What a turnaround Real Madrid have enjoyed over the last two weeks!
Since defeat away at Shakhtar Donetsk on December 1, Real have embarked on a four-game winning streak, dispatching Sevilla, Borussia Monchengladbach, Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao in style to completely turn their season around.
Heading into this run, they’d won just one of their previous five matches, but having won all of their last four—conceding just one—they can make it five wins out of five when they travel away to Eibar on Sunday.
Real are overwhelming favourites for the encounter, although while Eibar are down in eleventh heading into this fixture, Los Merengues must be wary.
We’ve seen some shock results already this season—Cadiz have beaten both Real and Barcelona, while Los Blancos themselves were also defeated by Deportivo Alaves at home in late November, in the midst of their poor run.
Similarly, while Eibar are La Liga minnows, they don’t roll over easily!
Since defeat at home against Elche in late September, they’ve lost just once in nine appearances—at home against Cadiz—avoiding defeat in eight of their last nine league fixtures.
Can Real find a way through the rugged Eibar backline—a defence that has neutralised Valencia and Sevilla already this term—or will Los Blancos’ recent renaissance hit the skids?
Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal may have returned to the fold, but Zinedine Zidane is still without several key players ahead of the Eibar meeting.
Eden Hazard is the big absentee as he continues his recovery from a muscle injury, while Luka Jovic is also out after picking up an adductor injury.
Mariano hasn’t featured recently but could be in line to return, while Martin Odegaard has returned to training after missing the recent games against Atletico, Athletic and Gladbach due to muscle injuries of his own.
While Odegaard could feature, Zidane will more likely look to protect the attacking midfielder as he works his way back to full fitness, conscious that stiffer challenges lie in wait.
The French coach will, however, welcome back Casemiro, who sat out the victory over Bilbao due to suspension but is eligible to return.
Without him, Federico Valverde joined Toni Kroos and Luka Modric in the midfield, but after an indifferent display, Casemiro will be returned to the midfield immediately.
Encouragingly for Real, they’ve been defeated only once in their previous 12 La Liga games against Eibar, winning 10. That loss remains fresh in the memory, however, having come in November 2018 during Santiago Solari’s miserable time at the helm.
No team has beaten Eibar at Ipurua more often than Real, who have beaten them five times at the venue, and—another boost for Zidane—the reigning champions have a strong record in the Basque region, having gone unbeaten in their previous five meetings in the area.
Despite the doom and gloom around the club earlier this year, Real have lost only one of their previous 12 away games in La Liga—against Valencia in November—while Eibar are winless in their last seven home fixtures.
They’ll be particularly desperate to keep Karim Benzema at bay.
The in-form Frenchman has had a hand in nine goals in his 10 matches against Eibar—seven goals and two assists—and if the Armeros fail to contain him again, then expect Real to maintain their winning streak!