Reigning champions Real Madrid host promoted Girona in the Spanish top flight on Sunday afternoon.

A rotated Real Madrid side lost their first match of the season in midweek, succumbing to a 3-2 reverse away to RB Leipzig in the Champions League. The bitter twang of defeat is a far more familiar taste for Girona. The Catalan side have lost four of their last six matches and trudge into the weekend inside the relegation zone.

Here’s everything you need to know about the meeting between two sides at opposite ends of La Liga’s standings.

Real Madrid: 4 Wins
Girona: 1 Win
Draws: 0

Real Madrid: DWWWL
Girona: LLDLD

Luka Modric, Dani Ceballos and Mariano Diaz have returned to full training. Karim Benzema has been blighted by injury since limping off against Celtic in September and was only risked for half of Friday’s session. Fede Valverde worked individually after taking a heavy blow against Sevilla last weekend.

Real Madrid Starting 11 (4-3-3): Courtois; Carvajal, Militao, Alaba, Mendy; Modric, Tchouameni, Camavinga; Asensio, Rodrygo, Vinicius.
Bench: Lunin, Vazquez, Nacho, Vallejo, Hazard, Rudiger, Ceballos, Diaz, Odriozola.

Injury has prevented both Borja Garcia and Ibrahima Kebe from featuring since Girona’s promotion to the Primera this summer. Real Madrid loanee Reinier missed four matches in October with a hamstring strain, but came off the bench during the club’s draw with high-flying Osasuna last weekend.

Girona Starting 11 (4-4-1-1): Gazzaniga; Couto, Lopez, Bueno, Hernandez; Herrera, Garcia, Romeu, Villa; Vallejo; Stuani.
Bench: Fuidias, Espinosa, Gutierrez, Reinier, Fernandez, Riquelme, Castellanos, Saiz, Terrats.

“Sometimes, you learn more from a loss than from ten wins in a row,” Carlo Ancelotti sagely offered in the wake of Madrid’s midweek defeat. One of the takeaways for the Italian was to “play a lower block”, giving Madrid more space to counter into and limit the transitional opportunities of their opponents.

Girona could be an agreeable foe for Madrid to deploy this approach against. The promoted outfit have been keen to hold onto the ball since coming up – giving Ancelotti’s team licence to sit back – but struggle to convert their possession into penetration.

Up against a Madrid side stung by a rare setback, Girona’s wait for a maiden clean sheet this season may be extended for another week.

Prediction: Real Madrid 3-1 Girona


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