Malaga 10.50, Draw 5.75, Real Madrid 1.28 – Saturday 19.00 GMT
La Liga leaders Real Madrid travel to Malaga on Saturday evening looking to set a new club record 16 consecutive wins in all competitions, with everyone wondering just how long such a phenomenal run of form can lost.
Over those 15 wins Carlo Ancelotti's side have scored 57 goals and conceded just eight, and also come through tricky [on paper] fixtures including a clasico against Barcelona, two Champions League games against Liverpool and La Liga trips to Villarreal, Levante and Eibar [where they won 4-0 last weekend]. Madrid have been ahead at both half-time and full-time in eight of their last nine in La Liga, and rarely really looked in danger of even dropping any points.
However, even Ancelotti has admitted recently that Madrid's momentum must at least slow some time. And World Cup winning midfielder Toni Kroos letting slip after Wednesday's 1-0 Champions League win at Basel that he was starting to feel tired was a reminder that the Madrid side has not been rotated much through recent weeks, particularly in midfield and attack. Injury to Luka Modric, uncertainty over Sami Khedira, and the coach's apparent lack of faith in Javier Hernandez and Asier Illarramendi means the same front six plays more or less every game.
Ancelotti denied at his pre-game news conference that this was an issue.
“I do not see the team as tired,” he said. “It is a team who has recovered very well. We [only] need to rotate when the players are tired. Kroos will play as we need him. Then he might rest in the Copa del Rey.”
That seems a pretty clear statement from the Italian that he will field his strongest available side on Saturday. So the big guns up front, including the 20 goals in his first 11 La Liga games this season Cristiano Ronaldo, should all keep their places. At the back however Ancelotti has more options - so goalkeeper Iker Casillas and defenders Pepe, Dani Carvajal and Marcelo could all come back in after being rested at Basel.
Hosts Malaga had been in excellent form themselves through recent weeks, winning five on the bounce in La Liga, until that run ended with a deserved 3-1 defeat at Atletico Madrid last week.
Los Boquerones' coach Javi Garcia must plan without injured attackers Nordin Amrabat and Juanmi, while key box-to-box midfielder Nacho Camacho – whose performances lead to a first Spain cap this month – is suspended. Roque Santa Cruz scored against Atletico and should keep his place, while Isco's childhood friend and former teammate Recio looks set to come into midfield.
A lot will depend here on just how tired Kroos and his teammates really are.
Barcelona came to La Rosaleda in excellent form in September and that game finished 0-0. But the absences of Amrabat and Camacho in particular look a problem for Malaga's chances of doing something similar here. And Ronaldo still looks hungry for goals with Ballon D'Or voting season looming. Madrid might not have it all their own way, but the winning run should continue.
Predicted result: Malaga 1-3 Real Madrid at 11.50
Best bet: Both teams might start quickly here to try and set the game's narrative their way. So over 1.5 goals in the first half at 2.10 looks tempting.