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Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images
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Real Madrid are back in action later this evening as they host Deportivo Alaves at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano, and will be looking to clinch all three points to restore their four point cushion over rivals Barcelona at the summit of La Liga.

The squad announcement confirmed Zinedine Zidane has both stars, Eden Hazard and Vinicius Junior, available for today’s contest, but will have to do without Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal – who ironically scored a goal each in Madrid’s 2-1 win over Alaves back in November.

Just like in that contest, and in many others against powerful top-heavy sides, it’s likely Alaves will approach this match on the back-foot, looking to damage Madrid on the counter-attack. And indeed, that was their tactic against Atletico Madrid, in a game they would eventually lose 2-1, due to their weakness in defending set-pieces.

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The visitors head to the capital in the worst possible form and confidence, losing their previous five matches, and six of seven since the restart. Asier Garitano’s men have also only scored once in their last five games, and that was from the penalty spot.

Ultimately it’s a side which shouldn’t trouble Real a great deal, and the absences of Ramos and Carvajal should be attended to fairly safely by Zidane. The positive for Zidane is that this game comes at the right time to raise their own confidence levels in front of goal. Madrid’s last three wins have come courtesy of slender 1-0 scorelines, and although they have been comfortable in defending their advantages in those three games, this game will give them the chance to let loose.

The key talking point

Zidane has a really good chance to build the confidence of his players in front of goal. Players like Vinicius, Rodrygo Goes and Marco Asensio are capable of causing a lot of damage to Alaves who do leave a lot of space behind their defensive lines, and with the technical ability of Madrid’s midfielders, it should be a matter of how many goals Madrid score, and not a question of the final result. Whether or not Zidane gives Hazard or Gareth Bale a chance, it could be an opportunity for the pair to get involved in this crucial phase, with Real needing eight points from the next 12 to seal the title – if Barcelona win their remaining three games.

I think we’re likely to see a front three of Vinicius, Karim Benzema and Rodrygo, which should cause Alaves a lot of issues, in a game which Madrid should look to kill off in the first period. Raphael Varane and Eder Militao will also have chances from set-pieces, an area where today’s visitors struggle.

La Liga form coming into this game

Real Madrid: WWWWWW
Deportivo Alaves:
WLLLLL

The verdict

Madrid’s final three games after this one will see them lock horns with Granada, Villarreal and Leganes, three potentially tricky games, considering two of them are away from home. Tonight will likely be their final opportunity to score freely, and play with a free-attacking spirit, and I’d like to see either a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1, either formation should allow them to hit Alaves heavily with the attacking talent available to Zidane. Considering Alaves are currently three points above the relegation zone, with games against Getafe and Real Betis to come, they might feel as if they have more of a chance to sneak a point against those two rather than against Madrid, and Barcelona on the final matchday, so could we see changes made against Los Merengues in order to focus on those two? There’s a possibility, because they did the same against Atletico too, but regardless of how Alaves set-up, I think this should be a pretty comfortable win for Madrid, and I would be surprised if they don’t score at least three.

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