Real Madrid is struggling in La Liga but could build some momentum entering the Champions League round of 16.

By 90Min
February 09, 2018

In what feels like the final distraction before the ultimate reckoning, Real Madrid will host Real Sociedad on Saturday at the Santiago Bernabeu, hoping to take some much needed confidence into Wednesday night's incomparably important Champions League clash.

The last thing Zinedine Zidane and his side want is for the merciless headlines and crisis talk to continue to be circulating in the build up to their fixture with a rampant PSG, and a win for that reason is as important as any other.

Real Sociedad have had an understandably substandard domestic season compared to their exploits last season, largely as a result of their subsequent Europa League involvement this campaign.

With their equally important upcoming first leg with Red Bull Salzburg occurring next Thursday, Saturday offers them a veritable free hit at exacerbating last year's Champions' increasingly dire plight, which will be unaided by the inclement weather that currently confines the country.


Classic Encounter

Real Sociedad are due a win against Real Madrid, statistically speaking. The Whites and Blues have an admirable record of 28 wins from the 147 times they've played against Madrid, which roughly translates to one in five.

Their current run without victory in this fixture stretches to six games, so it seems only fair that the classic encounter should be that last victory.

It was the second round of the 2013/14 season, and Madrid had burst into an early lead, with goals from Sergio Ramos and Gareth Bale putting them in a controlling position after just 11 minutes.

However, Sociedad were unafraid of the then (and current) European Champions, and struck back twice at the end of the half through Inigo Martinez and David Zurutuza to level the scores. 

The basque side then put in a stunning second half display, with Zurutuza grabbing the lead on the 65th minute, before Carlos Vela secured the victory with 15 minutes left to play, to send Madrid into a prescient 'crisis'.


Key Battle

Willian Jose v Nacho Fernandez

Brazilian striker Jose has 16 goals in his 28 appearances for Sociedad this season, and is fifth in La Liga's scoring charts with 11 goals domestically. With four goals in his last four games, he comes to the Bernabeu in red hot form.

The defender tasked with keeping him under wraps may be Nacho Fernandez, with Club captain Sergio Ramos a possible rest candidate in lieu of the PSG clash. Despite Nacho's increased involvement this season (he has played the second most minutes), he remains fallable, and Jose may be able to exploit it.

Marco Asensio v Diego Llorente

With one or both of Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale expected to be rested, Madrid's infamously precocious Spanish forward should get some much needed minutes. Despite starting the season in a similar vein to his breakthrough last year, the 22 year old has largely been unable to replicate that form consistently.

He is yet to start a game in 2018, and hasn't scored in La Liga since the first week of November. One of his principal adversaries on Saturday will be former Madrid defender Diego Llorente, who left for Sociedad in the summer. Incidentally, the center back has scored seven goals so far, only one less than Asensio.


Team News

Zidane has close to a full squad of players at his disposal, with only young defender Jesus Vallejo unavailable with a hamstring injury.

Meanwhile, Eusebio Sacristan will be without veteran midfielder (and classic encounter brace scorer) David Zurutuza, who also has hamstring trouble, while winger David Concha and Ruben Pardo remain absent through hip and ankle issues respectively.


Prediction

Despite Madrid's genuinely tumultuous season, and the proximity of the match that has essentially been being previewed since its announcement in November, they should prove too much for their upcoming opponents.

Having said that, with key names expected to be rested, and chemistry levels already strained, an early Sociedad goal could throw this game wide open.

Prediction: Real Madrid 3-1 Real Sociedad

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