Real Madrid attempt to maintain their 100% start to the season on Saturday evening when they welcome local rivals Leganes to the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.
A 4-1 victory over an impressive Girona last time out will give Julen Lopetegui’s side some much-needed confidence following their disappointing pre-season – even if for 60 minutes the lesser Catalonians seemed in control – and offer the reigning Champions League holders something to build on ahead of the visit of the Cucumber Growers.
So, ahead of this weekend’s showdown in the Spanish capital, let’s take a look at all you need to know…
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Real Madrid 1-2 Leganes (Copa del Rey, January 2018)
After restricting their mighty neighbouring Los Blancos to just a one-goal advantage during the first leg of their Copa del Rey quarter final, Leganes made the 23.9km trip from Estadio Municipal de Butarque into Madrid’s beating heart with a glimmer of hope.
Following Karim Benzema cancelling out Javier Eraso’s unlikely 31st minute opener shortly after half-time – which, with the aggregate scores at 1-1, had the outright underdogs heading for extra time – the outlook seemed bleak.
However, a mere eight minutes later, Gabriel Pires’ strike secured Los Pepineros’ most famous victory in the club’s history to date – knocking Real Madrid out of the Copa del Rey on away goals in the process – and confined Zinedine Zidane’s men to their third domestic trophyless campaign in four years.
Gareth Bale vs Jonathan Silva
When joining Leganes on loan from Sporting Club over the summer, Jonathan Silva – who spent the second half of last season with Champions League semi finalists Roma – will have eyed outings such as this weekend’s as opportunities to showcase his talents to the world.
However, to do so, the 24-year-old will have to overcome an in-form Gareth Bale, who netted his second in as many games against Girona last Sunday after utilising his raw pace and positional experience to convert a superb counter attacking goal.
And if Silva is to impress, he will have to learn from the mistakes of the Catalonians’ Marc Muniesa from last Sunday to avoid enduring a similar fate.
Jesus Vallejo is set to be welcomed back into Lopetegui’s matchday squad for the visit of Leganes after overcoming a muscular injury, although it is unlikely the 21-year-old will feature from the outset.
Neither Raphael Varane nor the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year winner Luka Modric have been able to recapture their starting spots from Zidane’s tenure under their new coach as of yet following their respective World Cup exploits, with speculation suggesting that both could be eyeing pastures new before the end of the European summer transfer window.
However, if the pairing are indeed still with the club following Friday’s deadline, it would not be a surprise to see Lopetegui call on his big guns in an attempt to keep the pressure on reigning champions Barcelona.
Thibaut Courtois, meanwhile, may well have to endure more time on the substitutes’ bench despite his big-money summer move from ?Chelsea, with Keylor Navas expected to retain his place in Los Blancos’ starting XI.
For the visitors, both Jose Manuel Arnaiz and Alexander Szymanowski are doubts heading into the Madrid derby, although the club’s priority firmly lies in nurturing 32-year-old Nabil El Zhar through games following his all-important brace during Leganes’ 2-2 draw with Real Sociedad last time out.
Potential Real Madrid Lineup: Navas; Carvajal, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo; Casemiro, Modric, Isco, Asensio, Bale; Benzema
Potential Leganes Lineup: Cuellar; Juanfran, Munoz, Siovas, Silva; El Zhar, Perez, Gumbau, Ojeda, Goni; Carrillo.
Following Real Madrid’s 4-2 defeat in the UEFA Super Cup at the hands of Atletico Madrid, the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo, and the media frenzy surrounding Lopetegui’s appointment ahead of Spain’s World Cup campaign, things looked bleak around the Bernabeu heading into the 2018/19 term.
However, the 52-year-old has managed to assert a balance into Los Blancos’ XI which even Zidane could not achieve during his decorated tenure – despite the defensive cracks shown against Girona last weekend.
And the additional firepower from the seemingly rediscovered Bale should mean Leganes do not prove to be the same tricky customers this time around compared to when the two sides met in January.
Score Prediction: ?Real Madrid 3-0 Leganes