After falling into third place in La Liga, Real Madrid cannot afford any more stumbles.
The club is in the midst of a hectic schedule, playing its fifth match in two weeks. In this time, Madrid have dropped matches to Barcelona and Sevilla to move three points behind Atletico Madrid in the league table.
With seven competitions remaining, the club must do its best to earn victories each time out if it wants to contend for a title.
Of course, the next match will not be easy with Real Sociedad also entering with plenty of motivation. The squad is six points behind Athletic Bilbao for the final spot in next year's Champions League and can catch them with a strong finish.
After earning 10 wins and three draws in 15 home league matches this year, Sociedad have a strong chance of coming away with a victory.
When: Saturday, April 5
Where: Estadio Anoeta, Gipuzkoa, Spain
Time (U.S.): 2 p.m. ET
Time (U.K.): 7 p.m. BST
Watch (U.S.): beIN Sports, beIN Sports en Espanol
Watch (U.K.): Sky Sports 3
Live Stream: beIN Sports Play
Odds (via Oddschecker.com): Real Madrid (1-2), Real Sociedad (5-1), Draw (10-3)
Top Storyline: Will Real Madrid Struggle Without Cristiano Ronaldo?
After struggling with leg problems, Cristiano Ronaldo will be held out of the upcoming match against Real Sociedad. Manager Carlo Ancelotti explained that his star player was not even going to make the trip, via Dermot Corrigan of ESPN:
[Ronaldo] was a little bit tired after the game against Borussia, so we decided to give him a little rest. He will return to play in the game in the Champions League on Tuesday.
I have spoken with him and we decided together it was best for him to rest. It's normal he wants to play all the games, but there was no problem. He has played a lot of consecutive games. We just want him to rest, to avoid risks, as we have a lot of important games coming up.
Obviously, Real Madrid have plenty of talent besides Ronaldo. Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and others have proven all year long that they are capable of providing enough offense to help their side win.
The question is whether the attack will be able to create opportunities without its best scorer and passer. To make matters worse, Angel Di Maria is questionable, via Corrigan:
This could create some serious issues against a solid defense.
Prediction: Real Madrid 1, Real Sociedad 0
While Real Madrid scored five goals in their last La Liga match against Rayo Vallecano and three in a Champions League win over Borussia Dortmund, both of these were at home, where the club has been much better offensively all year.
Things will be tougher on the road without some of their best offensive players.
The defense should be just fine, but the club will need young players like Isco and Alvaro Morata to step up if they are given the start.
On the other end of the pitch, Real Sociedad will provide a challenge with the combination of Carlos Vela and Antoine Griezmann on the wings. However, the disciplined back line of Real Madrid will make sure to limit the opportunities in the box and keep this match low scoring.
Unless we see a bad mistake by the defense, the home team will be left without a goal in this one. At that point, it will just take one strong finish from Bale, Benzema or any other key player on the attack for Real Madrid to earn the win.
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