Real Madrid will look to secure their 20th consecutive win on Friday, before heading off to Morocco to attempt to add the Club World Cup crown to their Champions League title. Carlo Ancelotti’s side broke the Spanish record for successive wins in all competitions when cruising past Ludogorets in midweek, and can now add to their tally in their final La Liga match of 2014 at struggling Almería. Victory would also ensure they end the year on top of the table and in prime position to claim the one major trophy to elude them last season.
“It has been a fantastic year for Real Madrid and we want to round off our La Liga fixtures with a win,” he said, according to Real Madrid’s official website. “With everything the team have done in 2014, I'd give them a high mark out of ten.”
“The record is important, because it says that we're doing very well. It hasn't brought us any silverware, but it has given us a lot of confidence. It tells us the work we have to do to do well on the pitch. Coaching this team is the source of pride, not the record.”
A 4-0 win over Ludogorets to round out the Champions League group stage was secured with the luxury of a man advantage for more than 70 minutes. And the relaxed nature of the victory has led Ancelotti to suggest that he will field his strongest lineup available in Andalusia, when Madrid will try to extend their lead over Barcelona to five points. The team remains thin on midfield options, however. Luka Modric is expected to be out until mid-January, while James Rodríguez and Sami Khedira could be fit for the final of the Club World Cup, should Madrid get past a semifinal on Tuesday between either Asian Champions League winners Western Sydney Warriors or Concacaf Champions League holders Cruz Azul. The injury situation could yet prompt the club to enter the market in the January transfer window.
“Nothing has changed from last week,” Ancelotti said. “We're going to evaluate properly the recoveries of the players who are injured and after Christmas we'll assess whether or not we have to be active in the January transfer window.”
Those concerns pale into insignificance, when put up against those of their next opponents. Almería suffered a 5-2 defeat at Eibar on Monday to leave them with just two points from their last 24 available. The result cost coach Francisco Javier Rodríguez his job, with Almería acting swiftly to appoint the much-traveled Juan Ignacio Martínez. His last coaching role saw him relegated with Real Valladolid last season, a fate he faces a tough job to avoid repeating. Almería are part of a cluster of four teams at the bottom of La Liga all on 10 points. Ancelotti, though, is wary of the instant impact a new coach can bring.
"Almería will play with intensity and will be more dangerous because of this week's change of coach. Every time a club changes its coach, the players have more responsibility.”
Prediction: Real Madrid have been in irresistible form and will be determined to leave on a high before departing to Morocco. While their central midfield options could prove an issue when the season reaches its climax, it is unlikely to be a barrier to three points on Friday. Almería could frustrate Madrid early on as the players seek to impress their new coach, but Madrid’s talent will eventually prevail. And, with only one La Liga side having scored fewer goals than Almería this season, the hosts are unlikely to have any response.
Almería 0-3 Real Madrid
Kickoff time: 2:45 p.m. EST
TV channel: beIN Sports
Live stream: BeIN Sports Connect