Conceding that the Liga title is beyond his Real Madrid side, manager Jose Mourinho has said that next week’s Champions League semifinal first leg with Borussia Dortmund will take priority as he prepares a team to face Real Betis at the Bernabeu on Saturday.
Despite losing just once in La Liga in 2013, Madrid currently lie 13 points behind Barcelona and, with just seven matches of the season remaining, Mourinho has suggested that the situation has allowed him to focus on claiming an elusive 10th European Cup for the club.
“It is a new experience for me because when I have reached the semifinals in the Champions League in the past, I was in the running for the league title and you want to do your all to win every game,” he explained, according to Real Madrid’s official website. “I now have options depending on the importance and on each objective.
Mourinho, who continues to be linked with other jobs for next season, did insist that he will select a team to take on Betis that he feels can win the game, however.
“I'm sure that if you ask the Madrid fans whether they prefer to beat Betis or Borussia, they will tell you that they want to beat Borussia, but, as a manager, I have to say that I want to win both games,” he added. “I have to send out two teams to do the job, but we do have options.”
Brazilian midfielder Casemiro, on-loan from Sao Paulo, has been called up for the squad and could make his debut for the first team.
While the points aren’t crucial for Madrid, they certainly are for Betis, which is still chasing a place in Europe and even has an outside chance of Champions League qualification. Pepe Mel’s side are seventh in La Liga, but have won just one of their last four games.
Against local rivals Sevilla last time out, though, Betis produced an incredible comeback to rescue a point after going 3-0 down in just over 30 minutes. One of the goal-scorers from that match Nosa Igiebor suffered an injury and could miss the clash with Madrid as could Nacho and Mario.
Real Madrid (probable)
D: Arbeloa, Carvalho, Pepe, Marcelo
M: Pepe, Modric
Callejon, Kaka, Morata
Real Betis (probable)
D: Chica, Amaya, Paulao, Martinez
M: Canas, Benat
Campbell, Pabon, Carlos
Prediction: Mourinho’s comments suggest that he will feature a much-weakened lineup and a Betis team that are good on the counter attack could take advantage. Madrid, though, have shown an ability to play well even when using the full limits of their squad in recent weeks. An entertaining draw could be on the cards.
Real Madrid 2-2 Real Betis
Where to watch: The Liga match will kick-off from the Bernabeu at noon ET. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sport. A live stream, which you view at your own discretion, will be available here.