La Liga 17/18 Gameweek 24: Real Betis vs Real Madrid– Lineups, Preview and Prediction
Real Madrid look to continue their resurgence against a dangerous Real Betis side with the top six in their sights.
19:45 GMT, Sunday 18th February, Estadio Benito Villamarin (Seville, Spain) Sky Sports Football
Real Betis have finally begun to fulfil their undoubted potential, winning five of their last seven games. They have gone from an exciting yet inconsistent side to a team fully capable of qualifying for a place in next season’s European competition.
Betis are still great entertainers and their 3-5 win over Sevilla last month was one of the games of the season. If Quique Setien can maintain his side’s focus for the remainder of their fixtures then they may well end up bringing their attractive brand of football to the Europa League next season.
Much has been made of the importance of Real Madrid’s Champions League Last 16 meeting with PSG. With Real’s chances of winning the domestic title already over, many believe that the success of their season will be entirely defined by their results in Europe.
They must still, however, ensure that they do not let their league form slip so far that their place in next season’s elite European competition does not come under serious threat. Los Blancos have begun something of a recovery and have won three of their last four games. They are still not secure in fourth-placed, but are certainly looking more like the reigning champions.
Last Time Out
Deportivo La Coruna 0-1 Real Betis (La Liga)
Real Betis found themselves involved in a somewhat dull fixture last week, something which has been a rarity this season.
The visitors dominated possession but were uncharacteristically blunt in attack and had to rely on a smart finish from Loren Moron in the 54th minute to secure all three points.
Real Madrid 3-1 PSG (Champions League Last 16-First Leg)
In a tie that had been built up as the defining moment of Real Madrid’s season, they were able to come up with the goods.
Los Blancos found themselves behind after half-an-hour when Adrien Rabiot found himself unmarked to score.
A penalty converted by Cristiano Ronaldo gave the home side an equaliser on the verge of half-time.
The second-half lacked quality from either side, but Real Madrid managed to put themselves in control of the tie, with two late goals from Ronaldo and Marcelo.
Real Betis Lineup
Quique Setien has been able to pick a settled side of late, but is still without several key players.
Striker Joel Campbell (knee) is not yet back to full fitness and there are also doubts over the availability of attacker Ruben Castro (chest) to play this weekend.
Winger Antonio Sanabria (meniscus) and defender Zouhair Feddal (achilles) remain long-term injury absentees.
More positively, winger Antonio Barragan should be fit to take his place in the starting lineup.
Real Madrid Lineup
Zinedine Zidane has a relatively injury free squad to pick from at present.
The only serious absentees are defender Jesus Vallejo (thigh) and midfielder Toni Kroos (knee).
There is likely to be some rotation as Madrid have had a busy schedule in the last few weeks. Squad players such as Lucas Vasquez may be given the chance to impress.
Key Battle: Loren Moron (Real Betis) vs Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
Striker Loren Moron has been at Real Betis for three seasons, yet only made his debut a fortnight ago. The 24-year-old could hardly have made a more impressive start to life in the first team and has scored three goals in his first two appearances, winning his side six points almost single-handedly.
In the absence of Antonio Sarabia and Joel Campbell, Loren has had to take scoring responsibility immediately. So far the signs suggest that Betis have unearthed another attacking talent. It is now up to Loren to show that he is not a one-hit-wonder.
Against PSG in midweek, Ronaldo once again came to Real Madrid’s rescue, adding two more important Champions League goals to his collection. It has been a tough season for the Portugues forward who has scored only eleven goals in La Liga so far, a disappointing return by his outrageous standards.
In recent weeks, however, he has exploded back into form, scoring nine goals and providing two assists in his last five games in all competitions, including four man-of-the-match displays. Real Madrid will be hoping that Ronaldo is peaking in time for the business end of the season. He will certainly be the man to stop on Sunday.
Can Real Betis repeat their early season heroics?
The crowing glory of Real Betis’ brilliant start to the season was undoubtedly their 0-1 victory over Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, back in September. In that game, Betis were more than happy to allow their opponents the majority of possession and were able to rely on the constant threat of their counterattacking play.
Whenever Betis had the ball at their feet, they attacked with unrelenting energy, creating all kinds of defensive doubts amongst the Real Madrid defence. The wing backs, Marcelo and Dani Carvajal were frequently caught out and Betis were able to easily exploit Real’s high defensive line.
Zinedine Zidane’s side will of course be even more determined to gain victory on Sunday to avenge this early season loss. Betis may well be able to rely on the memory of glory in Madrid to give them to confidence to take on their more illustrious opponents.
Real Madrid back amongst the goals
Having struggled for fluidity for much of this season, Real Madrid have looked far more dangerous in attack of late. Los Blancos have scored 22 goals in their last six games, including 7-1 and 4-1 wins over Deportivo La Coruna and Valencia respectively.
The return to a goal-scoring form of Cristiano Ronaldo coupled with an extended period of fitness for Gareth Bale has brought more confidence to Real Madrid’s attacking play. Against PSG midweek, Zidane’s side looked to have regained their offensive single-mindedness and were ultimately too much for the French champions to withstand.
Real Betis have one of the least organised defences in the division and a resurgent Real Madrid attack may well find the space available behind the defensive line to cut loose.
Prediction: Real Betis 1-2 Real Madrid
Real Betis have looked more consistent in recent weeks and will surely draw confidence from their early season triumph against Sunday’s opponents. Real Madrid are still playing below their own high standards set last season, but are starting to find their rhythm. It could well be an exciting spectacle, but Madrid should be able to make their superior technical qualities count.