Almeria vs Real Madrid
The Real Madrid gravy train rolls into Almeria on Friday night, where they take on their hosts at the Estadio de los Juegos Mediterráneos, looking to extend their current run of success to an amazing 20 consecutive wins in all competitions, before they travel to Morocco in their quest for the World Club Championship next week. To do so, they must overcome an Almeria team beset with problems on and off the pitch.
After a steady start to the season that saw them win two and draw three of their opening seven games, Almeria’s form has gone into steady decline, picking up just one further point in a run of eight winless games that has seen them slip into 17th place in the table, separated from the bottom three by the flimsiest of goal difference margins. Their defence has conceded eight goals in the last two games, including three in the last ten minutes of their 4-3 win over Real Betis in the Copa Del Rey, which took the gloss off the four-goal advantage they had worked hard to build up. That crazy ten minutes seemed to affect their confidence when they visited Eibar last weekend, leaking another early goal that precipitated a shabby display and a hefty 5-2 defeat. That result was sadly the final straw for head coach, Fransisco Rodriguez, whose 18-month tenure at the club as ended on Tuesday, with a appointment due to be announced in the build-up to this game.
If that new coach is in place before kickoff, then he could not ask for a tougher baptism that to come up against a Real Madrid side who have scored no less than 71 goals in their nineteen straight wins since losing the Madrid derby back in early September. They now sit on top of the Primera Division, but Carlo Ancelotti knows his side cannot let up with Barcelona hot on their heels just two points behind. Their 4-0 demolition of Ludogorets on Tuesday was helped by having a one-man advantage for 70 minutes, but was still done with clinical efficiency. James Rodriguez was missing for that win, having suffered a calf injury in the 3-0 win over Celta Vigo at the weekend, and he joins Luca Modric on the sidelines, but such is Los Blancos strength in depth that their absence can be covered almost seamlessly by the likes of Isco, Khedira and the fit-again Jese. The return of Jese Rodriguez from a long-term knee injury has been a real boost, with the highly-rated 21-year-old coming off the bench to score in last week’s 5-0 Copa del Rey win over Cornella, and Ancelotti was keen to give him more time on the pitch against Ludogorets, giving the coach even more attacking options.