Sports Mole previews Sunday’s La Liga clash between Real Madrid and Real Betis, including team news and predicted
Real Madrid will look to end what has been a disappointing 2018-19 season on a positive note when they welcome Real Betis to the Bernabeu in La Liga on Sunday.
Madrid will end the campaign in third position in the table, while Betis occupy 10th after a disappointing run of form has seen them fall off the pace in the battle for a European finish.
A record of 21 wins, five draws and 11 defeats from their 37 La Liga matches is an indication of Madrid’s problems this season. Los Blancos will end the campaign in third, which was also the case last term, but they will be at least five points worse off than their total at the end of the 2017-18 season.
Atletico Madrid have once again been Barcelona’s closest challengers, but the Catalan giants have won the league in fairly comfortable fashion once more. As it stands, the reigning champions are a huge 18 points ahead of Madrid, but that could reach 21 if results go against Zinedine Zidane‘s side on the final weekend.
There is a huge, huge gap for Madrid to bridge when it comes to the league. In many ways, the club’s incredible European success in recent years has papered over the cracks – that was not the case this season, though, and there is no getting away from the fact that it has been a hugely disappointing campaign.
Madrid have only won once in the league since April 21, suffering defeats away to Rayo Vallecano and Real Sociedad in two of their last three matches. Los Blancos have won each of their last five games in front of their own supporters, though, and will be keen to end the season on a high this weekend.
Losing to Ajax in the last-16 stage of the Champions League was a huge blow, but a trophy-less campaign was perhaps required to really force the club into some big changes this summer. Zidane has already returned for his second spell in charge and it is set to be a huge transfer window for the club.
Eder Militao will be arriving from Porto, while it has been reported that Madrid have also secured a deal for Eintracht Frankfurt forward Luka Jovic. Add Chelsea’s Eden Hazard into the mix and suddenly things are looking a lot brighter for the European champions ahead of the 2019-2020 campaign.
Sunday could well mark Gareth Bale‘s final match for the Whites – if he is indeed involved. The Wales international is not in the plans of Zidane moving forward and the Spanish giants are said to be doing all they can to ensure that the attacker is not a part of the first-team squad next season.
It has not been the campaign that the supporters would have wanted, but the future does look bright for a team who have incredibly only won La Liga once in the last seven years.
Recent form: DWDLWL
Betis impressed many with their performances last term – ultimately claiming a top-six finish in La Liga. The Spanish club were therefore present in this season’s Europa League, but were eliminated in the first knockout round of the competition by French side Rennes.
Los Verdiblancos reached the semi-finals of this season’s Copa del Rey, meanwhile, where they lost 3-2 to Valencia on aggregate. It has been a busy campaign in terms of volume of matches and it is perhaps not that surprising that the team’s league form has suffered in recent months.
Indeed, Betis have only won one of their last six games in Spain’s top flight – that was a 2-1 home success over Huesca last weekend, but results since the turn of the year have been largely disappointing.
Thirteen wins, eight draws and 16 defeats – that is how Betis have performed in the league this season. A total of 47 points has left them in 10th position, level on points with 11th-placed Alaves. The Green and Whites could finish as low as 13th if results go against them this weekend, which would be a huge disappointment.
Only Celta Vigo (11), Huesca (11) and Rayo Vallecano (14) have actually lost more away games than Betis (10) during the 2018-19 La Liga season. Their form on the road has been a problem throughout the campaign, but they did record a 1-0 victory when they last travelled to the Bernabeu in September 2017.
There remains huge uncertainty surrounding the future of head coach Quique Setien. Indeed, it has been claimed that Betis could decide to sack the Spaniard this summer, but there has not yet been an official announcement on the future of the 60-year-old, who still has a year to run on his deal.
The goals have been shared out this season, with midfielders Giovani Lo Celso and Sergio Canales scoring 16 times between them in the league. Loren Moron has only managed five, though, while Cristian Tello and Antonio Sanabria have registered just six between them in Spain’s top flight.
Betis are certainly a lot better than they have shown in recent weeks and there is no question that a win at the Bernabeu would give their fans plenty of reasons to be cheerful ahead of the summer window.
Recent form: LLLDLW
Madrid captain Sergio Ramos has not been involved in a La Liga match since the start of March due to a hamstring problem, missing his team’s last seven top-flight fixtures. The centre-back is expected to return this weekend, though.
Keylor Navas missed the defeat at Sociedad with a muscular problem, but the Costa Rica international is also expected to start on what could be his farewell appearance.
Alvaro Odriozola remains on the sidelines with a broken collarbone, though, while Jesus Vallejo‘s red card against Sociedad and Casemiro‘s yellow means that both are suspended for this match.
It remains to be seen whether Bale is involved this weekend, but it would be a surprise if the Welshman did not make the bench as he prepares to say goodbye to the Bernabeu.
Elsewhere, Raphael Varane should return after being left out against Sociedad, while Vinicius Junior, Luka Modric and Federico Valverde could be handed starting spots.
As for Betis, midfielder Canales and full-back Antonio Barragan are unavailable through ankle and foot injuries respectively, while 37-year-old Joaquin will miss out through suspension.
Jese Rodriguez is an option for Setien, but the head coach could decide to switch formation and bring Portugal international William Carvalho into the middle of the park.
Real Madrid possible starting lineup:
Navas; Carvajal, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo; Modric, Valverde, Kroos; Vinicius, Benzema, Brahim
Real Betis possible starting lineup:
Robles; Guerrero, Bartra, Feddal, Firpo; Kaptoum, Guardado; Jese, Lo Celso, Tello; Moron
Head To Head
Madrid recorded a 2-1 victory when the two teams met in Seville earlier this season.
However, as mentioned, Betis ran out 1-0 winners when the pair last met at the Bernabeu in La Liga, with Sanabria scoring in the fourth minute of added time at the end of the 90.
The victory last season was Betis’s first against Madrid since 2012, though, with Los Blancos dominating the recent meetings between the two teams.
We say: Real Madrid 2-0 Real Betis
It is difficult to predict anything other than a home win this weekend. Madrid’s results at home have been strong in recent months and we fancy Zidane’s side to end the campaign with all three points.