Real Madrid will look to increase their stronghold on top of La Liga when they welcome Alaves to the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium on Friday.

Barcelona have pushed the ball back into Real Madrid’s court this week by defeating Espanyol and subsequently cutting the gap between the clubs down to one point. Los Blancos have to win against Deportivo Alaves at the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium now to reopen their four-point lead on the top of La Liga.

After constantly swapping spots on top of the table, Zinedine Zidane’s men were sitting two points adrift of Barcelona heading into the post-COVID stage of the season. Still, they were able to make the most of their opponents’ slip-ups against Sevilla, Celta Vigo and Atletico Madrid and registered a four-point vent. If it stays this way, they will officially become champions with one match to go.

Marshaling the defence. And the attack, too, recently. (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images)

Marshaling the defence. And the attack, too, recently. (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images)

Real Madrid faced a tough opponent last week in Athletic Bilbao in the previous week but were pushed through to the victory with the help of Sergio Ramos’s penalty in the second half. It was their third 1-0 win on the bounce.

Alaves’s life, on the other hand, has become significantly worse since football resumed. They are on a five-game losing run and have won once in their last nine games, a run of results that has dropped them down to 17th – just three clear off the relegation zone. Last time out, they went down to Real Valladolid, having registered no shots on target in the game.

Real Madrid were able to record a 2-1 win in the previous fixture thanks to Dani Carvajal’s winner in the 70th minute. Ramos opened the scoring for the Merengues which was cut down by a Lucas Perez penalty. The Hard Tackle now takes a closer look at this fixture.

Team News & Tactics

Real Madrid

A big blow. (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

A big blow. (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

Zinedine Zidane will have a lot of things to take care of when Real Madrid host Deportivo Alaves. His prime concern, though, will be defence. Captain Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal will not take part in the proceedings after picking up suspensions against Athletic Bilbao.

Marcelo will not feature either after picking up an injury in training. Striker Luka Jovic is isolating as a precautionary measure against the coronavirus, according to reports in Spain. Finally, Nacho is still sidelined from injury.

Real Madrid do not have a natural replacement for Dani Carvajal in their first-team, which means we can expect to see Lucas Vazquez in that position. Ferland Mendy will partner him on the other side while Raphael Varane and Eder Militao holding the fort as the centre-halves. Thibaut Courtois will continue his stellar season as Real Madrid’s shot-stopper in the six-yard box.

Casemiro will screen the defence from the holding midfield position while Toni Kroos and Federico Valverde arch him on the left and right sides, respectively. Luka Modric is in contention for a spot in midfield as well, but it is unlikely he starts against Alaves after playing 150 minutes over the last two games.

Karim Benzema will lead the line for Real Madrid and will hope to end his four-game run without a goal. His ambitions will be helped by the returning Eden Hazard on his left while Vinicius Junior will take up the right flank.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Vazquez, Varane, Militao, Mendy; Valverde, Casemiro, Kroos; Vinicius, Benzema, Hazard

Deportivo Alaves

The visitors will not have to cater to a lot of injuries, except Ruben Duarte and Fernando Pacheco, who will be missing due to a foot and muscle injury, respectively. Duarte was stretchered off against Real Valladolid, and it is unlikely that he features in any of the four remaining fixtures this season.

Roberto Jimenez will start in goal in the absence of Pacheco, who has been Deportivo Alaves’s best player since they were promoted four years ago. He will be guarded by Victor Laguardia and Lisandro Magallan. The duo will start the game at the heart of the Alaves defence while Martin Aguirregabiria and Adrian Marin provide the width from the back.

Perez is Alaves' best hope. (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

Perez is Alaves’s best hope. (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

The midfield will be in the shape of a flat four, featuring Borja Sainz and Edgar Mendez on either flank. Oliver Burke is expected to be left out of the starting eleven after failing to impress in the previous few matches. Tomas Pina and Ljubomir Fejsa will retain their positions as the double pivot, even though the latter delivered an absolute disasterclass against Valladolid.

Joselu will return to the starting lineup and will start alongside Lucas Perez. The two have a combined total of 22 goals and seven assists between them this season in the league. They are the only ones who can try to cause an upset over Real Madrid.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Jimenez; Aguirregabiria, Laguardia, Magallan, Marin; Mendez, Fejsa, Pina, Sainz; Joselu, Perez

Key Stats

  • Lucas Perez and Joselu are the highest scorers for Alaves this season, with 11 and 10 goals, respectively. Aleix Vidal is third, with two.
  • In the last ten games between Real Madrid and Deportivo Alaves, the former has won nine times, with the latter prevailing just once.
  • Zinedine Zidane and Juan Ramon Muniz have met twice before and both games have ended in a draw.
  • The last time Alaves an away game won against Real Madrid was in May 2000, when they were able to register a 1-0 win and finished the season just one point below Los Blancos in sixth.
  • There have been three or more goals scored in a game nine out of the last ten times these two sides have met.

Player to Watch

Karim Benzema

Real Madrid's go-to man.(Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

Real Madrid’s go-to man.(Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

Karim Benzema has arguably been Real Madrid’s best player over the last two seasons, first helping them to secure a third-placed finish last term and pushing them to the crown this time. He always comes up with the goods when Real Madrid need him to and has looked even more dangerous this season after forming a partnership with Eden Hazard.

Benzema has scored 17 goals and set up seven more for his teammates in the current campaign and is just five off Lionel Messi’s 22 for the season. Benzema might not have scored for four games running, but he is expected to be back against Alaves extra motivated. Moreover, the Frenchman has scored each of the last three times Alaves have visited the capital city.

Prediction

Real Madrid 3-1 Deportivo Alaves

Zinedine Zidane & co. could be in for a tough game as Deportivo Alaves would try their best to build a gap to the teams below them in the relegation zone. However, it is tough to imagine the Merengues’ grip on the crown slipping with just four games remaining.

Furthermore, Real Madrid will have Eden Hazard, who has looked extraordinary since the restart, back in the lineup. The rest has probably helped the Belgian gain form and fitness. Alaves may have pulled an occasional sneak attack on their hosts, but it will not happen on Friday as the 13-time Champions League winners take a step further towards the title.

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