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Real Madrid At Osasuna, La Liga 2012 Match Preview: Di María Returns, Khedira Sidelined

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Real Madrid kicks off their crazy month against Osasuna's Reyno de Navarra at 20:00 CET. This fixture would be problematic with the usual lineup, but José Mourinho will need to make tons of changes in Real Madrid's lineup due to the absences of Khedira (ill), Pepe (sanction), Lass and Callejón, all of whom are potential starters for the team.

Ángel Di María returns to the list, but Mourinho has confirmed the Argentinian winger is probably not ready to play the whole 90 minutes of the game. Real Madrid's coach will need to choose between Granero, Nuri Sahin and Fábio Coentrao to play alongside Xabi Alonso. Mourinho could opt for a 4-3-3 formation with two of those three players and the Spanish midfielder, but he might as well keep the 4-2-3-1.

Osasuna is currently ranked sixth in la Liga's table, but El Reyno de Navarra is a very tough stadium. As a matter of fact, Osasuna is fourth in la Liga when playing at home. Given all this and Real Madrid's need of the three points, Mourinho should not be confident about his midfielders. Alonso's form has deteriorated since the start of the season. Granero has been lacking in his defensive transition and Sahin just played his first serious, competitive game last Tuesday against APOEL Nicosia. Furthermore, Fábio Coentrao hasn't played in the midfield since the beginning of the season, and he didn't show the positional intelligence needed for a two-man midfield.

A 4-3-3 formation would make things a bit safer for Real Madrid. This is probably where Granero and Coentrao feel most comfortable. Sahin played in a 4-2-3-1 formation during his time with Borussia Dortmund, but he would also play better with two other midfielders around him at this point in the season. This might be why Mourinho could opt for a three-man midfield with Alonso-Coentrao and Sahin/Granero. The Turkish player could be a little tired from his first tough game in a Real Madrid uniform, so Granero could get the edge for this game.

Coentrao should be key in this 4-3-3 scheme. He would be the man in charge of going forward to support the attackers. Osasuna might prefer Real Madrid to have the ball, but the Portuguese player will need to run back to keep them from making easy counterattacks. Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Özil should take advantage of scoring chances. On the bench, Mourinho will have plenty of players to choose from with Kaká, Higuaín and a recovered Ángel Di María if the game isn't going Real Madrid's way.

The Portuguese coach showed last Tuesday that he knows how to change a game with subs, and tomorrow he might need to do so yet again. Osasuna might get tired over time, so all three players could be devastating in front of goal if Real Madrid still needs to score.

Pepe is also out of the game because of the red card he saw in Villarreal's locker room. Varane has been playing quite well this season, and with Carvalho's absence, the Frenchman and Sergio Ramos should clearly form Real Madrid's defensive line along with Arbeloa and Marcelo. The Brazilian player needs to focus on his defense for this game, but he is also very important offensively (see APOEL's game).

Keeping a clean sheet is now more important than ever. Osasuna is likely going to play a counterattack style, but it's hard to imagine Real Madrid won't score in 90 minutes with all of that firepower. If Real Madrid keeps Osasuna scoreless, the three points should go to the Santiago Bernabéu.

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