Real Madrid need to find some rhythm and start a good run of winning form in the league. They have an excellent opportunity to do that when they welcome Real Zaragoza to the Bernabeu on Saturday night (7pm GMT).
Like their rivals in Catalonia, Real Madrid have done well in front of goal in their last two domestic games. However, like Barcelona, they continue to struggle with injuries in important areas of the pitch.
Xabi Alonso will be out of the game against Zaragoza with a muscle injury and without Sami Khedira as well, the midfield will look extremely unfamiliar.
You’ve got to question how much that will impact the rest of the attackers just ahead of the two central midfielders. Luka Modric will certainly play in one of the two deep-lying midfield roles, while Michael Essien seems to be the only logical option for the other place. The plus is that Modric had an impressive game against Mallorca.
Jose Mourinho is still without any recognised senior player for the left-back spot, and he’ll have little choice but to dip into the Castilla squad should Essien play in midfield.
Young left-back Nacho, who is a natural in that position, is more than likely to play. He was part of the starting XI when Real played Alcoyano in the Copa Del Rey and performed well. Zaragoza is a step up, but he should have plenty of protection from those around him.
The game against Mallorca last weekend was much more like it from Real Madrid, yet at the same time it was very unlike Joaquin Caparros’ side. Mallorca seemed to gift the game to Real and certainly surprised a few at how uninspired they were on the day.
But even with the 5-0 win for Real last weekend, it’s still not that same team of last year. That team were tearing across La Liga pitches, thundering through the league and genuinely looking imperious. This is a much slower, less assured Real Madrid. I’m certainly not banking on the win over Mallorca acting as a turning point for the season.
What should be noted is how well Gonzalo Higuain played, and he really needed it. The Argentina international opened the scoring before helping himself to another in the second half and assisting in two others. It was an excellent and clinical performance and one that Mourinho deserved for putting such faith in him earlier in the campaign.
Karim Benzema is also back in the team and back among the goals. He scored twice in Real’s 4-1 win in the Copa Del Rey on Wednesday.
With Real hosting Dortmund in the Champions League next week, Gonzalo Higuain is likely to start against Zaragoza in order to keep Benzema fresh.
But ahead of every Real Madrid match there always seems to be some sort of friction between Jose Mourinho and another party. At the moment it’s the media who are taking aim at the manager and his continued lack of faith in the youth players.
The Copa Del Rey saw Mourinho field three players from Castilla, two of whom were on the bench against Mallorca. But the criticism has been in playing Essien out of position when there are options in reserve.
On the Cristiano Ronaldo front, things seem to have gone quiet on the subject of his unhappiness. His scoring form has continued as he netted twice last weekend. That’s now a run of at least one goal in each of his last eight games for the club. Regardless of where Real Madrid end up this season, he’s certainly playing his part to keep pace with Lionel Messi at Barcelona.
Real do need to be on their guard when Zaragoza visit this weekend. The home side have won three of their last three in all competitions, notably with a home win against Sevilla.
The best way to describe Zaragoza’s form is patchy, with their only run of consistency coming in the last few weeks.
Former Tottenham striker Helder Postiga has scored in both of his last two league games, and like Mallorca did last week, Zaragoza may look to exploit Real’s left-back position in order to bring Postiga into play in the penalty area.
Real Madrid v Zaragoza Betting Tips Advice
Zaragoza (a whopping 28/1 with Stan James to win this match) should be a bigger test for Real this weekend than Mallorca were last week, although you’ve still got to count on Real Madrid for the win. The bookies see it as certain at a best price of 1/9 with BetVictor & Coral. The draw can be backed at 9/1 with Bet365 & Stan James.
- Zaragoza have scored in three of their last three games, while Real Madrid have only kept a clean sheet in two of their six games in October. Back both teams to score @ 5/4 with Boylesports.
- Ronaldo had a stunning record against Zaragoza last season with five goals in the two league games. Bet on him to score two or more goals @ 11/10 with SkyBet.