Real Madrid (best odds 1/7) will be confident of all three points when Celta Vigo (22/1) visit the Bernabeu (5pm BST, Saturday).
I mentioned prior to the league Clasico meeting that anything other than a win will feel close to a knockout blow for Real Madrid. They drew that and even though Barcelona and Real are still eight points apart, it’s sure to feel like a mammoth challenge to regain a foothold in the title race.
Real took the lead through Cristiano Ronaldo, who was having one of those personal duels with Lionel Messi. But Real could have gone further ahead and potentially put the game to bed early. In quick succession, Karim Benzema hit the post and Angel Di Maria sent the rebound wide.
At that stage, Real Madrid were looking dangerous and good for their lead. The result was exactly what happens when you don’t take your chances.
In truth, there was nothing Jose Mourinho’s team could have done about Lionel Messi. Actually there was a whole lot they could have done about his first goal. It was a poacher’s goal that came about by a defensive lapse by Real. The second goal, however, was another work of genius.
I’d hate to advocate the idea that the La Liga season can be as good as over even before we’ve hit Christmas, but the form of Real Madrid so far doesn’t suggest they’ll be thundering through the league campaign in the same way they did last season.
At this stage, there is still a title race between Barcelona and a Madrid team, but that team is second placed Atletico.
Ahead of this game with Celta Vigo, Mourinho is faced with a whole host of injury concerns.
That FIFA virus that all the big teams talk about has really hit Real Madrid big time. Not only are they without Alvaro Arbeloa for three weeks and Fabio Coentrao for a similar period of time, Marcelo is ruled out for three months with a metatarsal injury. The only upside is that the match against Barcelona is in the past.
That’s three of Real’s full-backs out with only Sergio Ramos available and likely to play at right-back. I was disappointed to see Mourinho let Daniel Carvajal leave for Bayer Leverkusen in the summer. He is a player out of the Real Madrid academy, but the manager is surely ruing the decision not to strengthen his full-back areas.
Cristiano Ronaldo also landed incredibly awkwardly against Barcelona while attempting an overhead kick. The rest of the game saw the Portuguese attacker move around slowly and clearly in some discomfort. Fortunately, Ronaldo did feature for Portugal during the international break, so there are few concerns there.
Sami Khedira was also injured on international duty and Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema picked up knocks too. Literally, the injury bug has dumped Barcelona and decided to set up camp at the Bernabeu.
I’m confident we’ll see a number of Castilla players for the match on the weekend, and fortunately Real Madrid’s next few weeks of league fixtures shouldn’t pose too great a problem.
Celta Vigo currently sit in 12th with three home wins but three away losses. Despite Real Madrid’s injury crisis, I don’t see Celta being any great threat for this game.
Surprisingly, Celta managed to get all three points from Sevilla in their last league game. The 2-0 win at home probably said more about Sevilla, though.
Celta’s main attacking threat will be striker Iago Aspas, who currently has three league goals. They also have Arsenal striker Park Chu Young on loan for the season.
What should be noted is how impressive Real Madrid’s attack has been in recent games. They scored four away to Ajax and five against Deportivo.
Real Madrid v Celta Vigo Betting Tips
The bookies’ odds demonstrate the massive task the away team have: Celta are 22/1 to win this with Coral, Bet365 and Blue Square. The draw is best at 9/1 (BetVictor). With Real at a biggest price of 1/7 with William Hill and Pinnacle, this preview needs to look elsewhere for value betting tips.