Real Madrid travel to La Liga new boys Girona on Sunday knowing only a victory will do. Los Blancos lie third in the table at before the weekend’s action, and are five points behind leaders Barcelona and one behind surprise package Valencia.
Zinedine Zidane’s side have recovered fairly well after a stuttering start that saw them draw two and lose one at the Bernabeu, but it can be argued that los Blancos still haven’t hit top gear yet, despite breezing past Eibar 3-0 last weekend.
The giants have had their injury problems so far this season, but Zidane can welcome back the majority of his crocks for the game on Sunday, and will definitely be confident of a victory, with Madrid having won every game on their travels this season.
At the other end of the table Pablo Machín’s Girona side made a bright start to life in the big time, but faltered over the past few weeks – they did win last time out though against Deportivo away from home, leaving them 15th on nine points.
They will be hoping to make a mess of everyone’s weekend accumulators by causing a huge upset and stealing points off the visitors, and putting a large dint in Real’s title retention hopes.
It is the first time the two teams have ever faced each other before, so there is no head-to-head history to read into, but make no bones about it – Madrid are overwhelming favourites for this one.
Portu vs Casemiro
Arguably Girona’s best player this season has been Cristian Portugués Manzanera – more commonly known as Portu. The attacking midfield we seek to play off of Christhian Stuani and cause danger between the lines when in possession of the ball. Madrid’s Casemiro is a master of his trade though, and will likely make Portu’s evening a tricky one in terms of creativity.
Marcelo vs Pablo Maffeo
The young Spaniard on loan from Manchester City might have his work cut out against the best left-back in the world Marcelo, but does have plenty of pace as a means of trying to combat the Brazilian’s attacking threat.
Machín has a full roster to choose from for the game, subject to his team coming through their Copa del Rey clash with Levante unscathed.
The visitors will be without Gareth Bale who has been sidelined since late September with a troublesome calf problem. Mateo Kovacic is still out with a torn adductor, and Dani Carvajal remains out as he recovers from ill-health. Zidane should be set to welcome back Keylor Navas though after a groin strain, and Marcelo, Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos all appear to be fully recovered from their recent injuries.
Predicted Line Ups
Girona (3-4-3): Bounou/Ramalho, Bernardo, Juanpe/Maffeo, Pons, Aleix Garcia, Aday/Portu, Kayode, Borja Garcia.
Real Madrid (4-3-1-2): Navas/Fernandez, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo/Modric, Casemiro, Kroos/Isco/Ronaldo, Benzema.
Although the two teams have never faced before and therefore no history to go off, it is difficult to look past a Real Madrid win at Montilivi.
Los Blancos have been very strong on their travels despite various injuries and should have too much for Girona on Sunday as all their main superstars return following a midweek rest. Ronaldo will certainly be hoping to full kick-start his season given the way Messi has started at Barcelona.
Predicted Score: Girona 0-4 Real Madrid.