KAMPALA: Real Madrid’s multiple title winning coach Carlo Ancelotti’s gift for improvisation must come to the fore when the Santiago Bernabeu club defend Liga Santander’s only one hundred percent winning record at home to Real Mallorca on Sunday. The Italian gaffer is without leading light, captain and Ballon d’Or favourite Karim Benzema, who faces a lengthy spell in the treatment room after limping off in Los Blancos’ 3-0 Champions League victory over Celtic, Tuesday night.
With €63m flop Luka Jovic out on loan at Fiorentina, Dominican Republic forward Mariano Diaz is the only recognised centre forward at the Santiago Bernabeu but Carletto, as Ancelotti is fondly called, rarely trusts him to start games. The reigning Uefa coach of the year’s most authentic option to join Vinicius Junior in attack is Marco Asencio as he is the only forward with the physical presence to serve as a reference point in attack. Rodrygo Goes and Eden Hazard thrive best in wide positions.
Barcelona can occupy the number one slot for at least 24 hours if they overcome rock bottom Cadiz on Saturday night. Xavi Hernandez’s new look Blaugrana fired a stern warning to title rivals by demolishing Champions League group opponents Plzen 5-1 in a devastating demonstration of attacking football. Hat-trick hero Robert Lewandowski will be keen to build on his impressive return of eight goals in just five Barcelona outings.
Unai Emery’s on form Villarreal defend third place in Sunday’s late kick off away to Manuel Pellegrini’s Real Betis. Squad strength is to have a strong bearing on the game’s outcome as the two sides contend with limited recovery time after demanding European football action on Thursday night. Yellow Submarines La Roja front man Gerard Moreno and Betis giant striker Borja Iglesias are the players to watch.
Elsewhere, Diego Simeone’s lukewarm Atletico Madrid are hoping Wednesday’s last gasp Champions League win over FC Porto can serve as a catalyst to boost domestic form when they confront a Celta Vigo side featuring joint top scorer Iago Aspas. Sevilla boss Julen Lopetegui is meanwhile in a last chance saloon after failing to win any of the team’s first five games this season. Tuesday’s 0-4 Champions League capitulation at home to Manchester City was deemed unacceptable by fans.
Girona v Real Valladolid,
Rayo Vallecano v Valencia,
Espanyol v Sevilla,
Cadiz v Barcelona,
Atletico Madrid v Celta Vigo
Real Madrid v Mallorca,
Elche v Athletic Bilbao,
Getafe v Real Sociedad,
Real Betis v Villarreal
Almeria v Osasuna