Real Madrid will be aiming to bounce back to winning ways in La Liga when they lock horns with a lowly Elche outfit on Saturday afternoon.

Reigning champions Real Madrid will be hoping to stay alive in the race for the 2020/21 La Liga when they welcome relegation battlers Elche to Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano this weekend.

Real Madrid wasted a glorious chance to close the gap to league leaders Atletico Madrid last weekend as they played out a 1-1 draw with their local rivals in the derby. And with Diego Simeone’s men winning in midweek, Los Blancos find themselves eight points off the top with twelve games left to be played in the season.

Real Madrid are also two points below second-placed Barcelona and cannot afford to drop any more points moving forward. The same goes for the Merengues’ Saturday’s opponents Elche as well, but for different reasons altogether, who head into the game on the back of a morale-boosting 2-1 win over Sevilla.

Following that result, Fran Escriba’s men are now 17th in the La Liga table, two points above Eibar in 18th with a game in hand as well. They will be hoping to pull further away from the drop zone with another shock result this weekend in the Spanish capital.

The reverse fixture played last December saw Real Madrid getting held to a 1-1 draw by Elche with Fidel Chaves cancelling out Luka Modric’s strike. And ahead of their latest meeting at the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

Real Madrid

Real Madrid have been handed a double injury boost heading into Saturday’s game as both Sergio Ramos and Eden Hazard are fit again and back in training. However, Mariano Diaz, Dani Carvajal, Marcelo and Alvaro Odriozola all miss out due to injury problems.

Manager Zinedine Zidane will have an eye on the midweek UEFA Champions League game against Atalanta while selecting his team. So it is unlikely that he will rush back either Ramos or Hazard into the side against Elche. But, there are unlikely to be a whole lot of changes made to the side that started in the derby last week.

Thibaut Courtois is the undisputed starter in goal for Real Madrid. Nacho and Raphael Varane ought to continue as the centre-back partnership flanked by the enterprising duo of Lucas Vazquez and Ferland Mendy, both of whom will have key roles to play with their overlapping forward runs.

Casemiro is a certain starter at the base of the Real Madrid midfield from where he will look to cut off any threat and start attacks with forward passes. Toni Kroos, who has been in fine form of late, should get another start but there could be a breather for Luka Modric with an eye on the Atalanta clash. Instead, Federico Valverde could get a starting berth against Elche.

Karim Benzema is the only senior striker available at Zidane’s disposal and should start on Saturday. Flanking him should be Rodrygo Goes and Isco, with the ineffective Marco Asensio making way for the latter. Vinicius Junior is also an option for the manager.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Vazquez, Varane, Nacho, Mendy; Valverde, Casemiro, Kroos; Rodrygo, Benzema, Isco

Elche

Elche, heading to the Spanish capital club, do not have major injury concerns with Emiliano Rigoni the only player set to be unavailable due to an injury. Fran Escriba will set his team up in a 4-4-2 formation once again and is likely to keep the changes to a minimum after his side’s win over Sevilla last time out.

Edgar Badia will be the man in goal for the visitors and could be in for a busy afternoon at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano. He will need all the protection he can get from the centre-back duo of Dani Calvo and Gonzalo Verdu, who will be flanked by Antonio Barragan and the fit-again Johan Mojica on the left.

Ivan Marcone will anchor the midfield for Elche and look to keep a close watch on Real Madrid’s runners with support coming from Raul Guti.

Tete Morente was preferred over Josan on the right flank last time out and could get another shot here while Fidel, who scored the equalising goal in the reverse fixture, should get the nod on the left. Both the wide players will look to hit Real Madrid on the break and make the most of any space left vacant by the opposition full-backs.

Guido Carrillo and Lucas Boye should be the two centre-forwards for the relegation battling outfit.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Badia; Barragan, Calvo, Verdu, Mojica; Morente, Marcone, Guti, Fidel; Carrillo, Boye

Key Stats

  • Real Madrid are unbeaten in their last five matches against Elche in all competitions.
  • Elche have lost six of their last seven away matches in La Liga. They have conceded at least two goals in their last three games on the road in the competition.
  • Real Madrid have won six of their last eight home games in La Liga (D1 L1).
  • Elche manager Fran Escriba has managed nine La Liga games against Real Madrid but is yet to win a single game (D1 L8).
  • Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema has scored five goals in his last six home games in La Liga including netting in each of the last two.

Player to Watch

Karim Benzema

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Having had an injury layoff, the Frenchman returned to action last weekend against Atletico Madrid but looked a tad bit scratchy. Even though he might have scored the all-important equaliser to salvage a point for his side, Benzema could have easily led Real Madrid to a victory had he taken the chances that fell to him during the game.

In four games against Elche in his career, the 33-year-old has managed to find the back of the net just once. Going into Saturday’s game, Zinedine Zidane and the Real Madrid supporters will be hoping that their ace goalscorer is able to get into a goalscoring rhythm ahead of the big game against Atalanta next week.

Prediction

Real Madrid 2-0 Elche

Eibar will be high on confidence following their surprise 2-1 win over Sevilla last time out. However, they will be coming up against a Real Madrid side that is unbeaten in seven games in all competitions. And even though they have been held to draws in the last two matches, Zinedine Zidane’s side have plenty of quality to see out the 17th-placed outfit and seal an important victory.

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