Real Madrid play host to Real Sociedad at Santiago Bernabeu this weekend, hoping to move a bit closer to the top and cut an utterly embarrassing 19-point gap behind La Liga leaders Barcelona.
Real Problems for Real Madrid
Saying that reigning Spanish and European champions have had a below-par season thus far would be an understatement. Zinedine Zidane’s charges are going through an identity crisis and will need to be at their best display to make amends for some disappointing results of late when Real Sociedad come to town on Saturday night.
The La Liga title holders are sitting fourth in the standings and their domestic struggles this season have been well-documented. Los Blancos are in a rather poor form with Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema being particularly disappointing this season. The Portuguese star found the back of the net eight time in Spain’s top flight this term and was substituted in his team’s 2-2 stalemate against Levante last time out. Despite the apparent lack of for from his biggest stars, Zinedine Zidane has stuck with his usual XI for the good part of the season and has received his own share of criticism. With his future at the helm in serious doubt, the French legend is out to prove a point against Real Sociedad.
The only positive thing ahead of the Real Sociedad game is that Zidane could finally have a full crop of players to choose from. The injury-prone Gareth Bale is at Zidane’s disposal whereas Jesus Vallejo and Dani Ceballos should be in contention despite missing out the latest training session.
The Whites and Blues have slipped to the bottom part of the standings due to their four-match losing streak in La Liga back in January but they still managed to claw back to 14th place thanks to a compelling 5-0 win over Deportivo La Coruna.
Their most recent result is the best illustrator of the contrasting faces Real Sociedad displayed this season. As a side which boasts excellent attacking potential they hoped to get involved in European qualification battle rather than a relegation scrap, but reality rarely matches the expectations. Sociedad have more than enough firepower to spring an upset against out-of-sorts Real Madrid with Willian Jose standing as the most prominent performer for Sociedad this season. The Brazilian netter 11 goals in La Liga this season, whereas Oyarzabal and Illaramendi have also been in fine form with six and five goals on their tally, respectively.
Eusebio Sacristan is sweating over the fitness of a number of first-team players ahead of the trip to Santiago Bernabeu. Agirretxe, Juanmi, Llorente, Martinez, Pardo, Prieto, Januzaj and Zurutuza have all had injury problems and are unlikely to feature against Real Madrid.
Real Madrid have been given a reality check at Levante and Zinedine Zidane is sure to urge his players to put in their best performance in order to get back to winning ways as soon as possible. Los Blancos have a fine record against the White and Blues, having won last six matches and are fully expected to continue the positive trend.
Top pick: Real Madrid Half-Time/Full-Time Win 1.73 (8/11) @PaddyPower
Alternative pick 1: Over 3.5 goals 1.53 (8/15) @Betfair
Alternative pick 2: Real Madrid -1 Handicap 1.67 (4/6) @Ladbrokes