Spanish contenders Real Madrid will be heavy favorites this weekend when they play host to Elche at the Bernabeu.
Despite the fact Cristiano Ronaldo's status is still up in the air amid a three-game suspension, Los Blancos will be projected to continue their impressive unbeaten streak, which dates back to October 2013.
Still, the star-laden club will have little room for error as Real enter the weekend in a three-way tie atop the La Liga table with fellow powerhouses Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.
With Matchday 25 already underway, here we'll get you set with everything you need to know ahead of kickoff.
Date: Saturday, February 22, 2014
Start Time: 4 p.m. local time, 10 a.m. ET, 3 p.m. GMT
Where: Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain
Watch: beIN Sport (U.S.), Sky Sports 3 (U.K.)
Live Stream: beIN Sport Play
Real Madrid: 83.4 percent
Elche: 5.8 percent
Draw: 10.7 percent
*According to Bloomberg Sports.
Top Storyline: Carlo Ancelotti Optimistic Ronaldo Will Play
Reigning FIFA Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo is currently serving a three-match ban after being sent off against Athletic Bilbao back on Feb. 2. But despite the fact that the star forward still has one match left to sit out, Real manager Carlo Ancelotti remains confident that the club's appeal will be approved in time for Saturday's showdown with Elche, per ESPN FC's Dermot Corrigan:
It does not seem logical to me that we have to wait so long. We made our appeal with sufficient time, but this is 'bureaucracy time' and we cannot do anything else but wait.
Tomorrow the team talk is at 2 p.m. (8 a.m. ET) and I hope to know the decision beforehand. I am convinced that Cristiano will play, because for what happened at San Mames it is incredible to me that they would suspend him for three games.
Jese Rodriguez and Gareth Bale both started on the wings in Real's most recent match against Getafe. And the result was mostly positive as the duo combined for five shots and one goal in the 3-0 victory for Los Blancos.
8 - Jese has been directly involved in 8 goals (4 goals, 4 assists) in 392 minutes of La Liga football this term; one every 49 minutes. Ace.— OptaJose (@OptaJose) February 16, 2014
Therefore, even if Ronaldo can't suit up, the Spanish juggernaut is likely to be just fine against a second-tier squad in Elche, who have produced fewer than one-third of the goals Real have in league play this season.
With or without Ronaldo in the lineup, Real Madrid should cruise to a victory at the Bernabeu on Saturday afternoon.
Which side will prevail?
Although Ronaldo scored a brace in Real's previous 2-1 win at Elche back in September, Los Blancos possess more than enough firepower to top a club that's been outscored 23-12 through 11 La Liga road matches this season.
Not to mention Real have been remarkably effectively at the Bernabeu all season long, losing just once there to Atletico in the Madrid derby back in September. During their current unbeaten streak, Ancelotti's squad have been outright dominant on their home pitch, shutting out a handful of opponents.
Plus, having outscored their two previous La Liga opponents 7-2 without Ronaldo in the mix, it's safe to say that Real will win comfortably on Saturday.
Real Madrid 2, Elche 0
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