I don’t know if you’ve heard, but things aren’t going too well at the Santiago Bernabéu. The Spanish champions are now technically closer to relegation than they are to Barcelona in the current La Liga standings, with a 19-point gap separating the fierce rivals.
After his team lost 1-0 to Villareal last Sunday, Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos told BeIN Sports that the team’s main priority is to now focus on qualifying for the Champions League next year.
On top of all that, rumours continue to swirl that talisman Cristiano Ronaldo is in the midst of packing his bags, which is just another problem Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane can chuck on his ever-growing pile.
One factor the Frenchman can take solace in is that the visitors to the Spanish capital on Sunday, Deportivo de La Coruña, aren’t faring too well this season either. Depor are currently 18th in the league and have recorded only one victory in their past seven games – a 1-0 win against Leganes back in mid-December.
Can the Galician’s visit to Santiago Bernabéu offer Zidane some much-needed respite? Here are some points to consider ahead of Sunday’s clash…
The last time the two teams met made for an eventful encounter, with Madrid picking up a 3-0 win back in August – the first game of the 2017/18 campaign.
Gareth Bale scored Los Blanco’s first goal of the season for the third campaign in a row on the day, with Casemiro and Kroos bagging a goal a piece as well.
However, jubilation was ceased to a halt when Sergio Ramos earned himself a red card in extra time, which perhaps proved a harbinger for Madrid’s subsequent La Liga downfall.
Another meeting between the two that was definitely one for the goal fest enthusiast – or Real Madrid fan, really – would be when Madrid dished out an 2-8 drubbing back in September 2014. The Madrid goal scorers on the day consisted of Ronaldo, with a hat-trick, Bale and Javier Hernández with a brace respectively, and James Rodríguez with a trademark peach from outside the area.
Gareth Bale vs Lucas Pérez
Madrid have failed to find the back of the net in four of their last eight games, suffering from their usual reliable goal scorer, Ronaldo, enduring a dip in form. The Portuguese striker has found the back of the net just four times in the league this season.
With that in mind, Los Blanco’s famously goal-hungry home fans will be demanding that second-in-command goal threat, Gareth Bale, gets on the score sheet. Zidane left Ronaldo, Bale and Karim Benzema out of the Real Madrid squad for Thursday’s 1-0 Copa del Rey quarter-final win against Leganes.
This should mean the Welshman will be well and rested, although he is still finding his feet since being sidelined through injury for most of the season.
Premier League fans will be familiar with Lucas Pérez, who currently plays up top for Deportivo.
The 29-year-old Arsenal man, who is currently out on loan, scored only one goal in 11 league appearances for the Gunners last year, but the Spanish striker has clocked four goals and one assist for Deportivo in La Liga – on par with Ronaldo goal-wise.
While those stats may not strike fear into the hearts of Real Madrid fans, if their team continues to fail to find the back of the net, perhaps the one goal from the Depor forward could clinch a momentous win for the team from the north of Spain, despite Deportivo having won just one of their last 32 La Liga games at the Bernabéu.
All being well, skipper Sergio Ramos should make his return to the starting line-up after being ruled out for a few weeks due to a calf problem. Should he still be injured, fellow Spaniard Nacho Hernandez will be expected to deputise.
With Zidane choosing to rest the BBC during the 1-0 midweek Copa Del Rey win against Leganes, and Karim Benzema reportedly set to return after a hamstring injury, it’s looking like the star-studded front line could be back in full force.
Deportivo manager Cristobal Parralo has no fresh injury concerns heading into the fixture. However, he will be without midfielders Fede Cartabia (long-term injury) and Federico Valverde (ineligible to play due to being on loan from Real).
In all seriousness, while Real Madrid are currently enduring a well-documented rough patch – well, it would have been tough to out-perform last year’s trophy-laden season – it is to be expected that they’ll get that dastardly monkey off their back any match now.
Although Los Blancos lost to Villareal last weekend, it wasn’t for want of trying. Madrid had 28 attempts at goal on the day, more than any other team in La Liga has in a single game this season.
This reassuring factor, paired with the fact that Depor are floundering at 18th place in the table and have picked up just one win in their last 10 games, means that this could provide a promising opportunity for Zidane’s men to get themselves a vital victory. However, should they fail to win, there will no doubt be sightings of the dreaded white handkerchiefs fluttering at the Bernabéu.
Prediction: Real Madrid 3-0 Deportivo