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Match Preview: La Liga: Real Betis vs Real Madrid

Stadium: Estadio Benito Villamarin

Referee: Jesus Gil

Kick-off: 2:30 AM (IST), Sunday, 25th of November

SEVILLE, SPAIN – MARCH 10: Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid CF (R) scores his team’s third goal during the La Liga match between Real Betis Balompie and Real Madrid CF at Estadio Benito Villamarin on March 10, 2012 in Seville, Spain.

Fresh from their crucial point at the Etihad stadium, in the Champions League, Spanish champions Real Madrid travel to Sevilla, where they will take on Real Betis in a bid to reduce the gap between themselves and Barca to 5 points before the Catalans game on Sunday. Madrid are on a five match winning streak in their league campaign, and will go in as firm favourites against a Betis side that has suffered losses on both previous outings, first to Grenada, and then local rivals, Sevilla.

Betis currently sit sixth in the La Liga, having seen their early season form fizzle away and with 19 points, are 7 behind third placed Madrid. A win for Pepe Mel’s side could take them to fourth place, with tough fixtures for both Malaga and Levante, while a win for Mourinho’s men will take them to within two points of second placed Atletico who take on a buoyant Sevilla on Sunday.

Form

Real Betis: W L W L L

With just three wins in their last nine games in all competitions, Betis have huge concerns ahead of the visit of Los Merengues, to the Villamarin. Last time out, Betis saw their morale completely smashed with a 5 – 1 derby demolition at the hands of Sevilla, and finished the game with ten men on the pitch, leaving Ruben Perez ineligible to participate in tonight’s clash. The hosts also have a defensive crisis at hand, with Paulao, Mario and Perquis all unavailable, probably leading to Amaya and Dorado’s inclusion in the starting line-up. As a side that has conceded 22 goals in just 12 games already, and facing up to an attack that has been absolutely rampant, at least domestically, Pepe Mel can only hope for a miracle to save his team from inevitable defeat.

VALLADOLID, SPAIN – SEPTEMBER 17: Jorge Molina (R) of Real Betis duels for the ball with Victor Perez (L) of Valladolid CF during the La Liga football match between Real Valladolid CF and Real Betis Balompie at Jose Zorrilla on September 17, 2012 in Valladolid, Spain.

Real Madrid: W D W W D

With Champions League qualification finally assured, and nothing to be done about securing a better position in Europe, Jose Mourinho’s men can now refocus their efforts on making ground with Barcelona in the league. A slow start to the campaign has been well and truly forgotten at the capital club, with the 8-point gap being the only constant reminder of the same. With Barca facing a tricky fixture away to fouth placed Levante, Madrid have an opportunity to add pressure on their rivals by cutting the gap to five points, with their sixth league win in a row.

A repeat of their first half’s performance against English champions, Manchester City, in the midweek, should see the visitors sail comfortably through this fixture, and with 18 goals scored in their last five league fixtures, Mourinho will likely be more concerned with the margin of victory than anything else. Madrid also have the joint best defensive record this season in the La Liga, and seem unlikely to conceded against a Betis side that is likely to play much of the game on the backfoot.

Injuries, Concerns & Suspensions

Real Betis: Paulao Afonso, Damien Perquis, Mario Alvarez, Sergio Rodriguez, Ruben Perez.

Real Madrid: Gonzalo Higuain, Marcelo Da Silva.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 21: Karim Benzema of Real Madrid celebrates scoring the opening goal with team-mates Angel Di Maria (L) and Sami Khedira (R) during the UEFA Champions League Group D match between Manchester City FC and Real Madrid CF at the Etihad Stadium on November 21, 2012 in Manchester, England.

Key Clashes

Cristiano Ronaldo vs Nelson Marcos

 Astonishing though it may seem, with his average of more than a goal per game for Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo has now scored only once in his last five matches. Whether the cut over his eye has something to do with it or not, one will never know, but it is certain that the Portuguese star is due an excellent performance, to be rounded off by a couple of goals. Having been repeatedly fouled in midweek, Ronaldo will have been frustrated by his lack of scorig opportunities, and will be looking to make the most of a weakened Betis defence. He is likely to face off against fellow Portuguese player, Nelson Marcos, who will be hoping for a phenomenal improvement from last weekend’s woeful performance against Sevilla.

Benat vs Sami Khedira

 For a team that has been doing reasonably well going forward, defensive midfielder Benat has been the driving force, with two goals to his name, and a further four created for others. This is the same as Madrid’s top assist provider Benzema, and twice as much as any other Madrid player has managed to muster. Thus, while attention to defensive duties may be an area of concern, Benat can certainly afford to go forward, and try to test Casillas with his well taken long range efforts, as well as accurate long range passing. His likely opponent in the centre of the pitch, Sami Khedira, will need to be well aware of his defensive duties to ensure that Madrid do not get hit on the break, leaving Betis the opportunity to park the bus and try to play out the game.

What to expect

 A reasonably comfortable win for Real Madrid. The home side’s confidence has been left well and truly shaken by the derby pounding by Sevilla, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time, seeing as the Spanish champions are in town this weekend. With a defensive crisis at hand against the tricky, and skilled feet of the Madrid attack, the misery just seems to pile up for Real Betis, who will need to pull together as a team and put in the performances of their lives just to escape without a humiliating scoreline. Three points all but in the bag for Madrid already.

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