MADRID: Las Palmas make their first visit to the Santiago Bernabeu for 13 years on Saturday hoping to avoid the same punishment they received in a 7-0 thrashing on their last trip to the capital.
The Canary Islanders have already changed their coach just nine games into their return to the top flight as Paco Herrera was sacked despite guiding them to promotion.
Quique Setien got off to a promising start with a 0-0 draw at home to Villarreal last weekend, which at least moved Las Palmas off the bottom on goal difference, but is aware of the daunting task that faces his side.
“Real Madrid are a team that doesn’t need to play well to win,” he said on Thursday. “They have the players to resolve a game in any moment. It will be a difficult game, but during this season we have seen other teams cause them problems and have chances to take something from the game.”
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Rafael Benitez remains unbeaten as Madrid boss 12 games into his tenure and should have the luxury of welcoming back a host of injured stars. James Rodriguez, Karim Benzema and Pepe could all feature having returned to training this week, but Gareth Bale misses out once more due to a calf problem.
With Madrid and Barcelona tied on 21 points at the top of the table, a Real victory can take them clear for a few hours at least, before Barca face Getafe later in the day.
The Catalans only managed a 0-0 draw at the Alfonso Perez Coliseum last season and are again debilitated by injuries and suspensions.
Javier Mascherano joins injured Argentine international teammate Lionel Messi on the sidelines due to a two-game ban for being sent-off against Eibar last weekend.
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However it is not all bad news for the Catalans as midfielders Andres Iniesta and Sergi Roberto have been included in Luis Enrique’s 18-man squad to face Getafe after overcoming hamstring and groin injuries respectively.
Iniesta has been sidelined for a month since pulling up in a 2-1 win over Bayern Leverkusen, whilst the versatile Roberto returns after 10 days out.
But Getafe are not a club Barcelona particularly like travelling to. “Statistically, I think Barcelona have never been comfortable coming to the Coliseum,” Getafe midfielder Pedro Leon told the club’s website. “There have been all sorts of results and we hope that on Saturday we can make it as difficult for them as possible and get a positive result.”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 31st, 2015.
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