Real Madrid will be aiming to bounce back to winning ways when they lock horns with Celta Vigo at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano on Saturday night.

Reigning La Liga champions Real Madrid will be aiming to kick off the New Year on a positive note when they host Celta Vigo at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano on Matchday 17 this weekend.

Real Madrid saw their six-game winning run across all competitions come to a halt earlier this week as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Elche. With Atletico Madrid winning their game, Zinedine Zidane’s men have fallen two points behind the La Liga leaders and will be hoping to make up that gap and go to the top of the table given that the Rojiblancos play on Sunday afternoon.

Celta Vigo, meanwhile, have made an impressive start to the season after having just about managed to escape relegation last time out. Eduardo Coudet’s men are currently eighth in the La Liga standings – three points below Sevilla in fourth place. The Celticos have not lost any of their last six matches, winning five of those, including their most recent fixture against Huesca.

The corresponding fixture last season saw Real Madrid being held to a 2-2 draw by Celta Vigo. And ahead of their latest fixture on Saturday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the teams.

Team News & Tactics

Real Madrid

Sergio Ramos will miss out for Real Madrid (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images)

Sergio Ramos will miss out for Real Madrid (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images)

Real Madrid will once again be without the services of Rodrygo Goes, who picked up an injury last month. Sergio Ramos did not train with the rest of the team on Friday and has been omitted from the 23-man squad for the game. Apart from the duo, Zinedine Zidane has a full squad to call upon on Saturday.

The manager has largely stayed away from making changes to his preferred lineup and that is likely to be the case once again when Celta come visiting. There is no looking past Thibaut Courtois in the Real Madrid goal, while Dani Carvajal, Raphael Varane and Ferland Mendy are also pretty much guaranteed to start. With Ramos unavailable, Nacho is expected to get the nod in his place.

Casemiro, when fit and available, is a certain starter at the base of the three-man midfield for the Merengues. The Brazilian will be tasked with breaking up play in the middle while the creative onus will fall onto the shoulders of Luka Modric, who impressed against Elche, and Toni Kroos.

Lucas Vazquez has been one of Real Madrid’s most consistent performers over the past few weeks and should get the nod on the right flank. Eden Hazard, who has worked his way back to full fitness, should get a chance to impress on the left, with Marco Asensio dropping to the bench.

Karim Benzema is the undisputed starter in the centre-forward role for Real Madrid. Having failed to make the best of impressions in the midweek clash, he will be hoping to lead his team to a win on Saturday.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Nacho, Mendy; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Vazquez, Benzema, Hazard

Celta Vigo

Celta Vigo manager Eduardo Coudet is without Kevin Vazquez, David Junca and Sergio Alvarez for the game while Emre Mor also misses out. In addition, January signing Aaron Martins hasn’t made the 22-man travelling squad along with Jorge Saenz and David Costas.

Considering how well his team has been performing of late, Coudet is unlikely to make any personnel or tactical changes against Real Madrid.

Celta Vigo are expected to set up in a 4-4-2 formation when they take the field at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano, with Ruben Blanco manning the goal. He will seek protection against the Madrid attack from the backline comprising of captain Hugo Mallo and Lucas Olaza as the full-backs with Nestor Araujo and Jeison Murillo pairing up at the centre.

Former Barcelona star Denis Suarez will slot in as one of the two central midfielders and look to act as the creative outlet. He will have Renato Tapia as his partner, with the Chilean likely to be tasked with thwarting Real Madrid’s buildup play. Nolito, who scored in the last game against Huesca, and Brais Mendez will carry the threat from the wide areas.

Upfront, there is no looking past Spanish international Iago Aspas, who has been in red-hot form of late. He will most likely be partnered by fellow Spaniard Santi Mina in the two-pronged strikeforce.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Blanco; Mallo, Araujo, Murillo, Olaza; Nolito, Tapia, Suarez, Mendez; Aspas, Mina

Key Stats

  • Real Madrid are unbeaten in their last 12 La Liga fixtures against Celta Vigo (W10 D2) since a 2-0 defeat at Balaidos in May 2014.
  • After the 2-2 draw at Santiago Bernabeu in February last year, Celta Vigo can draw back-to-back away La Liga matches against Real Madrid for the second time ever.
  • Real Madrid have scored in each of their last 28 home La Liga games Celta Vigo (74 goals) – their current longest scoring run at home against a single team in the competition.
  • Real Madrid have lost only lost their first La Liga game in a calendar year in one of their last 13 seasons (W8 D4), with the defeat coming away from home against Valencia in January 2015.
  • Real Madrid have won 12 of their last 14 home matches in La Liga (L2), 13 of them have been played at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano (W11 D0 L2).

Player to Watch

Iago Aspas

Embed from Getty Images

The most in-form player in the 2020/21 La Liga season so far, Iago Aspas has been the driving force behind Celta Vigo’s remarkable start to the campaign. In 16 league games, the 31-year-old has found the back of the net on nine occasions and is the leading goalscorer in the competition. In addition, Aspas’ tally of six assists is also the most by any player in La Liga this term.

The former Liverpool man has been directly involved in eight goals in his last five league games (4 goals, 4 assists). And, for Real Madrid to be able to come out on top on Saturday, they will need to ensure that the 31-year-old is kept quiet by the likes of Nacho and Raphael Varane.

Prediction

Real Madrid 2-1 Celta Vigo

Celta Vigo head into the game on the back of an impressive run of form, having won five of their last six matches (D1). Real Madrid, on the other hand, are also without a defeat in their last seven, although their winning streak came to an end earlier this week. So, we could be in for a gripping encounter on Saturday night.

Given the form Iago Aspas is in, there is a very good chance that Celta Vigo will breach the Real Madrid goal at least once. However, considering the Merengues imperious record at home, coupled with the tough mentality that they have developed under Zinedine Zidane, they should be able to get back to winning ways. The Hard Tackle, thus, predicts a 2-1 win for the hosts.

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