A complicated win against Athletic Bilbao has given Real Madrid the top spot in La Liga. With the hopes of retaining that position until the end of the season, they need to keep aspiring for the three points each week. Mâlaga are next, and while they have proved to be a tough rival in the past, they currently sit in the relegation zone. However, this doesn’t mean they should be underestimated.
Preferred Formation: 4-2-3-1
Once again on Wednesday Real showed that when opponents put in some effort, they can reach Keylor easily. Fortunately for Rafa Benítez, the keeper’s doing some great saves. Nevertheless, he should talk to his team about moving back to the defense, as those transitions are precisely the time that rivals are catching Madrid off guard. Down the road, maintaining this flaw can cost them the top spot.
GK: Keylor Navas
He was five minutes away of getting into the Madrid history books. Despite this his start of the year is going great. Málaga haven’t scored a single goal, and that could mean a quiet afternoon for the Costa Rican.
RB: Dani Carvajal
He played a good match defensively at Bilbao, yet the rival’s goal came from the wing he should have been covering. These mistakes can add up if Navas has an off day. He’s still the best available for this spot.
CB: Raphaël Varane
Performing very well so far, he’ll most likely have Ramos by his side again. It’s possible that he’ll play Málaga and then rest against Malmö so he can arrive fresh to face Atlético. He’s very important for the defense.
CB: Sergio Ramos
The captain should be completely recovered and ready to come back. His team had lost to Athletic without him earlier this year, this time they didn’t. His help will be welcomed from now on.
A bit better on Wednesday compared to Granada’s game, it’s still alarming that he’s played all the possible minutes. Soon he’ll become exhausted and since nobody else has been tested, whoever replaces him won’t have an adaptation time.
Luka Modrić was one of the best men from the previous game. As he’s proved in past seasons, he’s an asset. He’s going to need some rest prior to Atlético Madrid’s crucial duel. Casemiro is a fine alternative.
LCM: Toni Kroos
There’s a possibility that both him and Modrić could rest, but losing both of them can be a factor to wake up Málaga from their goalless dream. The German might skip Malmö and get a break then.
The winning goal that meant the La Liga leadership came from his boots. He performs better from the wing, which may block Vázquez from playing from the start. This is his former team and it will be a special match.
CAM: Mateo Kovačić
He gained a lot of praise and it would be fair to keep him as a starting man. Bale and James are still out and so far he’s been the replacement of the highest quality. More minutes will give him more time to keep adapting to life at Madrid.
LW: Cristiano Ronaldo
He failed to score for the second match in a row. Still, Benzema has done a good job of scoring the goals. Hopefully this doesn’t lead to another one of his anxious phases, as difficult weeks are ahead.
ST: Karim Benzema
He’s going through his most promising start of a season as a Madridista, with six goals in five matches. It’s a positive thing that if Ronaldo doesn’t show up, someone else is there to win the three points.