Match Preview: Real Madrid vs Elche CF
Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images
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Real Madrid will be looking to get back to winning ways in La Liga, as the defending champions host Elche at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano later this afternoon at 16:15 CET.

Zinedine Zidane’s men suffered a disappointing 1-1 draw against Real Sociedad, a game which they could and probably should have won. Madrid dominated La Real, and a tactical mishap from Zidane allowed the Basques back into that momentarily for their equaliser, before Madrid began dominating again and got the equaliser. They followed that up with a better performance against league leaders Atletico Madrid at the Wanda Metrapolitano, but that 1-1 result didn’t really help Real, as much as it did Barcelona. As a consquence of picking up only two points from a possible six, they find themselves in third place, two points behind Barca, and eight behind Atletico.

Elche come into this game sitting in 17th place, just two points above the drop-zone, but they do have a game in hand over the bottom three clubs. They’ve only won once from their previous three games, but what a victory it was, as they put defeats against Barcelona (3-0) and Granada (2-1) behind them, to recover and defeat Sevilla 2-1 on Saturday. It’s a team that likes to takes to risks, and often, they do get their rewards in the form of goals, but they also have a bad habit of conceding and opening up.

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The key talking point

Reports in Spain suggest Zidane is angling towards resting Luka Modric, with one eye on their second leg against Atalanta on Tuesday. That would obviously mean either Federico Valverde or Isco play in that third midfielder role, next to Toni Kroos and Casemiro. It could also be a match which sees the return of Eden Hazard and Sergio Ramos, but it wouldn’t be a suprise to see the two Brazilians – Rodrygo Goes and Vinicius Junior – starting either side of Karim Benzema.

Elche are typically a side which leave gaps when defending set-pieces, and that’s where Madrid will obviously look to capitalise. Even during their win against Sevilla, Luuk de Jong’s consolation goal was a result of this, they don’t deal with crosses well, and Madrid are a team which heavily relies on crossing. One thing to note was that Fran Escribá had his team pressing quite high on Sevilla in possession, and that’s how they got their reward and the opening goal. So it would be preferable for Madrid to play Valverde instead of Isco, unless Zidane wants to capitalise on counter-attacking transitions, which is a risky approach when you’re at home and you’ve got all the tools to attack from the first whistle.

The focus for Zidane will be on giving Ramos, Valverde, Rodrygo and Hazard the necessary minutes since their recoveries from injury, only time will tell if they can be ready to start against Atalanta.

Team news

Some good news for Zidane, Ramos and Hazard are back in the squad, as is Eder Militao. Marcelo remains out and picked up a fresh set-back, while Dani Carvajal, Alvaro Odriozola and Mariano Diaz continue their respective recoveries.

For the visitors, Escriba will most likely field an unchanged line-up to the one which beat Sevilla. Midfielder Emiliano Rigoni is a miss though, who’s hamstring injury rules him out.

The last time they met?

Luka Modric put Madrid ahead with a diving header after Marco Asensio’s shot smashed against the cross-bar. But the first half lead was cancelled out after the break when Carvajal conceded a penalty for a foolish foul in the box, and Fidel Chaves stepped up to equalise. In the end, they proved to be a tricky opponent for Madrid, who did create chances in the first half and second to score a number of goals.

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