Real Madrid: How Will They Line Up vs. Real Betis in La Liga?

Samuel MarsdenFeatured ColumnistJanuary 16, 2014

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 12:  Gareth Bale of Real Madrid CF duels for the ball with Victor Sanchez of RCD Espanyol during the La Liga match between RCD Espanyol and Real Madrid CF at Cornella-El Prat Stadium on January 12, 2014 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

Real Madrid—now with renewed vigour in the title race after cutting the gap to three points last weekend—return to La Liga action on Saturday when they travel south to face Real Betis.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side make the trip having ensured their progression in the Copa del Rey against Osasuna in midweek, while their opponents this weekend, who are at the bottom of the Primera Division, crashed out to Athletic Bilbao.

Madrid, who are yet to concede a goal in 2014, look close to full fitness, long-term injuries aside.

Sami Khedira and Raphael Varane remain sidelined, the latter's comeback taking longer and longer, while Alvaro Morata is also thought to be a doubt following his eye injury picked up in the cup.

Meanwhile, the return to the league will signal the return of Diego Lopez. The Spanish goalkeeper will replace Iker Casillas between the sticks, despite San Iker’s impressive performances when he has been handed the gloves.

The back four should resemble what is now looking like Ancelotti’s favoured backline.

MADRID, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 27:  Sergio Ramos of Real Madrid CF protests to referee William Collum during the UEFA Champions League group B match between Real Madrid CF and Galatasaray AS at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on November 27, 2013 in Madrid, Spain.  (
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

With Varane still out, Pepe, last week's match-winner against Espanyol, and Sergio Ramos face little competition for a starting spot.

On either side of them will presumably be Marcelo, despite the return of Fabio Coentrao, and Dani Carvajal, who looks to have moved into pole position, ahead of Alvaro Arbeloa, in the race to be the team’s first choice right-back.

The absence of Khedira seems to have allowed Xabi Alonso and Luka Modric to make themselves Ancelotti’s preferred picks in the middle of the park.

Alonso's importance to Los Blancos is well known, while, since the early stages of 2013, Modric has developed as one of the club's most important players.

More complicated is who plays in front of them.

Cristiano Ronaldo, you'd imagine, is a definite starter and Karim Benzema has carried favour since a drought earlier in the season. However, who joins them in Madrid's attacking quartet is slightly more difficult to judge.

The obvious choice for one spot is Gareth Bale, but, following an injury, the Welshman has struggled to find the form he showed during a run of games at the end of last year.

Presumably Madrid’s No. 11 will still get the nod though, despite disappointing against Espanyol and being left on the bench for the side's match against Osasuna, as Ancelotti seeks to edge him back into form.

MADRID, SPAIN - JANUARY 09:  Jese Rodriguez (L) of Real Madrid CF tackles Francisco Andres Silva (R) of CA Osasuna during the Copa del Rey Round of 8 first match between Real Madrid and CA Osasuna at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on January 9, 2014 in Madrid,
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

That would leave Angel di Maria, Isco and the in-form Jese Rodriguez fighting for the final spot against Real Betis.

All have their merits.

Isco is the most naturally suited to play the role behind Benzema, di Maria is undoubtedly the most experienced and Jese has arguably been the highlight of the last month for the Bernabeu club.

All three could start, although Ancelotti may lean towards Isco, who didn't feature in the club's last La Liga outing.


Predicted Real Madrid XI: Diego Lopez; Dani Carvajal, Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Marcelo; Luka Modric, Xabi Alonso; Gareth Bale, Isco, Cristiano Ronaldo; Karim Benzema