Next two months crucial to Real Madrid and their Champions League qualifying hopes

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Real Madrid manager Santiago Solari.

In the past seven days, Real Madrid shared points with 18th placed Villarreal and lost 2-0 to the then 16th placed Real Sociedad. In the process, they lost star midfielder Toni Kroos to an injury which could rule him out for up to four weeks.

It would not be hyperbole to state that the worst is probably yet to come for the European champions. All of their next eight opponents in La Liga are currently sitting in the top half of the table.

Here, we look at eight matches that are crucial to Los Blancos’ Champions League qualifying hopes.

REAL BETIS v REAL MADRID

Reverse fixture – N/A

Santiago Solari’s men begin their demanding stretch of games at the Benito Villamarin on Sunday as they take on a Real Betis side brimming with confidence.

The same fixture saw Madrid prevail in a 5-3 thriller last season but the hosts did trouble Zinedine Zidane’s men and dominated the game for large spells. A win at Villamarin will not be easy for Madrid.

Predicted score-line: Real Betis 2-2 Real Madrid

REAL MADRID v SEVILLA

Reverse fixture: Sevilla 3-0 Real Madrid

Next, Madrid host Sevilla – a team who beat them 3-0 in September and set the ball rolling for their crisis. Despite the fixture being played at the Bernabeu, the visitors start as favourites, given the recent form of both teams.

Predicted score-line: Real Madrid 1-2 Sevilla

ESPANYOL v REAL MADRID

Reverse fixture: Real madrid 1-0 Espanyol

Los Blancos then travel to Catalonia to face eighth placed Espanyol. When the same fixture was played at the Bernabeu back in September, the hosts edged the Barcelona-based team 1-0. However, Madrid should be able to dispose of Rubi’s side who are in poor form themselves.

Predicted score-line: Espanyol 0-2 Real Madrid

REAL MADRID v ALAVES

Reverse fixture: Alaves 1-0 Real Madrid

Fourth placed Alaves will be Solari’s next test on February 2. Abelardo Fernández’s men will travel to the Spanish capital, hoping to repeat their performance at the Mendizorrotza earlier this campaign when they edged Los Blancos 1-0 to steal all three points.

Predicted score-line: Real Madrid 1-1 Alaves

ATLETICO MADRID v  REAL MADRID

Reverse fixture: Real Madrid 0-0 Atletico Madrid

Following this is the Madrid Derby at the Wanda Metropolitano where Diego Simeone’s men wait eagerly to get one over their historic rivals. The pair played out a goalless draw at the Bernabeu in September – a result Atletico gladly took. The hosts will hold the advantage in this game, if the current form of both teams is anything to go by.

Predicted score-line: Atletico Madrid 2-1 Real Madrid

REAL MADRID v GIRONA

Reverse fixture: Girona 1-4 Real Madrid

Girona will be Real Madrid’s next challenge. This will probably be the least complicated fixture for the European champions. They host a team they beat 4-1 away back in August. There is no reason why Solari’s men should not romp to a comfortable win here, given Girona are struggling and could be out of the top 10 soon.

Predicted score-line: Real Madrid 3-1 Girona

LEVANTE v REAL MADRID

Reverse fixture: Real Madrid 1-2 Levante

Los Blancos then travel to Valencia to take on Levante on February 24. The Granotas pulled off an upset at the Bernabeu earlier this season, winning 2-1. The visitors owe this score-line to terrible finishing and could have had at least two more goals on the board in that fixture.

Predicted score-line: Levante 1-1 Real Madrid

REAL MADRID v BARCELONA

Reverse fixture: Barcelona 5-1 Real Madrid

At the end of this terrible stretch lie league leaders Barcelona on March 3.

Madrid are guilty of a terrible home record against Barcelona in the league recently, with the last three score-lines reading 0-3, 2-3 and 0-4 – all in favour of Barcelona.

Predicted scoreline: Real Madrid 2-2 Barcelona

VERDICT

This will be Madrid’s first encounter with Betis this season. But against the other seven teams, Los Blancos managed to garner just seven points out of 21 in the reverse fixtures.

If the predicted score-lines – which are balanced between optimism and pragmatism – are considered, Los Blancos will collect around 10 points from these fixtures.

Surely the next two months will be crucial in determining whether the European champions will be enjoying Champions League football next season.

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Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois sidelined with hip injury

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Thhibaut Courtois

Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has sustained a hip injury and could miss La Liga games against Real Betis and Sevilla later this month.

Madrid confirmed on Wednesday that Courtois has been diagnosed with a grade one injury, the least severe possible, and he was left out of the squad to face Leganes in the Copa del Rey.

“Following tests carried out on our player Thibaut Courtois today by the Real Madrid Medical Services, he has been diagnosed with a grade 1 injury in the left iliac muscle. His recovery will be monitored,” a club statement read.

Courtois is likely to be replaced by Keylor Navas, who was named UEFA’s best goalkeeper of last season after he helped Madrid win a third Champions League title in a row.

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Win over Leganes was an opportunity to release pent-up anger, according to Nacho

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Nacho

Real Madrid let out their pent-up anger against Leganes, according to defender Nacho.

The Spanish giants returned to winning ways by seeing off Leganes 3-0 in the first leg of their Copa del Rey last-16 tie.

Sergio Ramos scored his 100th career goal with a 44th-minute penalty before second-half strikes from Lucas Vazquez and Vinicius Junior rounded off a first win in 2019 at the third attempt.

Last Thursday’s 2-2 draw at Villarreal was followed by a 2-0 defeat at home to Real Sociedad at the weekend, which apparently left Santiago Solari’s side seething ahead of their cup clash.

“We were angry and we let it out on the pitch,” Nacho said according to Marca.

“Things weren’t going well for us and we weren’t having good results.

“Today we had a good game.

“We’re struggling to win three or four in a row, so now we need this to gain confidence.

“We hope that this will be the first of many wins.”

Summer signing Vinicius scored his third goal for the club after teeing up Vazquez for Real’s second.

The 18-year-old Brazilian is set for big things, according to Nacho.

“If he keeps going like he is now and if he is surrounded by people who support him then he’ll have a great future,” added the Spain international.

“He still needs to work hard, but he is showing that he is a great player.”

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