Real Madrid will be seeking to build some momentum when they take on Real Betis in La Liga on Sunday at the Estadio Benito Villamarin.
While a 3-0 win over Leganes in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday helped under-pressure manager Santiago Solari steady the ship, Madridistas will be concerned by the way the side has been performing this term. They were well below par in their most recent league outing, losing 2-0 at home to Real Sociedad.
Betis are capable of capitalising on those vulnerabilities too and have slowly climbed the table after a difficult beginning to 2018-19. A win on home soil would put the Andalusians just a point behind Sunday's opponents in the table.
Real Betis: 11-5
Real Madrid: 11-10
Odds according to OddsShark.
Date: Sunday, January 13
Time: 7:45 p.m. (GMT), 2:45 p.m. (ET)
TV Info: BeIN Sports (U.S.)
Although likely progress in the Copa del Rey will please Madrid supporters, for Los Blancos, it's more important to enjoy success in the UEFA Champions League and La Liga. With that in mind, the team's performances in those competitions in the coming months will define Solari's future.
If they turn in displays like the one against Real Sociedad, then Madrid may struggle to make it into the top four come the end of the campaign.
During that contest, the team was laboured throughout, made poor decisions in the final third and, at the back, La Real picked them apart.
Spanish football journalist Colin Millar believes Madrid's performance wasn't particularly good on Wednesday, either, and noted Los Blancos are on the brink of a tough run:
In addition, there is continuing talk about the manager's relationship with Isco, who has yet to start a league game during Solari's tenure. He didn't feature from the start against Leganes, either:
For Madrid, the one bright spark in recent weeks has been the introduction of Vinicius Jr. into the starting XI.
Despite his tender years, he has looked like Madrid's most dangerous player. Against Real Sociedad, he was unlucky not to earn a penalty for his team. And against Leganes, he grabbed the third goal in a 3-0 win.
With some more senior players a long way short of their best in attack, a burden has fallen on the 18-year-old, and it will be intriguing to see whether Solari trusts him to feature from the start in a fixture like this one.
In the cup competition, Vinicius has shown he has a productive edge:
Betis represent a dangerous opponent for Madrid, though, especially in what will be a hostile stadium.
Quique Setien's team may have suffered a shock loss to bottom side Huesca in their previous La Liga match, but they have shown they have all the attributes needed to trouble elite sides. In 2018-19, they have won away at AC Milan in the UEFA Europa League and upset Barcelona at the Camp Nou.
Betis tend to raise their game for these types of occasions, and with the attacking class they have, Madrid's brittle defence will come under pressure. Expect an open game, with the home side doing enough to lead to more scrutiny of the European champions.
Prediction: Real Betis 2-2 Real Madrid
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