Real Madrid look to build off their 4-0 win over Shakhtar Donetsk when they meet heavy underdog Malmo FF in Champions League Group A action Wednesday at Swedbank Stadion. Head coach Rafa Benitez recently expressed some optimism that attacking midfielders Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez could make their return after sitting out matches in the past two weeks.
"On the issue of injuries I am always cautious," Benitez said in the buildup to the Malaga match. "There can always be a small problem which changes things. They are going well.
"Next week they will join with teammates, we will see then how they are when they turn sharply or sprint. If they are good, it depends on each individual, but some could be back for Wednesday [at Malmo] and others for Atletico."
Real Madrid will have the services of forward Cristiano Ronaldo, who is chasing famed striker Raul's scoring record. The Portugese star has only scored in one game this season, and is two goals behind Raul for Real Madrid's all-time record. There has been added attention on his inability to spark the attack after two scoreless results in La Liga.
Los Blancos will be playing in a stadium that hold just 24,000 when they face the back-to-back Allsvenskan champions, and Malmo head coach Age Hareide expects "a fantastic atmosphere" at Swedbank Stadion. Malmo is led by veteran forward Markus Rosenberg, who has scored 24 goals since arriving from West Bromwich Albion in 2014. Rosenberg is joined by Norwegian attacking midfielders Jo Inge Berget and Magnus Eikrem, who have combined for 15 goals in 2015.
Few believe that Malmo will progress beyond the group stage, but Hareide's squad managed to put forth a respectable effort against Paris Saint-Germain in the first match, falling just 2-0 at Parc des Princes. Malmo will no doubt be seeking a draw against a star-studded, but injury-plagued, Real Madrid squad. But their defense and depth will be tested without center back Rasmus Bengtsson, who is nursing an ankle injury.
Prediction: Real Madrid over Malmo, 3-1