Madrid, Jan 23 (IANS) Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane faces another test of his ability as the Spanish football giants play their first away game since he replaced Rafael Benitez in the dugout when they travel to play Real Betis in La Liga on Sunday.
Zidane’s first two games in charge have seen Real Madrid win 5-0 at home over Deportivo la Coruna and 5-1 against Sporting Gijon and Sunday’s match on paper looks to be more difficult, reports Xinhua.
Real Madrid defeated Betis 5-1 earlier this season, but the home side appeared to turn a corner last weekend when they earned a well deserved draw 0-0 away to fourth place Villarreal. And Juan Merino appears to have added some steel to the side that was on the slide under the guidance of Pepe Mel in the Betis camp.
It has been another turbulent week for Real Madrid with the revelation that the club lied about the price they paid to purchase forward Gareth Bale from English club Tottenham Hotspur and that the cost of the Welshman was 101 million euros (around $111 million) and not the $91 million club president Florentino Perez announced, presumably to maintain striker Cristiano Ronaldo’s status as the most expensive player in the world.
Bale has been in outstanding form of late and scored two goals in Madrid’s last two matches, but will miss out against Betis with a calf injury that will sideline him for a further couple of weeks. His absence could allow James Rodriguez of Colombia to re-establish himself in the side amid rumours of a poor relationship with Zidane. Lucas Vazquez, who has always performed well when given the chance, could also have a start, something which would only serve to raise doubts about James’ future.
Captain Sergio Ramos is available to play in defence as Real Madrid look to keep the pressure on FC Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, who face each other at the Camp Nou Stadium next week.
Betis meanwhile are likely to repeat last weekend’s side with the doubt over whether Dani Ceballos could replace another youngster, Fabian, who has had some physical problems during the week.