La Liga’s midweek round of fixtures begins with Elche facing the tough task of taking on hot-again Real Madrid at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday evening.
Real Madrid 1.07, draw 15.00, Elche 30.00 – Tuesday 19.00 GMT
Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has a potential selection headache at centre-back, as both Pepe and Sergio Ramos missed training on Monday morning. Raphael Varane therefore looks sure to keep his place, with home-grown youngster Nacho Fernandez standing by to partner him if required. Ancelotti has suggested he could rotate in midfield and attack, with Isco and Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez options to come in for James Rodriguez and Karim Benzema.
Elche’s coach Fran Escriba has admitted he is also likely to change his team, and he might view the coming Friday’s home game with Celta Vigo as a better chance of picking up points. On loan Chelsea youngster Mario Pasalic could come in to stiffen midfield, while right-back Damian Suarez has a hip problem so Domingo Cisma could be fielded out of position - and be up against Cristiano Ronaldo.
The mood around Madrid has turned around with the team scoring 13 goals in four days for the first time since 1964. The 5-1 Champions League hammering of Basel was spectacular; the 8-2 dismantling of Deportivo la Coruna on Saturday even more frightening. Neither opponent defended particularly well, and Ancelotti was quick to point out the performances were far from perfect, but both games are a reminder of what can happen when this array of Galactico attackers get going.
Elche have four points from their first four La Liga games, but a very fortunate win at Rayo Vallecano has masked what has not been a good start to the season. Last Friday’s limp 0-2 defeat at home to newly promoted Eibar suggests ‘Los ilicitanos’ are in for a tough campaign.
WHAT THE MANAGERS SAY
Ancelotti: “It is early to say that all has come out well. The result against Deportivo was good, but it could be misleading. We must improve in other aspects of the play.”
Escriba: “It would be crazy not to take a draw in advance. But if you say our chance to beat them is one in each 20 games, maybe this will be our time.”
Chicharito shooting on sight
Chicharito showed his eagerness to impress with two long strange strikes - the first a cracker, the second deflected - when entering late on on Saturday at Riazor. Ancelotti might prefer Karim Benzema’s more unselfish style, but the Bernabeu fans will be urging the on-loan from Manchester United man to shoot on sight again.
Elche’s new Polish goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton was whistled by his own team’s fans during Friday’s defeat, but is expected to keep his place in goal. A trip to the Bernabeu is not exactly ideal for a stopper who might be low on confidence.
This looks almost sure to be a stroll for Madrid. On Monday morning local sports paper AS reminded Blancos fans that their club’s record win of 11-2 came against Elche in 1959/60. While something similar shouldn’t be ruled out, a more routine scoreline of 4-1 seems more likely at a price of 16.00.
Madrid still look a bit away from full fitness, and their performance and concentration levels have dipped in each second half so far. So the away team to score after the break at 3.50 looks a big price.
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