Title chasers Real Madrid will welcome Real Sociedad to the Santiago Bernabéu on Sunday evening. Canales is finally back on the squad list after being left off for some weeks due to injury as well as a coaching decision. Both, Ramos and Pedro Léon will be forced to watch from the stands, as the former is suspended while the latter was left off due to the coach’s decision. When these two teams met back in September in week three of the league, Real Madrid escaped the Anoeta with a marginal 2-1 victory and were perhaps very fortunate to come away with all points- after all it was a very lackluster performance from the whites. A spectacular goal from Di María gave Los Blancos the lead against the Basques but that goal was later cancelled out by Raúl Tamudo with a real poacher’s effort. However, it took a late goal by Ronaldo (may have been Pepe, as Ronaldo’s shot might have taken a slight deflection off the center back) to hand Real Madrid the victory.
Real Madrid have been superb at home, winning ten out of their ten games at the Bernabéu. Even more impressive is the brilliant 146 games unbeaten home record that coach Mourinho has in league spanning over a nine year period- his last and only home loss occuring February 23, 2002 when his Porto side were defeated 3-2 by Beira-Mar. The home side will be keen on keeping the boss’ streak alive, as well, continue their stronghold at the Bernabéu. Additionally, a win is paramount for the hosts if they are to remain hopeful of winning the league this season and keeping pace with leaders Barcelona. Also, to avoid further embarrassment, after that loss last weekend to an inferior Osasuna team.
Interestingly, Real Sociedad have only won four of their 66 competitive games at the Bernabéu. Their last victory coming on the final day of the season in the 2003-04 season, embarrassing the host team 4-1 – a brace from Xabi Prieto and one a piece from Kovacevic and De Paula were enough for the away side on the night with Figo grabbing a consolation goal from the penalty spot for the whites.
Real Sociedad’s last visit to the Bernabéu was in the 2006-07, where the two met on match day three winning 2-0 with goals by Beckham and Reyes in the 69th and 89th minute respectively. Casillas and Ramos are the only players from that day to still be a part of the current Real Madrid squad. While, Real Sociedad’s Labaka, Aranburu, Xabi Prieto and Rivas are the only players still with the team from that last meeting. A similar margin of victory will suffice for the hosts on Sunday, especially since our cross-town rivals, Atlético Madrid have once again displayed their willingness to sabotage us by succumbing to yet another defeat in the Camp Nou on Saturday evening.
If Real Madrid are to have a good game a number of players will need to be at their best. We will need the accurate passing from deep-lying playmaker and former Real Sociedad player, Xabi Alonso, Özil’s “avatar eyes”, “human-calculator brain” and impeccable passing will need to be ten-fold, Ronaldo’s ruthlessness in front of goal must continue while Benzema needs to find that consistent form if he is to remain at the club. Di María’s threatening runs down the flanks will also be important for the whites.
The young, Antoine Griezmann will be the key for Real Sociedad, as he’s been thus far. He was the main protagonist for the away team when these two first met in September and should have had at least two goals against Real in that game. Xabi Prieto’s vision and accurate passing will also be of importance if the away team intend on unsettling the hosts.
The squad list for Real Madrid is as follows:
Goalkeepers: Casillas, Adán, Mejías
Defenders: Carvalho, Marcelo, Arbeloa, Albiol and Garay
Midfielders: Khedira, Alonso, Lass, Granero, Canales, Gago, Kaká, Özil, Di María
Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo, Adebayor, Benzema
Real Sociedad’s squad list is as follows:
Goalkeepers: Bravo, Zubikarai
Defenders: Carlos Martinez, Dani Estrada, Mikel Gonzalez, Labaka, Ansotegi, Demidov, De la Bella
Midfielders: Xabi Prieto, Sarpong, Markel, Rivas, Elustondo, Zurutuza, Griezmann
Forwards: Tamudo, Agirretxe