Real Madrid will still be looking to leapfrog rivals Atletico Madrid into second place in La Liga as they host Celta Vigo on Saturday.
Real Madrid have had to endure a tough time in their domestic campaign this season. Los Blancos‘ latest setback came in the form of a 3-2 loss at Sevilla, which has seen them fall three points behind Atletico Madrid in the race for second on the table.
Celta Vigo, on the other hand, have been floundering in the mid-lower half of the table, with the visitors currently 13th in La Liga. But, maximum points from their last two matches could see them jump into the top half of the table, provided other results go their way.
Celta Vigo drew Real Madrid by a 2-2 scoreline at home earlier in the season and would be looking for a repeat or perhaps a better scoreline at Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday. Ahead of their latest encounter, we take a closer look at the two sides.
Team News & Tactics
Dani Carvajal is the only confirmed absentee for Real Madrid. But, Cristiano Ronaldo should also be rested, with the Portuguese yet to fully recover from his injury. Gareth Bale is back from suspension and should lead the forward line for the hosts, especially with Ronaldo likely to be absent from the matchday squad.
Borja Mayoral could also receive extra playing time as Zinedine Zidane aims to rotate the squad to keep his options fresh.
Marcelo should return on the left side of defence while Nacho continues to be deputised on the right, with Dani Carvajal out injured. The midfield trio should be reinstated by Zinedine Zidane, with the club still vying for the second place in La Liga.
Isco should play in the hole behind a two-pronged attack of Bale and Mayoral.
Probable Lineup (4-3-1-2): Navas; Nacho, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Isco; Mayoral, Bale
Unlike Real Madrid, Celta Vigo have had a full week of rest before the fixture and thus, Juan Carlos Unzue will be fielding a full-strength squad, with the hopes of a top-half finish still alive. Iago Aspas, Emre Mor and Nemanja Radoja are all doubtful for the match, with Aspas the only one likely to make it into the starting eleven on Saturday.
While Unzue prefers the 4-3-3 and the 4-2-3-1, it is the 4-4-2 that has yielded the results against big sides, the latest being a 2-2 draw against Barcelona, which could see the manager play the formation. With Mor and Radoja unfit, Stanislav Lobotka and Jozabed Sanchez should form the central midfield pairing, while all other positions remain occupied by the usual habitants.
The onus on providing the goals will be on Iago Aspas and his attacking partner Maxi Gomez.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Alvarez; Mallo, Cabral, Sergi Gomez, Jonny; Wass, Sanchez, Lobotka, Sisto; Aspas, Maxi Gomez
1. Celta Vigo have no wins in their last five league matches, with just 2 points accumulated from the said fixtures – their longest stretch without a win this season.
2. Celta Vigo are the only side other than Barcelona to have two players in the top 10 of the La Liga goalscoring charts this season ( Iago Aspas – 20 & Maxi Gomez – 15)
3. Iago Aspas is the top scoring striker (20), leaving aside the trio of Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
4. Real Madrid have lost just 3 league games at home against Celta Vigo, winning 11 and drawing the other 4.
5. The 2017-18 campaign has been Karim Benzema’s poorest league campaign in terms of goals, with just 5 goals to his name so far this season.
Player to Watch
Enjoying the best league campaign of his footballing career, the striker still has a couple of games left to add to his tally of 20 goals and 5 assists. The 30-year-old’s form could see him become a player of interest in the summer again, with back-to-back seasons of consistent goalscoring form.
Real Madrid 2-2 Celta Vigo
A Real Madrid without Cristiano Ronaldo is not one people can easily rely upon to ensure wins. With the Portuguese set to remain on the sidelines or rather be rested, we should see another scrappy affair at the Bernabeu. Celta Vigo would be determined to finish in the top half and Iago Aspas’s return should boost their chances.
The match might just come down to a moment of magic or mistake. Either way, we expect Real Madrid and Celta Vigo to play out a scoring draw on Saturday.