After a tumultuous last few weeks, Real Madrid have eased some of the problems surrounding the club with two Cristiano-Ronaldo-inspired victories following the winter break. But Los Blancos will have to show that they can win without their talisman as they take on bottom of the table Osasuna on Saturday.
Ronaldo scored twice in a dramatic 4-3 victory over Real Sociedad last week before firing a superb hat-trick as Madrid made it through to the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey with a 4-0 win over Celta Vigo on Wednesday.
Despite speculation over his own future, the Portuguese forward has been a hugely influential figure on the pitch in recent weeks.
While his absence will present problems for Jose Mourinho to overcome, the Madrid boss will be spared further scrutiny over his goalkeeping selections. Iker Casillas has been dropped for Madrid’s past two league matches, but his replacement Antonio Adan is now suspended following his sending off against Sociedad.
Casillas, who was given the nod against Celta Vigo, has said that his recent omissions have only spurred him to work harder.
“What I have to do is train more and be as driven as possible to make my return,” he said, according to Real Madrid’s official website. “My toughest battle is with myself and regaining the coach’s confidence. I have to push much more—especially for the Real Madrid faithful, who are behind me."
As well as Adan, defender Sergio Ramos will serve the first of a five-match ban handed out for insulting the referee who sent him off against Celta Vigo. Fellow defenders Pepe and Marcelo are still out with injuries, although Xabi Alonso looks set to shake off a neck problem.
Osasuna are also a side with plenty of problems as a record of five defeats and one draw from their last six matches in all competitions testifies. There could be a debut on Saturday for new loan signing from Sporting Gijon, midfielder Miguel de las Cuevas. However, manger Jose Luis Mendilibar will have to cope without injury victims Roberto Torres and Raoul Loe.
D: Bertran, Arribas, Flano, Damia
M: Punal, Oier
Cejudo, Nino, Armenteros
Real Madrid (probable)
D: Essien, Varane, Carvalho, Arbeloa
M: Khedira, Alonso
Di Maria, Ozil, Callejon
Prediction: Despite being bottom of La Liga, Osasuna have conceded fewer goals than all sides bar the top four in the standings. Without Ronaldo, Madrid may struggle to get the breakthrough. Yet Osasuna’s scoring record is truly atrocious with just 14 goals in 18 games and they look unlikely to be able to take advantage of a patched up Madrid defense. The visitors should pick up a comfortable if not spectacular victory.
Osasuna 0-2 Real Madrid
Where to watch: The La Liga clash will kick-off from the Estadio El Sadar at 2 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sport. A live stream, which you view at your own discretion, will be available here.