Real Madrid will look to get back to winning ways when they travel to Seville to lock horns with Real Betis at the Benito Villamarin.

After a very successful 2019/20 La Liga campaign which saw Real Madrid coming out on top of the La Liga standings after a tight-fought race with fierce rivals Barcelona, it is safe to say that Los Blancos have not started the defence to their throne well enough.

Zinedine Zidane’s men took to the Reale Arena to face off against Real Sociedad but were unable to gain anything more than just a point after a goalless draw. The game did, however, witness multiple great individual performances from Martin Ødegaard, who made his first start for the club and Ferland Mendy.

Ødegaard showed signs of better things to come in his first competitive start for Madrid. (Picture Courtesy - AFP/Getty Images)

Ødegaard showed signs of better things to come in his first competitive start for Madrid. (Picture Courtesy – AFP/Getty Images)

On the other hand, Real Betis have kicked off their season in flawless fashion under new manager Manuel Pellegrini. In the two matches they have played so far, they have won 1-0 and 2-0 respectively, dominating both games effortlessly. The Chilean manager has implemented some different ideas in the team, which seem to have paid off so far.

The last time Madrid visited Real Betis, they were on the wrong end of a 2-1 scoreline, courtesy of a late winner from former Barcelona winger Cristian Tello. Sidnei was also on target for the Verderones in the 40th minute, but his efforts were cut out through a Karim Benzema penalty five minutes later.

Team News & Tactics

Real Betis

Three names have not been called up by Manuel Pellegrini as part of the 23-man squad. These three players are Victor Camarasa, Dani Martin, and Andres Guardado. Juanmi is also a doubt at the moment and will have to undergo a late fitness test before the game to determine his playing time.

Bravo's experience will be key for Betis this season. (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

Bravo’s experience will be key for Betis this season. (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

We expect Pellegrini to stick with the starting XI which he fielded against Real Valladolid, structuring his team in a 4-2-3-1. New recruit Claudio Bravo starts in goal after joining Real Betis on a free transfer from Manchester City. His experience will be essential against the defending champions.

Emerson and Alex Moreno will be given the responsibility to provide width from the back. They will flank the centre-half duo of Marc Bartra and Aïssa Mandi.

This back-four will be shielded by a double pivot of Guido Rodriguez and William Carvalho. The latter scored his first goal for Real Betis after joining the club two years ago from Sporting CP. To provide the creativity in the final third, Joaquin will occupy the no. 10 slot, in what has been a revelating change for the club thus far.

Man-in-form Nabil Fekir will take up the right-wing position, and will be paired up with Sergio Canales on the opposite side. Cristian Tello is in contention to start as well after an impressive cameo from the bench last week. Borja Iglesias and Antonio Sanabria will compete for the final spot, but the former is expected to nick it based on match sharpness.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Bravo; Emerson, Mandi, Bartra, Moreno; Rodriguez, Carvalho; Fekir, Joaquin, Canales; Iglesias

Real Madrid

Zinedine Zidane is still without several players ahead of this game, and has called up just 22 names. Eden Hazard, Marco Asensio, Mariano Diaz and Eder Miltao are the names missing from the squad. At the same time, Isco, who returned from injury last week, has been included but is unlikely to start.

Still no Eden. (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP/Getty Images)

Still no Eden. (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP/Getty Images)

The one constant name in the Real Madrid attack for the past several years has been that of Karim Benzema, and Saturday will be no different as he prepares to lead the line for Zidane. Supplementing him, Vinicius Jr, and Rodrygo will take up the roles on the left and right respectively.

Marvin Park has been dropped from the Madrid side after making his debut last week and has been replaced by Lucas Vasquez.

Martin Ødegaard made his first start for Los Blancos, five years after joining, but could be dropped as Luka Modric is expected to take his place in a three-person midfield. Toni Kroos will act as the deep-lying-playmaker, pulling the strings of the team from the centre of the park, while Casemiro will shield the defence.

Speaking of which, there will be no changes to the Madrid back-four after their clean sheet against Real Sociedad. Marcelo has returned to full fitness, but to neutralise Betis’ attacking threat, Zidane will likely go for a more defensively solid option in Ferland Mendy. Dani Carvajal will play the same role on the right.

The last three pieces in this jigsaw that is Madrid come in the form of Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos who will be paired up as the last outfield players, while Thibaut Courtois retains his spot as the first-choice goalkeeper.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Mendy; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Rodrygo, Benzema, Vinicius

Key Stats

  • Real Madrid have lost just one of their last six away games against Real Betis. Although, the victory came in their most recent such fixture in March 2020.
  • In the last ten meetings between these two sides, Madrid have won just five, while Betis have won three (D2).
  • Real Madrid have failed to win against Betis in the last three games (D1 L2).
  • Zinedine Zidane and Manuel Pellegrini have met on two previous occasions (the 2015/16 Champions League Semis). Zidane has won one game, while one of them was a draw.
  • The meetings between these two sides see a lot of goals. In the last ten games, Madrid has scored 22, while Betis has scored 12, averaging 3.4 goals per game.

Player to Watch

Karim Benzema

King Karim. (Photo by Jorge Guerrero/AFP/Getty Images)

King Karim. (Photo by Jorge Guerrero/AFP/Getty Images)

There are few better footballers on the planet right now than Karim Benzema, and even fewer forwards. The Frenchman was the cornerstone of Zidane’s team last season as they lifted the La Liga, scoring 21 goals and setting up eight for his teammates.

His start to life in this season has followed the same route, even though he failed to score. He took four shots against Sociedad, two of which were on target while creating two chances and playing one key pass.

A man of the match performance from Aritz Elustondo is the only thing that barred Benzema from scoring a handful of goals in the last game, but given the 31-year-old’s form and grit, it is almost sure that he will bounce back against Real Betis.

Match Prediction

Real Betis 1-2 Real Madrid

Real Betis’ meetings with Real Madrid are always full of drama, and more often than not, very high scoring. This season, however, might be different as both managers look to make their defence stronger – something that has been the kryptonite for both the clubs in the past.

Manuel Pellegrini has enjoyed a perfect start to his La Liga return campaign, but it highly unlikely he will be able to keep it up against Zidane – the man who has not dropped points for two consecutive games running as Madrid’s manager.

It might be a close one, but now that the 13-time Champions League winners have got their first run-out in the Liga, The Hard Tackle expects them to get a stronghold on those three points.

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