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Real Madrid vs Malmo: Match Preview

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Los Blancos may have sealed their progression to the knockout stages of the Champions League as group winners but Rafa Benitez and his men cannot afford anymore slip-ups in their race to get the fans back onside.

Denis Doyle/Getty Images

The pulses may hardly be racing amongst Madridistas ahead of Tuesday's visit of Malmo in the Champions League but Madrid's final Group Stage match is more than just a procession into the knockout stages.

Rafa Benitez and his men have already sewn up progression in the competition beyond Christmas and have secured top spot in the process, meaning Tuesday's outing against the Swedish side at the Santiago Bernabeu matters little results-wise. The hard work in Europe has already been done.

Madrid cannot afford any more slip-ups after a trying few weeks, however, and while the match may not impact on the club's qualification for the next round, it will impact on a fragile confidence that Benitez is trying to rebuild following the 0-4 demolition at home against Barcelona and an off-the-pitch embarrassment that resulted in the RFEF kicking the club out of the Copa del Rey.

The fans have not been happy but a 4-1 success against Getafe in La Liga at the weekend at least stored a tiny bit of faith, especially with a first-half performance that saw Los Blancos lead 4-0 at the break with all three of the ‘BBC' finding the back of the net. There were signs that things were back to normal.

Now Benitez and his men will be eager to build on that. The jury is still firmly out on the coach, his players and the club and the only thing that will stem the flow are victories. Not only that, but victories with a bit of attacking verve. Even when the three points were flowing, Benitez's style and system left plenty to be desired performance-wise but at least Saturday's first half showing against an albeit-poor Getafe side at least started to fix that.

In Malmo, Madrid will face a side that needs to out-do Shakhtar Donetsk in their final match if they are to at least continue in Europe through the Europa League. The third and fourth-placed sides are level on three points going into the final match, meaning Madrid will at least be facing side that will be all-out for a surprise victory.

The match will be Age Hareide's last as coach after he announced his decision to leave the club at the end of the year. He will look to go out on a high but his side has only played one match in the last month due to the Swedish season being over and that resulted in a 5-0 loss against Paris Saint-Germain. The team showed plenty of signs of rust.

Benitez has confirmed there will be changes, something already confirmed with Gareth Bale and Luka Modric amongst the names not included in the 19-man squad. Captain Sergio Ramos continues his recovery from injury and although Marcelo has been included in the squad, the Brazilian may not be risked ahead of the more important clash against Villarreal in La Liga on Sunday night.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Benzema are expected to continue, while Alvaro Arbeloa could get a rare run-out at left-back given the shortage of numbers at the back. Benitez refused to be drawn into whether he will play Denis Cheryshev in that position but given the problems endured last week it is unlikely attention will be drawn to the Russian.

The match will also give an opportunity for players such as Jese, Lucas Vazquez and Mateo Kovacic to get some minutes under their belts. Marcos Llorente will also be in the running and could get some valuable experience on the European stage.

Most importantly for Benitez, it will give his squad a useful run-out ahead of Sunday's big Liga match at El Madrigal, with all respect to the Swedish club. Victory over Getafe will have restored some confidence after a difficult few weeks and another win will only enhance that. Los Blancos need to match the trip to Villarreal in confident mood against tough opposition.

Three points are a must and a positive performance will be sought, especially after some of the luck that came Madrid's way in their last Champions League match on home soil, against Paris Saint-Germain. It may be a ‘meaningless' match to some Madridistas but every match is now crucial for Benitez and his men.

Real Madrid possible XI: Casilla, Arbeloa, Pepe, Nacho, Danilo; Casemiro, Isco, James; Ronaldo, Benzema, Jese.

Malmo possible XI: Wiland; Tinnerholm, Carvalho, Arnasson, Konate; Adu, Lewicki, Rodic, Berget; Djurdjic, Rosenberg.