Real Madrid will be aiming to move to the top of the La Liga table when they face off against Real Betis this weekend as the race for the title hots up.
Real Madrid will be hoping to overtake arch-rivals and current La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid in the table, when they play hosts to Real Betis at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano on Saturday night.
The race for the title is absolutely neck-and-neck currently, with Zidane’s reigning champions three points below Atletico, following the latter’s 2-0 win over SD Huesca on Thursday night. However, a win for Real Madrid on Saturday could see them not only cut that gap down, but also move to the top of the standings owing to a better head-to-head record over their neigbours this season.
Last time out, Los Blancos made light work of Cadiz but Real Betis will pose a much sterner challenge this weekend. Manuel Pellegrini’s side are currently sixth in La Liga, but with Villarreal breathing down their necks, Los Verdiblancos will be raring to rack up a win and strengthen their position in the race for the top-six finish. However, they have drawn each of their last four games, most recently against Athletic Bilbao.
The reverse fixture was an entertaining affair as Real Madrid came back from behind to beat Real Betis 3-2 courtesy of an 82nd-minute penalty from captain Sergio Ramos. Ahead of their latest meeting this Saturday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
— Real Madrid C.F. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@realmadriden) April 23, 2021
Real Madrid have been greeted with some positive news on the injury front as Luka Modric is back in training and has been named in the squad for the Real Betis clash. In addition, Eden Hazard has also been deemed to be included. However, the likes of Toni Kroos, Federico Valverde, Ferland Mendy, Lucas Vazquez and Sergio Ramos remain unavailable for the champions.
Zinedine Zidane set his team up in a three-man defensive system against Cadiz last time out and could once again use similar tactics following the result in the last game. Thibaut Courtois will line up under the woodwork for the hosts, screened by a backline of Eder Militao, Raphael Varane and Nacho, who has been in top form in recent weeks.
Alvaro Odriozola and Marcelo ought to slot in as the wing-backs, with Dani Carvajal unlikely to be risked ahead of the important UEFA Champions League semi-final clash against Chelsea coming up. Casemiro was in top form in midweek and should start again in midfield but is likely to be partnered by the returning Luka Modric, with youngster Antonio Blanco set to make way for the veteran Croatian.
Vinicius Junior has been in bright form of late and, as such, is a certain starter out on the left flank while Marco Asensio could get the nod ahead of Rodrygo Goes out on the right. Karim Benzema remains the undisputed starter in the centre-forward role for the Merengues.
Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Courtois; Militao, Varane, Nacho; Odriozola, Modric, Casemiro, Marcelo; Asensio, Benzema, Vinicius Jr.
Goalkeeper Dani Martin remains a long-term absentee for Real Betis while Victor Camarasa is also unavailable. In addition, Manuel Pellegrini will also have to make do without Cristian Tello, who is injured, and Nabil Fekir, who is suspended after receiving a red card against Athletic Bilbao earlier in the week.
¡Nuestra convocatoria para la cita de Madrid! pic.twitter.com/7HoOe111CI
— Real Betis Balompié 🌴💚 (@RealBetis) April 23, 2021
The visitors should line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation in front of goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, who will be hoping to do his former team Barcelona a favour by keeping Real Madrid out on Saturday night. Emerson, who scored an own goal and was sent off in the reverse fixture, ought to be the right-back while Alex Moreno gets the nod on the left. Aissa Mandi and Victor Ruiz ought to form the central defensive partnership.
Andres Guardado should come into the lineup to partner up with Guido Rodriguez, a reported transfer target for Real Madrid as well as Barcelona, in the midfield double pivot. This would allow ex-Real Madrid man Sergio Canales to move forward and occupy the No. 10 role vacated by Fekir.
Club captain and veteran winger Joaquin could be in for a start on the right-wing, where he will look to exploit any spaces behind Marcelo while Diego Lainez gets the nod on the left in Tello’s absence, although the likes of Aitor Ruibal and Juanmi are also options. Borja Iglesias, who has seven La Liga goals this term, will be the man to lead the line for Real Betis,
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Bravo; Emerson, Mandi, Ruiz, Moreno; Guardado, Rodriguez; Joaquin, Canales, Lainez; Iglesias
- Real Madrid have lost two of their last four meetings with Real Betis in La Liga (W1 D1) as many as they had managed in their previous 15 outings against them in the competition.
- Real Betis have lost only one of their last six away games in La Liga (W3 D2) – a 1-0 defeat to Sevilla in March. Having won just one away game in the entire last season, Los Verdiblancos have picked up six victories on the road already this term.
- Real Madrid have failed to win each of their last three La Liga games against Real Betis on their home turf (D1 L2). Los Blancos have failed to find the back of the net in any of these outings.
- Real Betis have drawn their last 4 matches in La Liga, keeping one clean sheet during this run.
- Real Madrid are unbeaten in their last 12 games in the league.
Player to Watch
Karim Benzema hasn't been held without a goal in a La Liga start since February 6 🔥 pic.twitter.com/iTxZ1ISRUO
— Goal (@goal) April 22, 2021
Who else but the man in form, Karim Benzema. The Frenchman has been crucial in Real Madrid’s strong run in La Liga that has allowed them to close the gap to leaders Atletico Madrid. He was in sublime touch in the win over Cadiz in midweek, when he found the back of the net to make a small piece of history – scoring against each of the 35 La Liga teams he has faced in his career.
In the process, he also became just the third Real Madrid player to score at least 20 goals in three consecutive La Liga seasons, joining Cristiano Ronaldo and Ronaldo Nazario on the elite list. However, Benzema has found the back of the net in just one of his last five appearances against Real Betis and will be hoping to address that issue and get back among the goals against the Verdiblancos this weekend.
Real Madrid 2-0 Real Betis
Real Betis come into the game on the back of a five-game unbeaten run, although each of the last four have ended in draws. However, they will be facing a Real Madrid side that has found defensive solidity, having kept three back-to-back clean sheets in all competitions.
Add to that the form that Karim Benzema has been in, coupled with the support cast of Marco Asensio, Vinicius Junior and Luka Modric, the champions should be good for another crucial win.