Venue: Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Date: 17/01/2016, Kick-off: 3:00 PM GMT / 10:00 AM EST
Television: NOW TV, Sky Sports 3/HD (UK), beIN Sports USA, beIN Sports en Español, beIN SPORTS CONNECT U.S.A. (USA)
This week’s FIFA ban is affecting Real Madrid as an institution, but football is still the top priority and must be played. They will continue testing the waters after the manager change. Sporting Gijón will visit the Santiago Bernabéu hoping for a chance to get out of the relegation zone. While they’ve only won once in the last eight matches, they’re a squad that must not be underestimated.
Preferred Formation: 4-2-3-1
Zinedine Zidane started his journey as the Real manager with a convincing 5-0 win at home. He took Ramos out as a precaution, yet the captain failed to train with his teammates on Saturday. Apart from that, he has the entire squad available. He’s going to keep developing his tactics and ask for a balance between attack and defense.
GK: Keylor Navas
The Costa Rican will remain the starting goalkeeper. If his teammates are responsible and help out in the back, he can go back to being the strong performer from the early months of the season.
Dani Carvajal played a good game and even provided an assist. Given the lower intensity of the matches ahead, rotations can be very helpful. Because of this, the Brazilian has a chance to show off to Zizou.
He’s still a useful man, still he must strive to stay focused and avoid losing his marked men. Despite the win, Deportivo had plenty of opportunities to complicate the result. A rival with better luck can cost Real points.
CB: Raphaël Varane
Sergio Ramos shouldn’t have any problems making the list for this clash. Even so, it would be safer to keep him out unless the situation requires his presence. The Frenchman is currently giving more security to the defense than the captain.
His role as an attacker will gain prominence under the new management. The FIFA ban may accelerate the signing of a competitor, so he must stay on top and perform to the best of his ability every weekend.
RCM: Luka Modrić
There was a clear difference between the midfield under Benítez and the one we saw last Saturday. Luka and Toni are a better pair now and they have the support of teammates like Bale, Ronaldo, and Benzema.
LCM: Toni Kroos
Having the best Kroos can lead the team to a successful season. Regardless of good performances, men like Kovačić and Casemiro must still be tested in case of emergencies and when rotations are desired.
RW: Gareth Bale
He’s scored ten goals in the last eight games. He’s slowly becoming the Bale we saw that first year. His return to the wing under Zidane may help him be more influential in the attack with goals and assists.
CAM: James Rodríguez
He only had a few minutes to show his worth. Nevertheless, he proved that he has a better sense of timing than Isco, who often keeps the ball too long. Both of them should be given a chance before a permanent starter is chosen.
LW: Cristiano Ronaldo
Even though he tried and tried, his anxiety kept building up and he left the Bernabéu without any goals in the bag. At some point, a rival will have to pay for this, so Sporting must hope for another off day.
ST: Karim Benzema
The French connection between striker and coach can bring great things to the team. He’s going through one of his most prolific years as a Madridista. If this trend continues he shouldn’t have any problems repeating or even beating his highest goal tally.