Real Madrid v Real Zaragoza Preview
Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid
MATCH IN A SENTENCE: Real Madrid could be a whopping 11 points back of La Liga leaders Barcelona by the time this match kicks off, so they’ll no doubt want to make sure to beat Zaragoza and trim that deficit back to eight as quickly as possible.
BREAKDOWN: Real Madrid haven’t lost in the league since a 1-0 defeat at Sevilla in mid-September and since drawing with Barcelona at Camp Nou on October 7 have won their last two Primera Division matchups by a combined 7-0 scoreline.
That said, the Meringues’ start to the season was so woeful that they can ill afford another slip-up, and to ensure that doesn’t happen Jose Mourinho has challenged each of his players to increase the quality of their performances going forward.
“To win we must play well,” stated the Madrid manager in his pre-match press conference. “When we don’t, we don’t win. Other teams have more luck, in certain details, and can win without playing well.”
In Zaragoza, Madrid will find a stubborn opponent on Saturday. Manolo Jiminez’ side ousted Granada from the Copa del Rey on Wednesday and are coming off back-to-back wins in La Liga as they arrive in the capital.
They’ve struggled to find the back of the net, however, and four of the nine goals they’ve scored in nine matches have come from Portugal international Helder Postiga.
ESSENTIALS: Madrid full-backs Marcelo, Alvaro Arbeloa and Fabio Coentrao are still unavailable through injury, as is midfielder Sami Khedira. Xabi Alonso is suspended after an accumulation of yellow cards.
Zaragoza are without injured defenders Ivan Obradovic and Maurizio Lanzaro, while midfielder Adam Pinter is unavailable as well.
Jose Mourinho criticised Real Madrid’s youth strategy in his Friday press conference, stating that as only “two players at the most from the Real Madrid youth system participated in the last three Champions League [competitions]” the setup needed to improve significantly.
KEY BATTLE: Cristiano Ronaldo is Madrid’s form attacker these days and should enjoy a favourable matchup against Zaragoza’s Romanian right-back Cristian Sapunaru on Saturday.
FORMATIONS: Mourinho will deploy his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation with Karim Benzema up top and Ronaldo, Ozil and Angel Di Maria in support. Jimenez will also go 4-2-3-1 and will have Franco Zuculini, Victor Rodriguez and Francisco Montanes just behind Postiga.
BETLINE: Real Madrid 1/12; Draw 9/1; Real Zaragoza 25/1. Madrid were 3-1 winners in this fixture last season, although Zaragoza did manage a win on this ground in April 2011.