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Real Madrid now have La Liga in their own hands, and as they travel to face Real Sociedad later this evening, Zinedine Zidane’s men know a victory will give them top spot in the league standings.

It promises to be an entertaining affair with plenty of talking points, but Madrid will no doubt kick-off in San Sebastian on the front-foot, considering how both teams have began after the Covid-19 lockdown. Los Blancos have won two games out of two, scoring three times in each match and have looked defensively solid, which has been a constant theme this season. In contrast, La Real were held to a 1-1 draw to Osasuna and followed that up with a 2-0 defeat to Alaves on Thursday. So far, post-lockdown football hasn’t worked out for every team, and Sociedad have most definitely been negatively impacted.

Madrid welcomed back Marco Asensio against Valencia, and he delivered with a goal and an assist in a short cameo as Real won 3-0. It was arguably the best overall performance from any team, since football resumed in and around Europe. Another positive for Madrid is the ever-growing partnership of Karim Benzema and Eden Hazard. The two forwards are on the cusp of something very special, and as their communication on the pitch evolves, Madrid’s chance creation and goals will no doubt increase too.


The last time these two sides met, Zidane made significant errors in his starting line-up, which allowed Sociedad to capitalise and it was an annihilation as Madrid were sent packing from the Copa del Rey. It was at a time when Madrid were also on a high in terms of confidence and rhythm, because they were enjoying a 21-game unbeaten streak in all competitions. Nacho played at right-back, Eder Militao was played instead of Raphael Varane, and James Rodriguez was given a nod in midfield. The tide was with Madrid, and yet they were beaten 3-4, which emphasises how important Zidane’s starting line-up will be.

The key talking point

Martin Ødegaard is vital to anything Sociedad attempt to do in the final third, and the Norwegian’s flat return from the lockdown has contributed to his team’s sluggish look. Before the pandemic, Sociedad were destined for UEFA Champions League football, and were one of the most entertaining teams in Europe. They didn’t always win games, but they were frequently excellent to watch, and were an analyst’s dream. When functioning as they should be, Imanol Alguacil’s side are technically brilliant, and they play very high up the pitch, breaking lines, with their overlapping full backs or wide players playing behind the lines. But for that to happen, they need rhythm, they need to be in sync, which simply hasn’t been there so far.

My guess is that Ødegaard will play, but that makes the inclusion of Ferland Mendy and Federico Valverde pivotal from a Madrid viewpoint. These are two players who have simply defined Madrid’s historic defensive record, and as Mendy is very difficult to dribble past, he solidifies the back four with the assistance of Casemiro and Valverde. Three players who will be crucial to Madrid tonight.

Another battle will be Hazard against Sociedad’s back-up right-back, whoever that may be in Joseba Zaldúa’s absence. The 27-year old will be a huge miss for the hosts, and with Hazard slowly evolving after his surgery, the Belgian is beginning to look more dangerous and more likely to make an impact. He has had two very good cameos so far in the two opening games, and it’s likely he’ll play another 70-80 minutes as Zidane slowly gets him match-ready. The chances are, he’ll play in his natural left-wing position, and therefore, whoever comes in to replace Zaldua will have a decisive job because Madrid – through Benzema, Hazard and Kroos – have looked extremely dangerous on the left flank against Eibar and Valencia.

La Liga form coming into the game

Real Sociedad: WWLWDL
Real Madrid:

The verdict

I think had this game been earlier in the season before the lockdown, Madrid may have dropped points. But there’s a different feeling about this Madrid, it’s as if Zidane has them tuned in a way they weren’t tuned before Covid-19. There’s a lot resting on this fixture, and I expect Madrid to be as professional as they were against Valencia. It certainly won’t be easy, because Sociedad need to get some form if they are going to secure European football, and with one point from a possible six so far, they’ll target this game as the catalyst to their fortune-changing run-in. But I think Madrid come into it looking really good, they’re playing like champions, and the returns of Asensio and Hazard really have boosted the team’s morale, and the team’s xG. Madrid should win this by two clear goals, but the stability created by Mendy, Casemiro and Valverde will be the difference between Madrid being top of the table or not.


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