Real Madrid host Barcelona at lunchtime on Saturday in what is the most watched derby in league football across the globe.
This weekend’s game has additional importance to the hosts as they are currently 11 points behind their rivals in La Liga with only one game in hand.
Zinedine Zidane’s were busy winning the FIFA Club World Cup over in the United Arab Emirates last weekend with a 1-0 win over Gremio in the final. They played two games over in Asia whilst Barcelona were only in action once domestically during the same time span.
Real Madrid did head over to the UAE after a 5-0 thrashing of Sevilla in La Liga – their most convincing performance of the season.
Domestically, Zidane’s side have looked like a shadow of last season when they won the league and Champions League double. Hence why they are so far behind their rivals heading into the winter break.
Anything less than three points for Real Madrid on Saturday would surely end their title defence.
One player who could feature is Gareth Bale. The Welsh winger has struggled badly with injuries over the past couple of years, and when he was fit at the start of the season he looked far short of what he once was.
Still only 28 years old, if he could regain his fitness and form then there’s still an opportunity for him to rekindle his career. But we don’t expect that to happen in time for Saturday.
So far this season Bale has featured in 12 matches, sometimes up front, scoring only four goals. Far short of his debut season in 2013-14 when he scored 22 goals in 40 games in all competitions.
Zidane could go with two up top and a number 10 versus rivals Barcelona on Saturday, or a front three. Whilst Bale is capable of playing in any of these positions, one fixed starter is Cristiano Ronaldo on the left.
Spanish Football are expecting Isco to be the number 10 and then the coach has the decision to choose between Karim Benzema and Bale up front. The Frenchman has been fond of his fellow countryman, hence the sale of Alvaro Morata to Chelsea in the summer, so Bale may have to do with the bench on Saturday.
Real Madrid should be more concerned about his side’s defence. Lionel Messi is always a threat, Luis Suarez is in form, and Paulinho has more La Liga goals than both Ronaldo and Antoine Griezmann so far this season.