Zaragoza arrive in Madrid this Saturday riding a 3 match winning streak across all competitions, including 2 straight league victories, the most recent of those being an impressive 2-1 triumph over Sevilla. Despite numerous injuries and a slow start, Real Madrid have finally established some momentum of their own as they look to extend their phenomenal unbeaten run at the Bernabeu to an eye-opening 21 consecutive matches.
Los Blancos will have to do so without last year's dominant, consistent mid-field duo, as Xabi Alonso is unavailable due to suspension from yellow-card accumulation, while Sami Khedira will also be missing for the second straight week as he recovers from a nagging hamstring injury.
Absolute necessity should dictate Michael Essien's restoration to a more familiar defensive midfield role alongside Luka Modric. It will be interesting to see what (if any) kind of chemistry the two Premier League veterans will forge as they stand-in for two of the more important cogs within Real's intricate machinery. It is certainly a luxury of a squad of Madrid's size and stature to have players of their caliber available to step into situations like these and they should be equal to the task against Zaragoza.
Essien's likely shift into midfield poses questions at left-back and it is widely suspected that Jose Mourinho may finally select Nacho for significant first team minutes. This will be an important decision regardless of who Mourinho picks and could go a long way towards deciding the tenor of the match, not to mention the result.
Mourinho's decision is important because WhoScored noted Zaragoza's tendency to attack effectively down the left-side of the pitch with longballs against Sevilla, so Nacho or whoever ultimately plays leftback will have to be alert and conservative with regards to their positioning. Zaragoza also likes to utilize their width, attacking wide and focusing again on the left side of the pitch against Granada in a league match a few weeks ago, according to WhoScored's match report. Width, long-balls and long range opportunities on goal appear to be consistent traits of this Zaragoza side.
Despite their recent run of form, Zaragoza remain the 3rd lowest scoring side in La Liga with 9 goals, ahead of only Osasuna and the aforementioned Granada. Zaragoza have also been vulnerable to counterattacks which bodes extremely well for Real Madrid. Gonzalo Higuain is starting to heat-up and will look to exploit any counterattacking opportunities beside Cristiano Ronaldo who has quietly netted in 5 straight league matches.
Expect the Bernabeu's cruelty to visitor's to continue.