Real Madrid shift their attention back to league action as they host newly-promoted local side Leganes at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday in what is the first ever league meeting between the two teams.
La Liga leaders Real Madrid remain unbeaten this season as they overturned an anti-climactic end to September with emphatic wins over Real Betis, Legia Warsaw and Alaves in October. However, the European champions started November in disappointing fashion against Legia in the Champions League as they fought back to snatch a nervy 3-3 draw at the Polish Army Stadium on Wednesday.
Zinedine Zidane’s side made a flying start in Warsaw as a Gareth Bale stunner gave the defending champions a first-minute lead. However, an astonishing fightback by the Polish champions meant that Legia led 3-2 heading into the dying stages of the match, before a long-range strike from Mateo Kovacic ensured a share of the spoils for both sides.
Los Blancos must now aim to quickly move on from the midweek result and extend their record as the only remaining undefeated Spanish side when struggling Leganes come visiting.
Probable Lineups and Tactics
Regular centre-backs Pepe and Sergio Ramos remain on the sidelines for Real Madrid with hamstring and knee injuries respectively. Casemiro is the other long-term absentee, with the powerhouse midfielder unavailable till the end of the 2016.
However, Los Blancos will be boosted by Luka Modric’s return to training this week. The Croatian midfielder is likely to be included in the squad on Sunday. Meanwhile, James Rodriguez also confirmed his availability, stating his recent injury was nothing but a temporary setback.
Madrid boss Zidane is expected to start with a strong lineup on Sunday as he aims to maintain his side’s lead at the top of the table. Los Merengues’ attacking players seem to have rediscovered their goalscoring touch, find the back of the net a whopping 20 times in the last five games. However, it is the problems at the back that will be of concern to the French manager, with his side having shipped in seven goals in the same run.
Zidane is expected start with a 4-3-3 formation, with Dani Carvajal and Marcelo lining up either side of the centre-back pairing of Nacho and Raphael Varane. In midfield, Isco is expected to join Toni Kroos and Kovacic.
Up front, the star trio of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo are likely to continue despite struggling to consistently score past their defensive counterparts this season. The likes of Alvaro Morata, Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio provide the firepower from the bench.
Probable lineup (4-3-3): Navas; Carvajal, Varane, Nacho, Marcelo; Kovacic, Kroos, Isco; Bale, Benzema, Ronaldo
Newly-promoted Leganes are facing an injury crisis of sorts, with several key players set to miss the trip to the Bernabeu on Sunday. The Madrid side were already missing their first-choice goalkeeper Jon Ander Serantes to injury, and backup keeper Alberto Brignoli has joined him on the sidelines. Youth team goalkeeper Diego Barrios is expected to feature in the absence of his senior teammates.
Rober, Mamadou Koné, Adrián Marín and Toni Dovale are all doubtful due to various injuries, having missed the training session prior to this weekend’s match. Leganes boss Asier Garitano is now left with a slender squad of 18 for Sunday’s game.
Leganes’ first season in the Spanish top flight has thus far produced mixed results. Having kicked off their campaign with impressive results against Atletico Madrid, Celta Vigo and Deportivo La Coruna, they have been pegged back in recent weeks. Consecutive defeats to Sevilla, Malaga and Real Sociedad has left the club a perilous one point above the relegation zone in 16th place.
With Real Madrid’s problems in defence all too apparent, Leganes will be fancying their chances of scoring past Keylor Navas. However, with defensive problems of their own in recent weeks, they will have a hard time keeping the BBC trio at bay.
Probable lineup (4-2-3-1): Barrios; Diaz, Medjani, Insua, Rico; Perez, Timor; Omar, Gabriel, Szymanowski; Guerrero
- This is the first ever meeting between Real Madrid and Leganes in La Liga history. The two sides have previously met twice in the Copa del Rey with Real Madrid winning both times.
- Real Madrid are one of only six sides in Europe’s top 5 leagues who are yet to lose a game this season. The other teams are Tottenham Hotspur, Bayern Munich, RB Leipzig, Hoffenheim and Nice.
- Leganes have scored five goals away from home this season, with each of these scored by five different players. All of these goals were scored in the second half.
- Cristiano Ronaldo will be looking to extend his record of scoring against every side he has faced in La Liga, with Leganes being the 32nd different club to come up against the Portuguese in the league.
Real Madrid 3-1 Leganes
Real Madrid have a formidable recent record at the Bernabeu, where they haven’t lost in ten games. Leganes, however, have played better on the road than at home, with all three of their wins this season coming on away days.
Asier Garitano is missing some key figures from his side, though, and anything but an easy outing for Zidane’s men will come as a shock.
With title rivals Barcelona and Atletico Madrid facing gruelling trips to Sevilla and Real Sociedad respectively, the league leaders have a great chance to extend their lead at the top of the table. A straightforward win for Real Madrid is on the cards in Sunday’s game, but expect their suspect defence to continue their poor run of form.
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