The Rafa Benitez Experience is going as expected so far at Real Madrid. They played some decent soccer against Sporting Gijon in their opener, but didn’t generate any truly spectacular chances, and can’t say they deserved much more than their 0-0 draw. That’s the bad news. The good news is that they should be able to get all three points at home against Real Betis, even if they don’t play any better.
Betis did play well in their opener, though, drawing Villarreal at home thanks to an 87th minute equalizer by veteran striker Rubén Castro. They didn’t have new star signing Rafael van der Vaart available and probably won’t again this week, though, so they might lack some creativity. Expect them to park nine or 10 men behind the ball and play long passes to their strikers when they win the ball.
Madrid didn’t have Karim Benzema last week, and he’s expected to miss out again. But Jese didn’t look comfortable up top in his place, so Benitez might switch up his team a bit.
Key matchup — Gareth Bale vs. Betis’ CMs
Betis played with two deep-sitting defensive midfielders last week and should do the same this week. That will make life hard for Bale, who isn’t exactly a natural No. 10. He is exceptionally strong, however, so he won’t be pushed off the ball easily.
Upset potential — Low to moderate
Since Betis got a draw against Villarreal last week while Madrid failed to score, it’s certainly not impossible that they avoid defeat here. It would be very surprising, though.
Real Madrid injuries and suspensions
Out: None. In doubt: Karim Benzema (thigh), Gareth Bale (toe).
Real Betis injuries and suspensions
Out: Rafael van der Vaart (ankle). In doubt: Javier Matilla (knock).
Match date/time: Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET, 10:30 p.m. local
Venue: Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain
TV: beIN Sports (U.S. and Canada), Sky Sports 3 (U.K.), Canal+ (Spain)
Online: beIN Sports Connect (U.S. and Canada), Fubo, Sling (U.S.), Sky Go(U.K.), Canal+ (Spain)