Venue: Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid Date: 30/12/2015 Kick-off: 3:00 PM GMT / 10:00 AM EST
Television coverage: Sky Sports 1/HD (UK); beIN Sports en Español, beIN Sports (USA)
With Christmas already over, Real Madrid return to play Real Sociedad at home in La Liga. The 10-2 win against Rayo Vallecano didn’t help dissipate the criticism the team and technical staff are receiving.
They remain two points away from FC Barcelona, but the Catalans have yet to play a game to level the field. The bad taste of 2015 will be gone very shortly for Los Blancos.
Preferred Formation: 4-2-3-1
This isn’t a clash that calls for experiments or revolutions. Rafa Benítez is on thin ice and he must keep winning, even if the playing style isn’t easy on the eyes. His dismissal could happen soon if he slips once again. He’s got to use what works in the best possible way. With a few doubts still up in the air including Sergio Ramos and Toni Kroos, the squad still has a good arsenal to win the three points.
GK: Keylor Navas
The Costa Rican has had a bittersweet 2015, as he went from an unused substitute to regular starter. However, he’s dealt with a few blows this season after looking almost invincible at the beginning.
The Brazilian must step up as Carvajal is almost certainly out for this one. He scored the opening goal in the previous matchday. His offensive talent is strong and if goals and assists persist, he could stay ahead of his competitor.
As Sergio Ramos trained in the gymnasium, the experienced defender will have to continue in the role he’s been performing recently. The only difference will be that his partner will shift once more as injuries keep attacking the defense.
CB: Raphaêl Varane
The Frenchman is the Christmas present for his teammates as he’s expected to return on Wednesday. As of yet, it’s unclear if he will play from the start or play some minutes at the end of the game.
Ever since he suffered an injury against Paris Saint-Germain at the start of November, he’s gone from an unquestionable starter to being used carefully. The lack of replacement is driving his recent substitutions.
RCM: Luka Modrić
As Kroos is most likely out to face La Real, the Croatian will step up as the creative force. Out of all the midfielders, he’s shown the most consistency and influence over the team’s attacking opportunities.
LCM: Mateo Kovačić
Between Casemiro and him, they’ve been going off and on from the starting lineup. When the Brazilian was great, he played more and now the Croatian seems to be ahead. Either way, they’re both useful alternatives.
RW: James Rodríguez
While he was unable to score before the Christmas break, he gave his teammates three assists, showing how important he can be. The competition between him and Isco will only escalate in the coming year.
CAM: Gareth Bale
Another big winner from the Rayo avalanche. He scored four goals in a single game for the first time in his professional career. He had been slacking for most of 2015 and it could become the boost he needed for a convincing 2016.
LW: Cristiano Ronaldo
The three goals on December 20th divided fans and critics, as some keep defending the star’s scoring power. On the other hand, others point out that his great performances don’t happen in the matches that truly matter.
ST: Karim Benzema
His hat-trick versus Rayo Vallecano also came at a good moment, as he was one of the few that were blamed for the Villarreal defeat. 2015 is a year he won’t miss because of his personal problems, but if his numbers stay as they are, 2016 could be great.