Real Madrid is coming off of two solid, if unspectacular, 2-0 victories at a time when many were questioning their championship credentials. While issues with the team still persist, recent results have shown some promise and it's fair to say that we can expect this trend to continue this weekend as Los Blancos visit 17th place Elche.
One the back of a midweek Champions League trip to Germany, don't be surprised to see Madrid starting a bit slow and incorporating a fresh face or two into the lineup. Recent league results for Madrid, when not getting blasted by Atleti, have been affairs that take a while to get going but if there's a time to remedy that it's against defensively disastrous Elche. Dani Carvajal picked up a pretty nasty-looking gash on his leg against Schalke and required stitches so Alvaro Arbeloa might get a start, while Lucas Silva might get a break having completed his first bit of real action so don't be surprised to see Asier Illarramendi start in his place. Carlo was noncommittal about the rotations in his pre-match presser but it makes sense to start Illarra given Silva's match fitness and that he just completed his second Madrid outing midweek. Otherwise, the regular cast and crew should be getting the starting nod.
Elche, to be pretty blunt, is a bad team. Offensively they're doing alright with 21 goals to their name, better than six clubs. They're the side most reliant on one man as Jonathas is directly responsible for 14 of those (nine goals, five assist). However, shut him down and what do you have? Well, two out of the three biggest goal contributors after Jonathas are defenders, so Carlo's job is pretty clear in terms of who to mark specifically. Elche will line up in a pretty standard 4-2-3-1 so don't expect anything too confusing or exotic out of them that might give Madrid fits, though they are pretty adept in set pieces and sneaking in a goal this way could be in the cards.
Defensively is where Elche has just been a total disaster. They've conceded 42 goals, second worst in the league only ahead of Levante, and have a goal differential of -21, second worst again ahead of Levante. Though they're coming off the back of two shutout victories, we have to remember that Madrid obliterated them 5-1 in the first meeting this season while Barcelona put six past them last month. None of their back line players are particular standouts, though Edu Albacar, 35, is putting together a decent offensive season with two goals and three assists. Pedro Mosquera has been their best midfielder but he's out due to injury, so Madrid shouldn't face too many problems there.
While Elche isn't the worst club in the league, many of their performances have been pretty abject and it's hard to not see Real Madrid walking away with three points this week. Things could start off slow like they have in the last month or so, but Madrid's firepower should have enough to get the job done.
Predicted Elche starting lineup: Tyton; Albacar, Lomban, Roco, Suarez; Niguez, Adrian, Fajr, Pasalic, Rodriguez; Jonathas
Predicted Real Madrid starting lineup: Casillas; Marcelo, Pepe, Varane, Arbeloa; Isco, Kroos, Illarramendi; Ronaldo, Bale; Benzema
Prediction: Elche 1-3 Real Madrid. With Barcelona slipping up in a 1-0 loss to Malaga, it is absolutely imperative for Ancelotti's men to come out and make a statement. Elche might sneak one by, but expect their defense to eventually fold under Madrid's star pressure.