Real Madrid will aim to extend their unbeaten record against Celta Vigo to 14 league games when they head to Balaídos on Saturday.
You have to go back to May 2014 for the last time Los Blancos lost to Celta Vigo in La Liga Primera. Since then, they have secured 11 wins and two draws from the 13 meetings between the clubs.
They last played in January, when goals from Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio handed Real Madrid a 2-0 victory. That should give Zinedine Zidane’s men a psychological advantage as they prepare for this crucial clash.
Real Madrid are in fine form right now. They are unbeaten in nine games in all competitions, and they should be full of confidence after an emphatic Champions League win against Atalanta in midweek.
However, the Spanish champions are still languishing in third place in the standings, two points behind a resurgent Barcelona and six points behind league leaders Atletico Madrid. With just 11 rounds of fixtures remaining, Real Madrid are 13/2 (7.50) underdogs with Unibet to win the title, and they desperately need to keep winning games if they are to stand a chance of retaining their crown.
Los Blancos have lost just once on the road so far this season, so they really should get a result at Balaídos on Saturday. However, a draw is not good enough at this late stage of the season, so Zidane should implore his team to take risks and go for the win.
The French coach has been boosted by the return to fitness of several key players over the past couple of weeks. Star striker Karim Benzema is back from injury, and he has scored five goals in three games since his return.
Eden Hazard is out once again with another knock, but captain Sergio Ramos has returned to anchor the defence. Zidane has experimented with a back three in Real Madrid’s last two games, and Ramos has impressed alongside Raphael Varane and Nacho. Los Blancos conceded in both games, but they looked reasonably solid in beating Elche 2-1 and Atalanta 3-1.
The manager may be tempted to rest Luka Modric and Toni Kroos on Saturday, after both men played the full 90 minutes against Atalanta, but that would be risky in such a vital game. Casemiro will be fresh after missing the last game through suspension.
Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo, Asensio, Vazquez and Isco are all vying to flank Benzema, so Hazard should not be missed too badly.
Celta Vigo are sitting comfortably in mid-table. They are 11 points clear of the relegation zone, and they look too good to go down, but they are also nowhere close to challenging for a European place, so they have very little to play for in the remaining weeks of the season.
Motivation could therefore be an issue for the players. The visit of Real Madrid is normally enough to get teams fired up, but Celta Vigo generally wilt when they face Los Blancos, so they should prove to be pretty obliging opponents for Zidane’s men on Saturday.
They certainly have the quality in attack to cause problems for Ramos, Varane and Nacho. Iago Aspas is a phenomenal forward, and the likes of Nolito, Santi Mina and Denis Suarez are dangerous, so Celta could well score in this game.
However, Real Madrid have looked very strong in attack too, with Benzema in lethal form and Vinicius providing a great deal of drive, energy and pace, so Los Blancos should be able to outgun their opponents this weekend.
They are priced at 4/5 (1.80) with William Hill to secure victory, which looks very appealing. For more value, Real Madrid to win and over 1.5 goals is priced at 11/10 (2.10) with Betfred and Betway, or Real Madrid and under 4.5 goals is 23/20 (2.15) with Betway. If you are unconvinced, or you want to hedge, MansionBet has 15/13 (2.15) on Celta Vigo-draw double chance.