In our podcast last week we were all cautiously optimistic about this upcoming match with a Real Madrid side that has struggled mightily by their standards so far this season. Of course, the last time we were optimistic about a match with one of the big two... well, the less said about that the better. With back to back games against Madrid and table leading Real Sociedad, a good performance that gets at least a point on the board would be very helpful here to keep the momentum of our early season run going.
Real Madrid wasn’t in the best form anyway, and now a rash of injury problems has made their situation worse. Both Sergio Ramos and Rafa Varane took injuries over the last international break, and Eder Militao is still on injury quarantine. Nacho Fernandez, their other first team CB, hasn’t played since late October, so honestly I have no idea what CB pairing Paco Alcacer will be running at this Saturday.
Over at RB, they’ve been so decimated that winger Lucas Vazquez has been the man selected in recent weeks, and that trend looks to continue as Dani Carvajal and Alvaro Odriozola are still both, to my knowledge, hurt. Eden Hazard still has COVID-19, Casemiro is recovering from the virus, and Fede Valverde has a shin problem.
In their last time out, a calamity of errors saw them concede three penalties to Valencia, and they also have losses this season to Cadiz and Shakhtar Donetsk. Every time Marcelo plays, it seems like they lose, and they are nowhere close to the defensively dominant team they were last season. Perfect time to catch them, right?
Meanwhile, thinks are going pretty well for Unai Emery’s men. The rash of injuries we had a month ago have resolved themselves, the team is in good form, and the players seem to be both understanding and buying into Unai Emery’s ideas. Here’s how I think we’ll line up:
Unless we need a spark for a goal late, I don’t really see Take Kubo playing against his former club. If we’re tied I think that’s a result Emery will look to preserve, and if we are ahead the last thing we’ll want to do is put a player as prone to giving the ball away as Kubo on the pitch. The reality of this Real Madrid side for years is that they dig up performances and results seemingly out of nowhere when they feel their backs are well and truly against the wall, so this match may come down to whether Zidane can convince them that this is such an occasion, resulting in a moment or two of brilliance and quality that we just can’t do much about.
Unless both Varane and Ramos find a way to be fit for this match, I just don’t see them keeping us off the scoresheet. That said, against Madrid, stupid things tend to happen, so I’m calling this a 2-2 draw.