Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti has admitted that some of the club’s fans are unhappy with the way his team has been playing. Before Madrid’s last home game there were audible whistles from the Bernabeu crowd when the Italian’s name was announced. Ahead of Saturday’s visit of Real Sociedad, Ancelotti commented that he believes it is a simple reflection of the team yet to find its best form this season, rather than anything more personal.
“It’s because the fans don’t like how the team is playing right now and nothing more,” he said, according to Real Madrid’s official website.
Lying six points behind Barcelona in La Liga, Madrid’s progress has been more serene in the Champions League where they all-but secured progress to the knockout phase with a 2-2 draw against Juventus in Turin in midweek. Ancelotti, though, thinks that there has been a common fault across both competitions.
“I don’t think it’s so different,” he said. “It’s true that we’ve done well in the Champions League with good results, although we haven’t always played with continuity. We struggled in the first 30 minutes in the first game in Turkey and it’s the same in La Liga. The lack of continuity is the problem.”
Madrid’s problem in recent games certainly hasn’t been in attack. Gareth Bale’s return from injury to kick-start his Madrid career has led to 13 goals scored in four matches. However, at the other end nine goals have been conceded in that time. Their efforts to correct that defensive record on Saturday won’t be helped by a suspension for Sergio Ramos and a knee injury that has ruled Marcelo out for two weeks. Midfielder Sami Khedira may also miss out.
With the goals flying in at both ends for Madrid, it creates a conundrum for their opponents in terms of whether to commit to taking advantage of Madrid’s weakness or guarding against their strength. Unsurprisingly, Sociedad coach Jagoba Arrasate believes his side require a balanced approach, and with little margin for error.
“We have to put in a faultless performance that’s for sure,” he said, according to Spanish sports daily AS. “When we have the ball, we need to make sure we keep hold of it and attack them. It’s a question of finding the balance between being creative up front and not losing possession because on the break, Madrid are lethal.”
The match at the Bernabeu will see a possible first appearance against his old club for one of Madrid’s big summer signings, Asier Illarramendi. The midfielder is unlikely to start the match, however, with Ancelotti confirming Xabi Alonso will again be in the lineup. Sociedad’s former Madrid man Esteban Granero certainly won’t feature as he continues to recover from a serious cruciate ligament injury.
Prediction: After a difficult start to the season, Sociedad have improved in recent weeks to move up into seventh place in La Liga. They also showed they can be stubborn opponents by holding Manchester United to a goalless draw in midweek. Blunting the attack of Madrid, though, promises to be a far more difficult proposition.
Yet, for all their attacking prowess, Madrid remain wide open defensively and the balance of the team is a long way from ideal. Madrid may well get away with that against a Sociedad side that has been a little goal-shy away from home and, after some likely frustration early on, they should get the victory.
Real Madrid 3-1 Real Sociedad
Where to watch: The Spanish Primera Division match will get underway at 10 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sport, with a live stream available on beIN Sport Play.