The festive break may have come at a good time for Real Madrid after 2012 ended with a new low in an already disappointing season courtesy of a 3-2 defeat at Malaga. It was not just the result on the pitch, although it left them 16 points behind Barcelona, that cast a black cloud over Los Blancos, however.
Against Malaga, Madrid coach Jose Mourinho sparked headlines as he left captain and club icon Iker Casillas on the bench. Having subsequently fallen to defeat, the question marks over Mourinho’s future went into overdrive.
In the intervening two weeks there have also been reports that Madrid’s star man Cristiano Ronaldo will refuse an offer of a new contract at the Bernabeu.
Midfielder Xabi Alonso is helping that the hiatus will have allowed his side time to reconfigure as they prepare to take on Real Sociedad on Sunday.
“Christmas break came at a good time because we weren’t in a good place, but I hope that we’ve regained our strength, renewed our energy and now we want to start the year winning,” he said, according to Real Madrid’s official website. “Beginning with Sunday’s game and many more will come later, but we have to take it slowly.”
Alonso will be taking on the side where he spent the formative years of his career, but has said he will be focused on helping Madrid return to winning ways.
“The match against Real Sociedad will be a special one for me, but all feelings will be set aside on Sunday and we’ll fight for the win,” he explained.
Madrid’s problems are increased by an injury crisis in defense. Regular center-back duo Pepe and Sergio Ramos are ruled out through suspension, while Raul Albiol and left-backs Marcelo and Fabio Coentrao are all injured. The one ray of light is the return to fitness of Gonzalo Higuain.
Madrid could face a real test too, with Sociedad going well in seventh place in La Liga and unbeaten in their last seven league outings. Coach Philippe Montanier may be without Asier Illaramendi, while fellow midfielder Markel Bergara is still out. However, Sociedad could be boosted by the return to fitness of Gorka Elustondo.
Real Madrid (probable)
D: Arbeloa. Carvalho, Varane, Nacho
M: Khedira, Alonso
Di Maria, Ozil, Ronaldo
Real Sociedad (probable)
D: Martinez, Gonzalez, Martinez, Bella
M: Pardo, Elustondo
Prieto, Griezmann, Vela
Prediction: Despite the break, all is still not right at Madrid and they are not helped by a heavy injury list in defense. It could well be an uncomfortable 90 minutes for Jose Mourinho and his side, but at the Bernabeu they should just have enough to get the win.
Real Madrid 2-1 Real Sociedad
Where to watch: The La Liga clash will kick-off at 11 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sport. A live stream, which you view at your own discretion, will be available here.