Real have started the season surprisingly brightly, but they won’t harbour too many hopes of getting even a point against los Merengues at the weekend...
Only a mere five teams in La Primera Division have managed to pick up more than three points in their opening two matches, and of those five, two go head-to-head in San Sebastian on Saturday night as Real Sociedad meet Real Madrid.
The newly promoted outfit couldn’t have realistically hoped for a much better start to their Liga campaign. Faced with Villarreal on the opening day of the season they marched to a fine 1-0 home win and then followed that up with a 2-2 draw against Almeria last Monday, from which they will feel they should have claimed all three points. Madrid this Saturday, however, represent a great step up.
“They have not played with too much fluency this season, but they do not need to play well to score three or four goals,” Joseba Llorente warned to the media. “They are beautiful games. The crowd is eager, we have four points therefore we can enjoy the game a bit without too much pressure.”
Anoeta will be a sell-out for the fixture, and the visiting side can expect a red-hot welcome once again in San Sebastian, a venue that they have not visited since 2007, when they recorded a 2-1 victory en route to the title. With the home side in confident mood, Jose Mourinho’s men will not be given anything easily in a hostile atmosphere.
Some Team Will Pay
The beginning of Jose Mourinho’s reign at the Bernabeu has not been spectacular, though little about the Portuguese’s football often is. Placing a high tariff on victory, and only then concerning himself with style, Mourinho has guided Real Madrid to two wins in his first three competitive matches.
A scoreless draw away in Mallorca on the opening day of the Primera Division campaign had doubters whispering, but even though there were still clear deficiencies in los Blancos’ performance as they edged past Osasuna 1-0 last weekend, Madrid are starting to portray the hallmarks of the former Chelsea and Inter coach – winning ugly.
In midweek Ajax came calling to the Spanish capital on Champions League duty. After two stuttering league performances, Mourinho’s men looked far sharper against the Dutch powerhouse, creating many openings during a 2-0 victory. Though los Blancos were deficient in front of goal, ‘Mou’ doesn’t believe that will last.
“One day some poor team will pay for all these chances we missed,” he told the press. “We lacked efficiency, but we won because we dominated the game. The result could be higher, but at this stage the goals are not as important as in the knockouts.”
Though a great deal of money has been flashed by Madrid in recent summers, it’s often overlooked how young a squad they command, and after Iker Casillas explained in the media that los Merengues are “building for the future”, Mourinho described the midweek encounter as a match of “boys versus boys”.
If Mourinho’s kids are to become champions they first half to mature into men, and that means winning in intimidating venues such as Anoeta.
Joseba Llorente has indicated that he will probably sit out the encounter as a precautionary measure to protect a back injury. The striker has said he could feature if necessary, but he doesn’t believe it’s worth the risk.
The hosts have given little away ahead of this fixture as to their squad selection.
Probable Starting XI: Bravo; Martinez, Gonzalez, Ansotegi, De La Bella; Aramburu, Rivas; Prieto, Zurutuza, Sutil; Tamudo
All of the players involved in the midweek encounter with Ajax took to the training field on Thursday without any apparent problems, though Sergio Ramos continues to receive treatment.
Kaka, Ezequiel Garay and Fernando Gago are the longer term problems for Jose Mourinho to cope with at present.
Probable Starting XI: Casillas; Arbeloa, Pepe, Carvalho, Marcelo; Khedira, Oezil, Alonso; Ronaldo, Higuain, De Maria