Real Betis vs Real Madrid, Liga BBVA 2013-2014: Match Preview

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno

In this weekend's edition of La Liga, Real Madrid travel to Benito Villamarín to face last-placed Real Betis in what should be a comfortable match for Los Blancos.

Carlo Ancelotti will aim to capture three points in a road game against a struggling Real Betis side. Betis has only won two games in La Liga and are in dire need of points to climb out of the relegation zone. While they enter the match as underdogs, Real Betis will scrap and fight in front of its home fans in the hopes of defeating the mighty Goliath that is Real Madrid.

Real Madrid have 47 points while Barcelona and Atletico Madrid are tied for first place with 50 points. While this match should ideally present an easy opportunity to close that gap, Real Madrid have struggled against smaller teams this season (Elche, Rayo Vallecano) and should focus on playing an effective first half. If Real Madrid can overcome the initial pressure they will inevitably face at the hands of Betis' players and combine for one or two goals in the first 45 minutes, they could enjoy a far more open game in the second half (an ideal scenario for speedy wingers Cristiano Ronaldo, Jese "Big Flow" Rodriguez and Gareth Bale).

While the team has been largely victorious across all competitions, fans are still anxious to see Real Madrid play the spectacular football that Ancelotti promised at his arrival. Ever since Sami Khedira's injury, Madrid have lacked some stability and poise in midfield with the manager rotating players like Illaramendi, Alonso, Modric and Isco in the hopes of finding the most effective combination of midfielders. While rotation is a necessary tactic for a team that will likely advance to the final rounds of three tournaments, Ancelotti has alternated between midfield pairings of Illara and Alonso and Modric and Alonso with Isco generally playing in the attacking midfielder position. In other words, the 4-3-3 formation utilized with Sami Khedira has given way to a 4-2-3-1 with an alternating double pivot. However, as Ancelotti teased in his pre-match press conference, the 4-3-3 could potentially return. We'll have to wait until kick-off to see what the boss decides.

Carlo Ancelotti has hinted that right-winger Gareth Bale will start by claiming "I think he will play a good match tomorrow." Bale has come under mild criticism for his lackluster performances since returning from injury and a general lack of rhythm in relation to his teammates. It is evident that the Welshman continues his integration process and Madridistas will need to exercise patience and understanding as the winger adapts to La Liga's style. All eyes will be on Bale Saturday in the hopes the player will leave his stamp on the match as he so often did in the Barclay's Premiere League.

Carlo Ancelotti has called-up the following players for the game:

Goalies: Casillas, Diego López and Jesús.
Defenders: Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo, Carvajal, Arbeloa and Nacho.
Midfielders: Xabi Alonso, Bale, Modric, Casemiro, Di María, Isco and Illarra.
Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo, Benzema, Jesé and Morata.

Real Madrid vs Real Betis: Saturday, January 17 at 16:00 CET/ 10:00 am EST/  7:00 am PST

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