season. After having dispatched Eibar in their first game upon return, Real Madrid made light work of Valencia earlier this week, beating them 3-0.

In contrast, Real Sociedad are yet to pick up a win since the campaign resumed last week. La Real, who are currently sixth in the La Liga standings, were first held to a draw by Osasuna at home, before Alaves defeated them 2-0 on the road earlier this week.

Sociedad are just two points below Atletico Madrid in the fourth spot. And with Champions League qualification well within reach, manager Imanol Alguacil will be hoping to lead his team to a win on Sunday.

The reverse fixture played back in November ended 3-1 in favour of Real Madrid, with goals coming from Karim Benzema, Federico Valverde and Luka Modric after Willian Jose had given Real Sociedad an early lead. But Sociedad did eliminate Madrid from the Copa del Rey quarter-final with a 4-3 win in February earlier this year.

Ahead of their latest meeting on Sunday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the teams.

Team News & Tactics

Real Sociedad

The hosts will be without four players due to injuries as former Real Madrid star Asier Illarramendi misses out, along with Ander Barrenetxea, Ander Guevara and Luca Sangalli. Manager Imanol Alguacil will not be able to call upon the suspended Joseba Zaldua either on Sunday.

Alguacil has preferred to set his team up in a 4-2-3-1 formation since the resumption of the campaign and is likely to stick with the same shape when Real Madrid come visiting. Alex Remiro ought to be the man between the sticks for the hosts. He could be in for a busy night up against a Madrid attack that has looked dangerous over the last week.

With Zaldua out suspended, Andoni Gorosabel is expected to walk in at right-back while Aihen Munoz should continue on the opposite side ahead of seasoned campaigner Nacho Monreal. Aritz Elustondo and Diego Llorente should continue their central defensive partnership, although Robin Le Normand is also an option at the manager’s disposal.

Igor Zubeldia is pretty much a certain starter in one of the two pivot positions in the middle of the park. Mikel Merino is likely to start alongside him ahead of veteran midfielder David Zurutuza, who featured in midweek. On-loan Real Madrid star Martin Odegaard has shrugged off a knock to be available for the game and should slot in as the No. 10.

Portu, who has scored seven goals and has seven assists in the league, should return on the right flank, at the expense of Adnan Januzaj. Mikel Oyarzabal is nailed on on the opposite flank for La Real. Willian Jose, who scored in the reverse fixture, is likely to edge out Alexander Isak as the lone striker, despite the latter scoring a brace in the Copa del Rey win against Los Blancos.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Remiro; Gorosabel, Elustondo, Llorente, Munoz; Zubeldia, Merino; Portu, Odegaard, Oyarzabal; Willian Jose

Real Madrid

Real Madrid also have a few injury issues heading into the game as Isco is ruled out, along with Lucas Vazquez, Nacho and Luka Jovic, who has returned to training, but is not fully fit. Having fielded pretty much the starting lineups for the first two matches, Zidane could make a few alterations on Sunday night.

No Isco for Real Madrid (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images)

No Isco for Real Madrid (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images)

No change is expected in goal, though, with Thibaut Courtois excelling in his duties. Dani Carvajal remains the automatic pick at right-back, but Marcelo could return on the opposite side, having been rested in midweek. Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos are expected to continue at the heart of the Real Madrid defence.

Casemiro is a vital cog in the midfield engine room for Real Madrid and should continue to feature. Toni Kroos, who has been in top form since the resumption, should also start on Sunday. Luka Modric, though, could be given a breather by Zidane, after back-to-back starts. Federico Valverde will occupy the third midfield slot.

Karim Benzema put in a special performance against Valencia in midweek and will once again spearhead the Real Madrid attack. The Frenchman’s partnership with Eden Hazard has been a big feature of the Merengues’ attacking play in the last two matches and Zidane will not look to tinker with that.

Marco Asensio made a sensational return to action in midweek, but is likely to be eased into action. Vinicius Junior, who has made substitute appearances in both the matches since the restart, is likely to get the nod on the right, although Rodrygo Goes and Gareth Bale are also options for the manager.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Valverde, Casemiro, Kroos; Vinicius Jr., Benzema, Hazard

Key Stats

  • Real Madrid have won eight of their last 10 matches against Real Sociedad in La Liga (L2). However, the Basque outfit have won two of the last three.
  • Real Madrid are the opponent against whom Real Sociedad have lost the most games (82, level with Barcelona) and conceded the most goals (316) in their history in the Spanish top flight.
  • Under Zidane, Real Madrid have only lost one of their 12 La Liga trips to the Basque Country (W10 D1). This loss, however, did come against Real Sociedad in May last year.
  • Real Sociedad striker Willian Jose has been involved in at least one goal in each of his last three La Liga games against Real Madrid (2 goals and 2 assists).
  • Two of Real Madrid’s last three away goals in La Liga have been scored by substitutes – Lucas Vazquez and Luka Jovic, both coming against Osasuna back in February.

Player to Watch

Karim Benzema

Soaring on and on. (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

Soaring on and on. (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

The Frenchman has been in exceptional form in the two matches since the resumption of La Liga. Having been the orchestrator in the win against Eibar, Benzema scored two goals in the victory over Valencia, including one worldie that should be a contender for the Puskas award.

Zidane will once again look up to the 32-year-old striker to produce the goods in the final third for Real Madrid. However, Benzema, in his five away appearances against Sociedad in La Liga, is yet to score a single goal, which happens to be his worst record on the road at any La Liga side. Time for the Frenchman to set that record straight this weekend.

Prediction

Real Sociedad 0-2 Real Madrid

Real Madrid may have lost two of their last three visits to Real Sociedad in La Liga, but they head into Sunday’s fixture in fine form. Two wins, six goals scored, just one conceded means, Zinedine Zidane’s side are favourites heading into the game.

Real Sociedad, on the other hand, are without a win since the resumption of the season, scoring just once in their two games. Irrespective of that, Imanol Alguacil’s men are expected to make life difficult for the title contenders, like they did in the Copa del Rey quarter-final earlier this year.

But, Los Blancos have momentum on their side and with Eden Hazard and Karim Benzema clicking the way they are, The Hard Tackle expects the Spanish capital outfit to bag all three points on Sunday and move to the top of the La Liga table.

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