The squad starts the second half of the season three points behind both Atletico Madrid and Barcelona. In all likelihood, neither club is going to lose too many matches for the rest of the year, so Real have to remain as perfect as possible.
This should not be too tough of a task against Real Betis, a team that only has two league wins all season. The club has not earned a victory in La Liga since September, and they have lost their last two matches at home.
Still, there is enough talent on the roster to believe they can pull off an upset with the right motivation. The crowd should be full, and the players should respond to give Real Madrid all they can handle in this competitive battle.
Who will win?
When: Saturday, Jan. 18
Where: Estadio Benito Villamarin, Sevilla, Spain
Time (U.S.): 10 a.m. ET
Time (U.K.): 3 p.m. GMT
Watch (U.S.): beIN Sports, beIN Sports en Espanol
Watch (U.K.): Sky Sports 3
Live Stream: beIN Sports Play
Odds (via SkyBet): Real Madrid (2-7), Real Betis (17-2), Draw (9-2)
Top Storyline: Can Real Madrid Maintain Focus Against an Inferior Opponent?
Real Madrid have played extremely well as of late, winning six matches in a row going unbeaten since an Oct. 26 loss to Barcelona. It is only natural for players to relax when they see the last-place team on the schedule.
However, manager Carlo Ancelotti recognizes this issue and is staying ahead of it. According to BBC Sport, he told the media, "Some games can throw a curveball and it is important to maintain focus. I don't need to tell my players what they are up against in Betis. They are clever and know what to expect."
Of course, talking about it and actually believing it are different things. The players cannot simply assume they will win; they have to remain aggressive on the pitch to get as many goals as possible.
Otherwise, they will drop points and lose ground on the two clubs they are chasing.
With this in mind, you can expect a full lineup of first-team members ready to dominate on Saturday.
Prediction: Real Madrid 3, Real Betis 0
As the lowest-scoring club in La Liga, Real Betis have certainly struggled offensively this season. They only have 16 goals in 19 matches as Jorge Molina has been the only one capable of getting the ball into the back of the net.
In this matchup, they will struggle to even maintain possession, which will limit opportunities on the attack and likely lead to a clean sheet.
Meanwhile, Real Madrid will hope to get more production out of Gareth Bale and Isco, two players who got off to hot starts but have not scored in over a month. Even if they do not get onto the scoresheet, Karim Benzema and 2013 Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo should be able to come through.
The Spanish giants simply have too many options on the attack to defend, and it will lead to an easy road victory for Madrid.
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