Good evening and welcome to Sports Mole
's live commentary of the La Liga clash between Real Madrid
from the Bernabeu. Both Barcelona and Atletico Madrid have dropped points this weekend and a win for Real Madrid tonight would move them to within two points of second-placed Atletico in the table. Alaves, meanwhile, have dropped from fifth to seventh with results thus far this weekend, but the Basque outfit would move to within one point of the top four with a win tonight. Stay tuned!
REAL: Courtois; Odriozola, Nacho, Ramos, Reguilon; Ceballos, Casemiro, Modric; Bale, Benzema, Vinicius
ALAVES: Pacheco; Duarte, Maripan, Laguardia, Vigaray; Wakaso, Manu, Pina, Jony, Burgui; Calleri
Real Madrid are without the services of both Raphael Varane and Dani Carvajal tonight through suspension. Varane received a straight red card in the 4-2 win over Espanyol last weekend, while Carvajal picked up a yellow in the same match, which led to a one-match suspension. As a result, Alvaro Odriozola and Nacho come into the back four for the home side. Gareth Bale is also handed his first start since returning from injury, while Dani Ceballos and Vinicius Junior
earn spots in the XI.
As for Alaves, Rodrigo Ely and Adrian Marin remain on the sidelines with knee and muscular problems respectively. Tomas Pina is available and starts, however, having missed their 1-0 defeat to Rayo last weekend through suspension. Jonathan Calleri will lead the away side's attack.
Here we go then; both sets of players have joined us on the pitch ahead of kickoff at the Bernabeu. Can Real Madrid continue their impressive run of form? Stay tuned to find out.
KICKOFF: Real Madrid kick things off on home soil...
... it must be said that there is a wonderful atmosphere inside the stadium tonight. The Real Madrid supporters are feeling a lot better about there team at the moment, that is for sure.
Early possession for the home side here. There is no question that things are looking a lot healthier for Los Blancos at the moment, with a run of four straight wins in all competitions. Key players are also returning from injury at the right time, with the Champions League resuming this month and Real Madrid also making the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey.
Indeed, Thursday's 3-1 win at Girona saw Real Madrid qualify for the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey with a 7-3 aggregate success. Solari's team have been drawn against holders Barcelona in the last four and they will be desperate to secure some domestic silverware, which has been hard to find in recent seasons. The hosts continue to dominate the ball early on here.
Some serious pressure from the home side at the moment with Ceballos having two efforts - the first of which was blocked and the second of which went over. Real Madrid have actually won their last three in the league, beating Real Betis 2-1 on January 13 before recording back-to-back victories over Sevilla and Espanyol in their last two. They want another victory tonight.
The league title is surely beyond Real Madrid this season, but they will have the Copa del Rey crown in their sights and simply cannot be written off in the Champions League due to their incredible form in the competition. A win tonight would see them move to within two points of second-placed Atletico in the table ahead of the clash between the capital rivals next weekend.
CLOSE! Benzema misses the top corner with a curling strike from distance.
Nine wins, five draws and seven defeats - that is how Alaves have performed in La Liga this season. A total of 32 points had left them in fifth position in the table, just four points off fourth-placed Sevilla entering Week 22. They have dropped down to seventh with other results this weekend, but a point tonight would be enough to see them return to the top five.
Alaves have finished ninth and 14th in Spain's top flight in the last two seasons, but look capable of making a strong challenge for at least a top-seven position come the end of the campaign. They are matching Real Madrid at the moment, but it is becoming a very scrappy match with both sets of players clashing. Indeed, Casemiro and Wakaso have just had words.
Alaves' position in the table is even more remarkable when considering that they have only scored 22 league goals this season, which is the fifth-worst record in the division. The Basque outfit have been tight defensively though, shipping just 24, which is a better defensive record than their opponents tonight. The visitors have just broken away on the counter through Jony, but the winger's low cross was deflected behind for a corner, which was cleared by Ramos.
Abelardo's team have hit a bit of a slump in recent weeks, however, collecting just one point from the last nine available. Indeed, they drew with Girona on January 12 before losing 4-0 at Getafe and 1-0 at home to Rayo Vallecano in their last two. Can they triumph tonight? Still 0-0.
SAVE! Smart save from Pacheco to keep out a powerful strike from Vinicius, who had danced into a dangerous position before unleashing a strike towards the back of the net.
Jonathan Calleri and Borja Baston are Alaves' joint-leading scorers in the league this season with four each, while the likes of Tomas Pina, Burgui, Jony and Manu Garcia have chipped in from midfield. Calleri is the lone forward tonight, but has not had much of a kick thus far.
It is a tough ask for Alaves to triumph here when considering Real Madrid's form, but they did record a 1-0 win over Los Blancos in the reverse match on home soil earlier this season.
CLOSE! Reguilon's strike from distance is just too high!
As mentioned, Alaves recorded a 1-0 win over Real Madrid in the reverse match earlier this season. That said, Real Madrid thumped Alaves 4-0 when the pair last locked horns at the Bernabeu in February 2018. The pair have met on seven occasions since September 2005 and Real Madrid lead the head-to-head six victories to one. Still goalless with 24 on the clock.
There is no getting away from the fact that it has been a difficult campaign for Real Madrid. It was always going to be tough in the post-Cristiano Ronaldo era and the European champions are not in a title race this season, although Barcelona did drop points against Valencia last night and a win this evening would cut the gap to eight points at the top of the table.
The Whites will fancy their chances of clawing back some ground on Atletico, but it would have to be some collapse from Barcelona to allow Solari's side to challenge for the title. Real Madrid remain on the front foot here, but it is still goalless with 28 minutes on the clock.
Just a reminder that Real Madrid are without services of both Raphael Varane and Dani Carvajal tonight through suspension. Varane received a straight red card in the 4-2 win over Espanyol last weekend, while Carvajal picked up a yellow in the same match, which led to a one-match suspension. Odriozola has been lively for the home side down the right thus far tonight.
GOAL! REAL MADRID 1-0 ALAVES (BENZEMA)
Breakthrough! Real Madrid take the lead in the 30th minute as Vinicius plays a super pass into Reguilon and the defender's low cross is tapped into the back of the net by Benzema!
YELLOW CARD! Laguardia (Alaves) is booked for a late tackle on Vinicius.
Little over 10 minutes of the first period remaining and Real Madrid are very much on the front foot here as they look to double their advantage before the end of the half in Madrid.
Pacheco has to drop to his knees to collect a cross from Benzema as the Frenchman continues to cause problems. Benzema has been so impressive for Real Madrid in recent weeks.
Benzema breaks into a dangerous position before squaring for Bale, but the offside flag comes to the away side's rescue. Nothing much in terms of a response from the away side here.
We have not seen much from Bale in this first half it must be said, with the Welshman just feeling his way back in following an injury. Benzema and Vinicius have again been excellent.
Not an awful lot to report in the last few minutes, although there were a few whistles for Bale when he just took the ball on the right. A bit harsh, but these fans are demanding!
HALF TIME: REAL MADRID 1-0 ALAVES
The referee does not add any stoppage time, with the whistle blown at 45. Real Madrid head down the tunnel with a 1-0 advantage, earned by Benzema's 30th-minute goal. The home side have been comfortable in the first half, with Alaves not offering too much in the final third.
STATISTICS! Real Madrid had 71% of the possession in the first period, managing two attempts on target from nine shots. Alaves, meanwhile, hit the target with just one of their two attempts. Just the one booking to report and it came for Laguardia, who put in a late tackle on Vinicius.
A strong Real Madrid bench includes the likes of Isco, Asensio and Marcelo, while Mariano Diaz
is also back available following a period on the sidelines. Alaves, meanwhile, have options in the shape of Guidetti, Blanco and Rolan. Plenty of talent in reserve for both teams.
KICKOFF: Alaves resume the action here...
... no changes from either side at the break, which is not too much of a surprise. However, I suspect that both managers will have alterations in mind as the second period develops here.
CLOSE! Duarte's volley is not too far away from Courtois's post!
You do get the feeling that Alaves need to score the next goal in order to stand a chance of picking up a positive result in this match. The visitors have been bright since the restart.
SAVE! Comfortable save for Pacheco to keep out Benzema's half-volley.
Calleri very nearly gets away from Ramos, but the Real Madrid captain just about manages to make the challenge. Ramos has been excellent for the European champions tonight.
SAVE! Smart save from Pacheco to keep out a low strike from Bale.
Pina is perhaps a touch fortunate to escape a yellow card for a late challenge on Casemiro, who stays on the ground and is not very happy at all. No harm done though as play continues.
CHANCE! Big chance for Alaves to level the scores as the ball falls for Burgui inside the Real Madrid box, but the attacker misses the target from a very dangerous position.
YELLOW CARD! Burgui (Alaves) is booked for a poor challenge on Reguilon.
Little over 30 minutes of the second period remaining and the score remains 1-0 Real Madrid. Not an awful lot to report in terms of Real Madrid chances in the second period.
SHOT! Calleri misses the Real Madrid crossbar with an effort from inside the box!
Good pressure from the home side in the last couple of moments, but Alaves manage to survive. Marco Asensio will be coming off the Real Madrid bench very shortly here.
Will Asensio come on for Bale? The Welshman has been poor tonight.
Real Madrid have a free kick just outside the box as Maripan fells Casemiro...
SHOT! ... Bale's free kick misses the Alaves crossbar.
REAL MADRID SUB! Bale is replaced by Asensio.
Vinicius sees his shot blocked by Laguardia and Pacheco can collect.
SAVE! Big chance for Alaves as Jony finds space inside the Real Madrid box, but Courtois makes a super save. Real Madrid need to be very, very careful here.
Duarte manages to clear a low cross from Benzema, which looked to be heading for Asensio at the far post. Meanwhile, the visitors are preparing to make their first change here.
ALAVES SUB! Rolan replaces Burgui for the away side.
CLOSE! You do get the feeling that there is another goal in this match and Real Madrid have lifted the tempo in the last few minutes. Modric has just broken into the Alaves box, but the away side manage to scramble it clear before Vinicius fires over the post from distance.
YELLOW CARD! Wakaso (Alaves) is booked for a foul on Vinicius.
REAL MADRID SUB! Mariano Diaz replaces Benzema for the home side.
Little over 10 minutes of the second period remaining and Benzema's first-half effort is still the difference between the two teams. Will there be a late sting in the tail here?
Ceballos makes ground inside the Alaves box, but Laguardia has been on hand to make a strong challenge. Laguardia has again been excellent for the away side tonight.
SHOT! Asensio misses the Alaves crossbar from distance.
GOAL! REAL MADRID 2-0 ALAVES (VINICIUS)
Vinicius! Real Madrid have their second of the match as Vinicius collects a deep cross from Asensio before sliding the ball into the bottom corner of the net!
ALAVES SUBS! Calleri and Manu are replaced by Blanco and Guidetti.
CLOSE! Maripan heads a well-worked corner wide of the Real Madrid post.
SAVE! Vinicius again shows wonderful feet inside the Alaves box before going down, but the referee is not interested. Moments before, Pacheco had to save from Odriozola.
CHANCE! Mariano cannot get his shot away inside the Alaves box!
REAL MADRID SUB! Isco replaces Vinicius for the home side.
Alaves have had lots of the ball in the last few minutes, but Real Madrid hold firm at the back. A clean sheet would be a huge added bonus for the European champions tonight.
SAVE! Decent save from Pacheco to keep out an effort from Mariano.
DISALLOWED GOAL! Odriozola fires past Pacheco, but the offside flag is raised!
GOAL! REAL MADRID 3-0 ALAVES (MARIANO)
GOAL! Real Madrid have their third of the night as Mariano heads a super Odriozola cross into the back of the net. Excellent cross and a brilliant header for the home side's third.
FULL TIME: REAL MADRID 3-0 ALAVES
So there we have it. The referee brings the second period to a close with Real Madrid recording a 3-0 win over Alaves to make it five straight victories in all competitions. Thanks for joining Sports Mole for our live minute-by-minute commentary once again. Until next time!