Almeria is not a good side. Some of that is down to their middling offense, some of it is because of a poor defense and some of it is due to simply tough luck. This combination of futility has led to them firing manager Francisco Rodriguez days ago following their 5-2 drumming at the hands of little Eibar. Simply put, Madrid are catching a poor side at the right time before heading on a trip for another trophy. The question is whether Almeria will rally following Rodriguez's dismissal or if they'll simply roll over as they're wont to do.
Offensively, Almeria are tied for the second worst scoring rate in La Liga with 11 goals scored. However, they're 10th in the league in shots per game (11.2), second in the league in counterattack goals (3) behind Real Madrid's seven and tied for seventh in set piece goals (4). They average 48 percent possession but a frankly poor 72 percent pass completion rate. Their attacking M.O. is to win the ball back, punt the ball upfield and cross heavily with the hopes that someone will be on the receiving end of the cross. Their main area of attack is on the right and center-right but they have a hard time creating shots near goal and their shot accuracy and conversion rate won't be scaring opposing managers any time soon.
Defensively is where Almeria struggles. They've done an admittedly solid job of keeping matches close, they even jumped out to a 1-0 lead against Barca and only lost it in the last 17 minutes, but they do a poor job of preventing opposition chances as they give up the second most shots per game (13.9) in the league. They have solid tackle and interception numbers, but most of that comes from not having the ball and chasing the opposition around the pitch for the majority of the match. Opponents aren't afraid to aggressively go after them as defending players with flair and individual skill is definitely an Achilles heel. With Madrid boasting some of the world's most technically skilled players, this can only end poorly for Almeria's back line.
Individually, there isn't much to talk about. Almeria's standouts, though, have been fullback Ximo Navarro and central midfielder Verza, both tied for the team lead in assists (2) while winger Edgar paces them with three goals. Navarro is a solid ball-handler and crosser, the only problem is that there isn't anything resembling a potent target to cross the ball to as striker Tommer Hemed has only managed one goal. Contain Navarro, Verza and Edgar and you have a strong chance of taking down this side.
If Madrid jumps out to a lead in the first 20-25 minutes it's really hard to see how Almeria could a). prevent Madrid from building on its lead and b). mount a serious comeback. Their counterattacking style makes their odds of scoring a bit higher given that they don't have the discipline to play a possession-reliant style and Madrid have shown to be susceptible on the break, but with all of Madrid's firepower it seems that it would take more than one goal for Almeria to get anything out of this. Real Madrid won last season's duels by a combined score of 9-0 and it's hard to pick them doing anything but the same this time around, even if Almeria come out of the gates with a point to prove.
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Predicted starting XI: Casillas; Carvajal, Pepe, Varane, Marcelo; Illarramendi, Kroos, Isco; Bale, Ronaldo; Benzema.
Out: Ramos (suspension), Khedira (concussion), James (calf), Modric (thigh).
Prediction: 3-0 in favor of Los Blancos.
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