Cordoba vs. Real Madrid: Issues and Decisions That Will Shape La Liga Game
Fresh from a match-free midweek due to their elimination from the Copa del Rey, Real Madrid should be well-prepared for their trip to Cordoba on Saturday.
With a one-point lead over Barcelona and a game in hand on the Catalans, they're in a good position going into the second half of the season.
After defeats to Valencia and Atletico Madrid already this year, though, Carlo Ancelotti will be wary of any more slips.
Cordoba have improved recently as well, so Madrid may not have it all their own way.
B/R takes a look at the issues and decisions that will shape this game over the following slides.
For a team that played in the Club World Cup in December and is usually involved in the Copa del Rey and Champions League until the latter stages, a relatively calm January schedule is unusual for Los Blancos.
While Atletico and Barca were locking horns at Camp Nou on Wednesday night, the Madrid players were at home with their feet up.
It means they've had five full days to recover from last weekend's win over Getafe and five full days to prepare for Cordoba.
Good news for Ancelotti. Bad news for Miroslav Djukic.
It was November when Cordoba won their first game in La Liga this season.
Albert Ferrer had been sacked, Miroslav Djukic installed and their hopes of survival written off.
Two months on from that win at San Mames against Athletic Club, they find themselves in the dizzy heights of 14th.
They're still among a cluster of teams who are hoping to stay up, but recent results suggest they have more than a chance of prolonging their stay in Spain's top flight.
With just one defeat in their last seven—a drubbing against Barcelona—they'll take on Madrid with renewed confidence.
Two of their last three league games have resulted in wins, and they're unbeaten in three.
Two goals against Madrid-based Getafe last weekend elevated Cristiano Ronaldo on to 28 league goals for the season.
In his sights is the La Liga record—Lionel Messi's 50.
To break that, he seems to be particularly keen to score as many goals as possible against the weaker teams. The word mercy isn't in his vocabulary.
He's scored three against Deportivo de La Coruna, four against Elche and three against Celta Vigo.
When he shuts his eyes to go to sleep on Friday night, he'll be envisaging more goals at the Estadio Nuevo Arcangel.
A year after Ronaldo left Manchester United, the English club signed another Portuguese forward in Bebe.
Considering the fee was £7.4 million—a lot for an unknown player—there were murmurs that this 20-year-old could eventually become Old Trafford's new Ronaldo.
Nearly five years later, Bebe's career couldn't have gone much differently.
Now 24, he has flopped at United and has since failed to impress with Besiktas and Rio Ave.
Currently a Benfica player, he recently joined Cordoba on loan until the end of the season.
On Saturday, he'll have his chance to outshine Ronaldo at last.
Another Chance for Varane
Pepe's continued injury problem will present Raphael Varane with another opportunity to staple down his place in the side alongside Sergio Ramos.
The French defender has long been expected to eventually take the Portugal international's place in Ancelotti's side, but it's been a slow process.
However, if he can continue to play well when given chances, he will make it difficult for his boss to drop him when Pepe returns.