Five wins from five since their return. Title rivals in turmoil. Things are looking good for Zinedine Zidane and Real Madrid right now.
Their hard-fought 1-0 win over Espanyol on Sunday – thanks to Karim Benzema’s Guti-esque brilliance to tee up Casemiro for the winner – meant Los Blancos took full advantage of Barcelona’s slip-up at Celta Vigo the previous day.
The weekend’s victory means they currently sit two points ahead of La Blaugrana at the La Liga summit with just six games remaining.
However, a tough test lies ahead for Zidane’s men in the form of Jose Bordalas’ physical and intense Getafe side who, despite struggling since the return, picked up a massive three points against Real Sociedad at the weekend – continuing their own quest for Champions League qualification.
It may prove to be Real’s trickiest contest since La Liga’s resumption, and here’s the starting XI Zidane should go with for it.
Thibaut Courtois (GK) – The Belgian’s bounced back in style this term after a tricky debut campaign. He’s kept a league-high 15 clean sheets and allowed just two strikes past him in five games following the resumption. A shoo-in for the remainder of the campaign.
Dani Carvajal (RB) – Achraf Hakimi’s recent departure to Inter not only proves Carvajal is Real Madrid’s right-back of the present, but the future as well. His form has certainly come into question at times this term – most notably in the Champions League clash against Manchester City – but the Spaniard’s continued to show off his reliability since the restart.
Sergio Ramos (CB) – Ramos has shone at both ends of the pitch since Spanish football returned – helping Real maintain their mightily impressive defensive record all while scoring three times at the other end. On this occasion, he’ll have a confident Jaime Mata to contend with after the Getafe forward struck a match-winning brace against Sociedad last time out.
Raphael Varane (CB) – Arguably the best centre-back in football not called Virgil van Dijk. Next.
Ferland Mendy (LB) – After serving his one-game suspension last time out, Mendy’s back in contention for Thursday night’s encounter. We’ve only seen glimmers of his supreme talent down the Real left this term, but he should get a chance to showcase his stuff from the off in this one.
Casemiro (DM) – The key spoke in Zidane’s wheel. The importance of the Brazilian in this Real side can’t be underestimated and if he’s available, he’s the first name on the team sheet – with Karim Benzema a close second. The match-winner last time out, Casemiro will be crucial in shunning Getafe’s verticality in possession this time around.
Luka Modric (CM) – The Croatian’s Ballon d’Or powers are certainly starting to wane in the Spanish capital after some vintage displays in years gone by. Who knows, these final six games may prove to be Modric’s last hurrah in Madrid. Nevertheless, after missing the Espanyol clash due to suspension, Zidane will be keen to utilise a refreshed Modric on Thursday.
Toni Kroos (CM) – That’s right, the imperious triumvirate are back! Alongside Modric as Zidane ‘eights’, the pair will have to be alert to Bordalas’ fierce counter-press, while the German will be the man to penetrate the Azuolones typically compact defensive lines. Zidane’s metronome has also enjoyed a productive campaign in the final third this season, scoring four times and assisting a further five.
Gareth Bale (RW) – Come on Zizou, give Gareth a chance! The Welshman has notched just 100 minutes of action since the restart and looked bright in his only start against Mallorca. However, with Isco struggling last time out and Rodrygo out of favour, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Bale named in Zidane’s starting XI for this one.
Karim Benzema (ST) – The Frenchman may well be La Liga’s top performer this season, even superior to the greatest to ever do it. He’s been immense and his majestic form has resumed following the restart. No player has racked up more minutes than Benzema (2652) in La Liga this term.
Vinicius Junior (LW) – A major winner of La Liga’s resumption thus far, Vinicius should re-enter the fold after starring in Real’s victories over Sociedad and Mallorca. He enjoyed just a 26-minute cameo last time out but will likely displace Eden Hazard once more after the Belgian’s muted display in Catalonia.