Verdict: Home win
Best odds: 8/11
Real Madrid and Borussia Monchengladbach will face each other at the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium in the final round of the Champions League group stages on Wednesday, in what will be a crucial game for both sides.
Real Madrid may have won three consecutive Champions League trophies under Zinedine Zidane from 2016 to 2018, and they may be the reigning La Liga champions, but their results have recently been so underwhelming that the Frenchman found himself answering questions in press conferences about the possibility of getting the sack.
Their problems are especially evident in the Spanish top flight, where they were comprehensively beaten (4-1) by Valencia in early November, followed by a 1-1 draw against Villarreal, a 1-2 home defeat to Alaves and a dose of respite through a 0-1 win away to Sevilla. After that came the 2-0 defeat in the Champions League to Shakhtar in Donetsk, and it’s worth remembering that the Ukrainian side beat them in Madrid in the opening round as well.
Real’s last six matches in all competitions ended in two wins, a draw and three defeats.
Real now sit in fourth place in the La Liga table, with 20 points from 11 games played, six less than Atletico Madrid at the top who have played only 10 matches.
As for the Champions League, they find themselves in a very difficult situation, facing a very real possibility of not making it into the knockout stages. A defeat here would definitely turn that into reality, while a draw might be enough providing Shakhtar lose to Inter Milan. A win would see them squeeze through.
The big news for Zidane ahead of this fixture is the return of captain Sergio Ramos, who should slot right back into his centre-back role ahead of Nacho Fernandez. Winger Eden Hazard and right-back Dani Carvajal are out. Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez are likely to deputize, though the coach might opt for Alvaro Odriozola on the defensive flank ahead of Vazquez.
The Bundesliga side could hardly have hoped for the situation they’re in at the moment in this group – topping it with eight points, one less than Shakhtar and Real, while Inter sit at the bottom with five. A win in Madrid would see them finish where they are, needless to say, and a draw would also be enough to guarantee them a place in the knockout stages. If they lose, however, their fate would depend on what happens between Inter and Shakhtar – a share of the spoils in Milan would be the only favourable result for Gladbach in that case.
The Bundesliga has seen 10 rounds played so far this season, and Marco Rose’s team are currently in seventh place with 16 points, seven less than Bayern Munich who lead the pack.
Of their last six matches in all competitions, Gladbach won, drew and lost twice each.
Rose is likely to be without the services of centre-back Nico Elvedi, which would probably force him to utilize defensive midfielder Christoph Kramer in the heart of defence again.
Forward Marcus Thuram came in off the bench in the 2-2 draw away to SC Freiburg on Saturday, but he’s nailed on to start against Real.
One thing that has always been a trait of Real Madrid is that they usually win when it matters most, by any means necessary, at whatever cost. After all, you don’t become European champions 13 times without such club culture. They are in crisis right now, but it’s very hard indeed to imagine them not giving their all to make sure they continue playing in UEFA’s elite club competition in the spring.
Verdict: Home win
Best odds: 8/11
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