Sports Mole provides team news, predicted lineups and a full preview of Sunday's La Liga encounter between Real Betis and Real Madrid.

Preview: Real Betis vs. Real Madrid - prediction, team news, lineups

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  • 2019-01-11 18:15:08 2 months ago
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Real Madrid head into the final weekend before the midway point of La Liga sitting 10 points adrift of leaders Barcelona and having failed to win either of their last two top-flight fixtures.

Real Betis are just four points adrift of Santiago Solari's side in the league standings, and a positive result for the hosts may leave Real closer to making a further change in the dugout.


Real Betis

Marc Bartra in action for Real Betis in the Europa League on October 25, 2018© Reuters

Real Betis produced a hugely impressive nine months to finish in sixth place in La Liga last season but although a number of significant additions were made during the summer, there were still doubts over whether Los Verdiblancos could remain in contention at the top end of the table for a second campaign running.

Quique Setien's side have only won one of their last five outings in all competitions, but the club still remain in sixth position in the standings and scrapping for a place in next season's Champions League.

Setien will reiterate that there is still a long way to go in the season, but the foundations have been laid and there is an opportunity to further close the gap on a struggling Madrid side.

Betis' recent slump has partly come in other competitions, but the club have still gone two games without registering maximum points in the league and there will be a strong desire to end that streak against the European champions.

Letting slip a one-goal lead against lowly Huesca last weekend will still be regarded as a missed chance, with the minnows netting twice in the final 20 minutes to seal a rare triumph.

The positives will be taken from a goalless draw against Real Sociedad in the Copa del Rey, but Betis now find themselves in a position where just four points separate them and 13th-placed Eibar.

Marc Bartra has been key in the defence and the former Barcelona man will be eager to get one over his ex-club's rivals, but Betis need a player at the other end to produce a run of goals.

Giovani Lo Celso is the top scorer in La Liga with four strikes, although Antonio Sanabria has netted on his last two appearances in the league.

Recent form: DWWWDL
Recent form (all competitions): WDWLDL


Real Madrid

Real Madrid boss Santiago Solari tells his side to focus against Real Sociedad on January 6, 2019.© Reuters

Solari has won 12 of his 16 matches in charge of Real since being placed in interim charge, but it has become increasingly unlikely that the former midfielder will be handed the reins on a permanent basis.

Real had moved back into contention for the La Liga title, but claiming just one point from games against Villarreal and Real Sociedad has left the club facing the possibility of being 13 points adrift by the time that they take to the pitch this weekend.

The manner of the defeat at home to Sociedad was enough for reports to suggest that Jose Mourinho could return to the Bernabeu in the near future, and Solari will be aware that only victories will be enough to end that speculation.

There is an argument that a couple of referring decisions went against Real last weekend, but conceding an early penalty set the tone for a below-par performance at a ground where they had only let in three goals in eight league games.

Vinicius Junior was the one major plus point from a disjointed performance, and the young Brazilian has done enough to merit further opportunities in La Liga having being largely left out of the team since his arrival.

That may change when Gareth Bale makes his return from injury, but the Welshman nor the majority of Real's star men could argue if they were given time out of the starting lineup.

Marcelo requires a return to form with home supporters beginning to lose patience with the long-serving left-back, and the same may occur with other players unless Real return to winning ways on a consistent basis.

Real have also got to improve their performances and results away from home, with just 11 points coming from nine games on their travels this season.

Recent form: LWWWDL
Recent form (all competitions): WWWDLW


Team News

Thibaut Courtois in action for Real Madrid on September 26, 2018© Reuters

Real have been dealt a double blow with both of Thibaut Courtois and Toni Kroos being ruled out of Sunday's game.

Keylor Navas will start between the sticks, while Dani Ceballos could be used as an alternative to Kroos with Marcos Llorente ruled out and Marco Asensio unlikely to be available.

Isco could also get the nod in the final third with Lucas Vazquez having to sit out the game due to a one-match suspension, with Brahim Diaz potentially being kept on the bench just a week after signing from Manchester City.

Junior Firpo remains a huge doubt for Betis, leaving Cristian Tello to continue to deputise on the left-hand side with the attack-minded player likely to be used at wing-back.

Sidnei remains out through injury, while Takashi Inui is unavailable due to representing Japan at the Asian Cup.

Real Betis possible starting lineup:
Lopez; Mandi, Bartra, Feddal; Francis, Guardado, Lo Celso, Carvalho, Tello; Canales; Sanabria

Real Madrid possible starting lineup:
Navas; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Modric, Casemiro, Ceballos; Isco, Benzema, Vinicius Junior


Head To Head

Betis have been relatively successful against Madrid over the past decade, with three wins and a draw coming from their last 16 matches with the European giants.

They have been heavily defeated in two of the six contests since their return to La Liga in 2015, but the other four encounters have been fiercely-contested.

Last season's corresponding fixture featured eight goals, with Madrid running out 5-3 victors thanks to four second-half strikes.


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We say: Real Betis 1-2 Real Madrid

Solari is reaching a point where it is effectively win or bust regarding the club's La Liga ambitions and his own future, but we are backing the visitors to raise their game and edge out Betis in a tight game on Sunday evening.


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Preview: Real Betis vs. Real Madrid - prediction, team news, lineups
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