It is first vs last this week in La Liga as defending champions Real Madrid travel to the Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero to take on bottom-placed Elche

Defending La Liga champions Real Madrid travel to the Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero to take on bottom-placed Elche on Wednesday in a tie that appears grossly mismatched on paper.

Los Blancos will be in fine spirits after winning the El Clasico at the weekend and putting up a three-point lead at the La Liga summit. Elche remains the only side in the Spanish top flight without a win and it will be a huge ask of them to end that streak on Wednesday.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men have lost just four of their last 47 league games and are dogged competitors. They have the quality and the know-how to churn out results and are unlikely to take Elche for granted.

The home side, however, put up a real show against Valencia at the weekend and can consider themselves unlucky to not get away with all three points. While they will have renewed confidence, a matchup against Real Madrid is in itself a whole another level of difficulty.

The disparity between both teams on paper and on the field should make the result a foregone conclusion. However, Ancelotti will be aware of the need to maintain momentum. As long as the Real players turn up, it should prove to be a comfortable win for the league leaders.

Real’s last two visits to Elche have seen a total of three red cards being dished out, two to Elche and one to Real. With 34 yellow cards and three red cards in their first nine games, Elche have the worst discipline in the Spanish top flight this season. One would not put it past them should things turn ugly on the night.

The Hard Tackle looks at how both teams can line up on the night and what tactics they could employ.

Team News and Tactics


Central defender Pedro Bigas was taken off with a head injury against Valencia amidst concerns regarding a concussion. He has trained normally since and should be available for selection on Wednesday.

Jorge Almiron has other injury concerns with Fidel Chaves out with a hamstring injury. Gerard Gumbau is back in contention, while Lucas Boye is also available following his suspension.

The home side are likely to turn out in a 5-3-2 formation that will seek to outnumber Real, especially in defence and midfield. Given the opposition on offer, it makes sense for Elche to adopt a safety-first approach.

Edgar Badia should start in goal behind the back five of Jose Antonio Fernandez Pomares, Helibelton Palacios, Enzo Roco, Pedro Bigas and Carlos Clerc. Strength in numbers will be the mantra for the Elche rearguard. The setup can also change into a 3-5-2 when attacking, although an adventurous approach is unlikely to last.

The trio of Gerard Gumbau, Omar Mascarell and Raul Guti will start in midfield, hoping to shackle the talents in the Real Madrid roster. Pere Milla scored a brace at the weekend and should keep his place upfront. He is likely to be accompanied by the returning Lucas Boye as Elche set up to hit Real on the counter.

Probable Lineups (5-3-2): Badia; Pomares, Palacios, Roco, Bigas, Clerc; Guti, Gumbau, Mascarell ; Milla, Boye

Real Madrid

Thibaut Courtois is still sidelined meaning Andriy Lunin will continue in goal. The Ukrainian has proven to be a reliable understudy and can be relied upon. Carlo Ancelotti has an otherwise full-strength squad to choose from and should ring in the changes given the heavy schedule.

Los Blancos are likely to retain their 4-3-3 formation with certain changes made to personnel. Lucas Vazquez should come in at right-back with Eder Militao partnering Antonio Rudiger at centre-back. Ferland Mendy should hold onto the left-back spot for the night.

Toni Kroos and Aurelien Tchouameni should keep their spots in midfield with Eduardo Camavinga replacing the tired Luka Modric. Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema should lead the line with Marco Asensio and Rodrygo Goes alongside him in the front three.

Despite the changes made, the defending champions should have enough in their arsenal to see off Elche. Buoyed by his Ballon d’Or win, Benzema in particular will be keen to impress.

Probable Lineups (5-3-2): Lunin; Vazquez, Militao, Rudiger, Mendy; Kroos, Tchouameni, Camavinga; Rodrygo, Benzema, Asensio

Key Stats

  • Real Madrid have outscored every other team in La Liga this season and have 22 goals from their first nine games. Elche meanwhile have six goals, a tally that is only better than 19th placed Cadiz.
  • Elche have let in more goals than any other side in La Liga at the end of game day nine.  Having conceded 21 goals in just nine games, they average more than two strikes per game so far.
  • Elche are the only side in the Spanish top flight to secure a league win this season. They are one of three sides yet to taste victory in the top five leagues across Europe.
  • Real Madrid are unbeaten in their last 18 competitive games.
  • Elche and Real Madrid have played each other nine times so far, with the latter coming out on top seven times. Elche have never beaten Los Blancos in a competitive match ever.

Player to Watch

Karim Benzema

The 34-year-old ended a mini-goal drought of sorts with an impressive performance and a goal against Barcelona in El Clasico. His first-ever Ballon d’Or win on Monday will add fresh fire to his belly ahead of the midweek clash.

A poacher who is unparalleled in La Liga, Benzema continues to defy his age and put up reliable performances week in, week out. He will be extremely high on morale and will be keen to celebrate his personal glory by putting in another match-winning performance for the defending champions.


Elche 0-2 Real Madrid

Elche and Real Madrid have contrasting forms and it is difficult to see anything less than a win for the away side. Despite putting in a good shift against Valencia last time around, Elche faces a different beast in Real who are on a high following their win over Barcelona.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side are unlikely to take the result for granted and should turn up in force. Given the mismatch in quality, Los Blancos should see out a comfortable win by at least two goals.

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