Real Betis v Real Madrid Preview
Estadio Benito Villamarin, Seville
MATCH IN A SENTENCE: Saturday’s match between Real Betis and Real Madrid features two sides headed in decidedly different directions, with Betis licking their wounds following a one-sided derby defeat and Real Madrid on a five-match winning run in La Liga.
BREAKDOWN: Their woeful start to the season now well behind them, Real Madrid will be going in search of their sixth league win in a row this weekend as they look to keep pace with Barcelona and Atletico Madrid atop the table.
Presently third in La Liga and five points adrift of city rivals Atletico, Madrid will be hosting Los Rojiblancos on December 1 and won’t want the gulf to grow any wider before then. They’ll also be hoping for a goal or two from Cristiano Ronaldo, who despite leading the team in scoring with 12 goals in the Primera Division hasn’t scored since the 2-1 win away to Levante on November 11.
On the other side of the ball Real Betis have cooled significantly after making a blistering start to the season. They’ve won just three of their last seven matches and on Sunday were thumped 5-1 at city rivals Sevilla.
They’ve been outscored 7-2 in their last two matches (they also lost 2-1 at home to Granada on November 9) and manager Pepe Mel admitted in his pre-match press conference that it was hardly an ideal time for his side to be going up against Madrid.
“It’s never a good time to play against Madrid,” he said. “The derby hit us both physically and mentally...It’s an uneven fight. Only through hope and doubling our efforts will we have a chance of getting something out of the game.”
ESSENTIALS: Real Betis will be without defenders Paulao and Mario for Saturday’s match while midfielder Ruben Perez is suspended.
Real Madrid are still without left-back Marcelo and striker Gonzalo Higuain is also injured and unlikely to feature.
KEY BATTLE: This is typically a case of “Ronaldo-v-who?” On Saturday the Portugal captain, who hasn’t been quite the same after sustaining an eye injury against Levante, will be going up against Betis right-back and countryman Nelson Marcos, who has been capped three times for the national team.
FORMATIONS: Both sides will deploy 4-2-3-1 formations. Mel will have Ruben Castro leading the line with Alejandro Pozuelo, Salva Sevilla and Juan Carlos behind him from right to left. Madrid boss Jose Mourinho will counter with Benzema up top and Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil and Angel Di Maria in support.
BETLINE: Real Betis 9/1; Draw 9/2; Real Madrid 2/7. Madrid have won each of their last four matches against Betis.