La Liga 17/18 Gameweek 25: Real Madrid vs Alaves– Lineups, Preview and Prediction
A resurgent Real Madrid welcome on-form Alaves to the Bernabeu.
15:15 GMT, Saturday 24th February, Santiago Bernabeu (Madrid, Spain)
Real Madrid are beginning to reassert themselves in La Liga and have certainly looked more like the reigning champions in the last few weeks. Zidane’s side are unbeaten in their last six league games and have overtaken Valencia to move into third place. Los Blancos are still 14 points behind league-leaders Barcelona and the title is surely beyond them, yet they will certainly target surpassing second-placed Atletico Madrid, whom they trail by seven points.
An impressive 3-1 win in the Champions League over PSG has given Real Madrid’s season a renewed sense of purpose. The title may have passed them by, but they can still use strong performances in the league to build confidence to take into their European fixtures.
After spending the most part of this season in the bottom three, Alaves have turned around their form dramatically of late. El Glorioso come into this fixture on the back of three consecutive wins. They have beaten both Sevilla and Villarreal in the past two months and have quickly transformed themselves from relegation candidates to a comfortable mid-table side.
Alaves are now eight points clear of the drop zone and if they maintain their current form, then they could start to aim for a top-half finish.
Last Time Out
Leganes 1-3 Real Madrid (La Liga)
On Wednesday Real Madrid were finally able to play their game in hand, rescheduled due to their Club World Cup commitments in December. The win was comfortable in the end, with the visitors looking dominant throughout.
The team from the outskirts of Madrid took the lead after only six minutes, when Unai Bustinza took advantage of some post-set-piece chaos.
The away side were quick to respond, with Lucas Vasquez equalising only five minutes later, assisted by the impressive Casemiro.
Real took the lead on the half-an-hour mark, Casemiro sliding in to finish a wonderful passing move from the champions.
Matters were settled beyond any doubt when Sergio Ramos struck home a penalty in stoppage time to give Real Madrid all three points.
Alaves 1-0 Deportivo La Coruna (La Liga)
Alaves managed to take away an important win from a dull game last week. Neither side produced many meaningful opportunities and were ultimately separated by a moment of individual genius.
The defining moment came in the 61st minute, when Munir El Haddadi danced his way into some space before producing a clever finish to beat the rooted Ruben Martinez in goal.
Real Madrid Lineup
Zinedine Zidane will be forced into making a number of changes to the heart of midfield. Normal starters Luka Modric (hamstring) and Toni Kroos (knee) are unlikely to return until March.
Left back Marcelo (hamstring) looks set to be out for the next two months and defender Jesus Vallejo (thigh) is a major injury doubt for this Saturday.
The absence of suspended captain Sergio Ramos will come as a further blow and Nacho will most likely be called upon to deputise again.
Abelardo will be frustrated not to be able to play the suspended Munir El Haddadi, particularly after his starring role in last week’s win over Deportivo La Coruna.
There are still some doubts over the fitness of defensive duo Hector Hernandez (knee) and Carlos Vigaray (knee).
Key Battle: Casemiro (Real Madrid) vs Manu Garcia (Alaves)
Casemiro may not fall into the ‘Galacticos’ class, having signed for Real Madrid for only £5.4 million four years ago from Sao Paulo. The Brazilian has, however, been far more consistent this season than any of his more costly colleagues. He provides a sometimes flaky defensive line with cover but can also contribute to attacking phases.
Against Leganes in midweek, the 25-year-old was the star of the show, taking the lead in both attack and defence and directly contributing to two goals. Unsettling the defensive midfielder is the key to preventing Real Madrid from dominating matches.
Whenever a team finds themselves in a tight spot, they need to rely on senior players to pull them out of trouble. Manu Garcia has been that man for Alaves, bringing a real sense of assuredness to the midfield with both the robustness of his challenges as well as the tenacity of his pressing game.
The 31-year-old is a player who knows his own limits and does not seek to overplay and take risks. He was key to his side’s unlikely victory over Sevilla and will need to be at his best again on Saturday.
Time for the Real Madrid revolution to come early?
There has been much talk of a bust summer transfer window ahead for Real Madrid, with the likes of Gareth Bale potentially set to move on. There is a sense that this current crop of ‘Galacticos’ have reached their expiry date and that new blood is needed to freshen up the project.
The club’s hierarchy may, perhaps, be better of looking closer to home for reinvigoration. In the past few weeks, Marcus Asensio and Lucas Vasquez have done more than most of their illustrious teammates to build Real’s resurgence. Against PSG the pair were vital in securing the win and continue to demonstrate more desire and belief than some of Los Blancos‘ star players.
Will Alaves cope without Munir?
Munir El Haddadi will miss out on Saturday having picked up the maximum number of yellow cards in the league. The 22-year-old will be sorely missed, having scored six goals and provided five assists in La Liga this season. He has four goals in his last six games in all competitions and is undoubtedly the sharpest attacking threat in this Alaves outfit.
Greater responsibility will therefore fall upon the shoulders of Munir’s usual strike partner; John Guidetti. The Swedish international has only scored once since making his loan move from Celta Vigo and has not looked particularly clinical in front of goal. 25-year-old Ruben Sobrino will most likely replace Munir, a player who is yet to score this season. Even if Alaves can create chances on Saturday, they may lack the quality to finish them off.
Prediction: Real Madrid 3-1 Alaves
Alaves have played some brilliant football of late and will be in a confident mood heading to Madrid this weekend. The loss of Munir, however, will deal a real blow to their chances in a game where they must take every chance they create. Real Madrid are starting to look like the team who swept all before them last season. It could be tight in the initial stages, but Los Blancos will expect to come away with a comfortable victory.
Can Alaves cause a shock on Saturday?
Let us know in the comments section below…