Afternoon all! Sports Mole
's live La Liga coverage continues from the Basque County as in-form Eibar welcome Real Madrid, who are looking to return to the top of the table ahead of Barcelona. It has been a turbulent last couple of matches for the Madrid giants and head coach Zinedine Zidane
will he hoping for a more comfortable match this afternoon. Stay tuned for the action!
Real Madrid have won four of the last five league fixtures between the two teams, including a 2-0 victory in the corresponding clash last season. That said, the points were shared in a 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu this term, with Gareth Bale cancelling out an early Fran Rico effort.
Right, let me bring you up-to-speed with the all-important team news for this match. Real Madrid were in action on Wednesday night – drawing 3-3 at home to Las Palmas – but Eibar have had a free week to prepare for this match. Any changes for Los Blancos? Let's have a look...
EIBAR: Yoel; Capa, Ramis, Dos Santos, Luna; Escalante, Garcia, Adrian; Leon, Enrich, Pena
REAL: Navas; Danilo, Ramos, Pepe, Nacho; Modric, Casemiro, James; Lucas, Benzema, Asensio
French defender Florian Lejeune misses out for Eibar this afternoon through suspension, meaning that there is a spot in central defence for Mauro dos Santos. Sergi Enrich also returns to the team at centre-forward, with Ruben Pena
reverting to a wide position. Spanish midfielder Adrian also boosts the team in the middle of the park as Jose Luis Mendilibar shuffles his pack.
As for Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo misses out this afternoon due to a muscular problem, while Gareth Bale starts his two-game suspension. As a result, Lucas Vasquez and Marco Asensio
join Karim Benzema
in the final third, while James Rodriguez
is given a start in midfield. There are also changes at the back as Danilo and Nacho start in the two full-back positions.
So there we have it. The two teams are in and we are now just about 40 minutes from kickoff this afternoon. I shall speak about Eibar and their impressive form a little bit later, but let's start with Real Madrid. Zinedine Zidane
's side currently sit second in La Liga on 56 points – one point behind the leaders Barcelona, who have played one more game than the Madrid giants.
Barcelona took over first position on Wednesday night after thumping Sporting Gijon 6-1 at Camp Nou, but Real Madrid had the chance to return to the summit when they hosted Las Palmas. Isco sent Los Blancos into an eighth-minute lead at the Bernabeu, but Zidane's side actually found themselves 3-1 down and with 10 men entering the final 30 minutes of football in the capital.
Las Palmas actually kept their two-goal lead into the final five minutes, but a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty levelled the scores in the 86th minute, before the Portuguese headed an equaliser one minute from time. It was another late show from Real Madrid after coming from 2-0 down to beat Villarreal 3-2 last weekend, but they surely cannot get away with another one this afternoon.
Real Madrid's game in hand is away to Celta Vigo – hardly a given – and there is no question that they have allowed Barcelona and indeed Sevilla back into the race. Instead of potentially opening up a seven-point lead, Zidane's side are now battling to hold onto first position and recent performances suggest that there are going to be plenty more twists and turns in the final months.
In terms of what is ahead for Los Blancos, they will travel to Napoli next week for the second leg of their last-16 clash in the Champions League, boasting a 3-1 lead from the first leg in Madrid. They will then welcome Real Betis in the league on March 12, before travelling to Athletic Bilbao on March 18. Their game in hand away to Celta has not yet been finalised, but it will have to fit in somewhere.
Real Madrid have had their problems in recent weeks, but they are still in charge of their own destiny in the league and have won 17 of their 24 La Liga fixtures this term. Like Barcelona, they have only lost twice in Spain's top flight during the 2016-17 campaign and a strong performance – and indeed result – this afternoon would see them return to the top of the division ahead of Barcelona.
Eibar, however, will not be in the mood to hand out any favours this afternoon. A very impressive campaign has seen the Basque outfit win 11 of their 25 league matches – collecting 39 points in the process – to sit in seventh position. They are actually only three points off sixth-place Villarreal and have their eyes on a top-six finish approaching the business end of the campaign.
Since losing 4-0 at home to Barcelona on January 22, Eibar have only suffered one defeat in the league and that came away to Sevilla. During that run, they put four goals past Valencia and Granada without conceding, in addition to winning 3-0 at home to Malaga on February 25. Last weekend, they picked up a brilliant point away at Real Sociedad in what was an entertaining 2-2 draw.
Osasuna, who look doomed at the bottom of the table, are Eibar's next opponents after this match, while they will host Espanyol on March 18. If the Basque side have serious ambitions of a European finish this season then they need to pick up points in matches against the big teams. The hosts, however, might well have caught a wounded Real Madrid at a difficult time this afternoon.
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Eibar's form this season is even more incredible when considering where they have come from. The Gunners only secured promotion to La Liga during the 2013-14 campaign and actually finished 18th in their first ever season in Spain's top flight. Financial problems for Elche, however, saw Eibar remain in La Liga and they finished comfortably in 14th position in the table last term.
Here we go then - both sets of players have joined us on the pitch ahead of the first period of action. Real Madrid should have enough to win this afternoon despite the absences of Bale and Ronaldo, but Eibar have only lost one of their last seven in the league. Let's hope for a good game!
KICKOFF! Real Madrid kick things off in the Basque Country...
... not the best weather it must be said! However, there is a good atmosphere inside the stadium and it has been a very fast start from Real Madrid, with Benzema already finding space inside the home side's box. The Frenchman tried to turn away from Dos Santos, but the challenge was made.
Possession football from Eibar in the last couple of minutes as they look to settle, but no chances to report for either side in the early stages. I am not expecting too many goals this afternoon.
Eibar have the chance to threaten from a free kick in a central position, but Pepe does well to head Leon's delivery clear of the penalty box. Real Madrid have just started to come under a little bit of pressure and the visitors are having to drop deep as they look to close out the Eibar threat.
Benzema breaks into the Eibar box and looks to squeeze a cross towards Modric, but Ramis does well to challenge the Frenchman and the ball bounces back off the striker for a home goal kick.
Eleven minutes on the clock and it is a case of so far, so good for Eibar, who have managed to restrict Real Madrid to very little in the early stages of this match. Neither side has created much in the final third and it has turned a little bit scrappy due to both teams conceding possession.
Eibar are doing their best to unnerve Real Madrid in the middle of the park and Adrian has won a couple of important challenges in the last few moments. Leon again has the chance to deliver a deep free kick into the Real Madrid box, but Dos Santos's header drops into the arms of Navas.
GOAL! Eibar 0-1 Real Madrid (Benzema)
Real Madrid make the breakthrough in the 14th minute of action as Benzema fires the ball home from close range after seeing his initial effort saved by Yoel. Not sure about the defending there!
We have not seen an awful lot of Eibar as an attacking threat in the opening 18 minutes of this match, with Enrich struggling to get involved in the action. Leon has seen little bits of the ball, but has been unable to harm Real Madrid in dangerous areas. The visitors lead in the Basque Country.
Not an awful lot to report in terms of chances in the last few minutes, although Eibar are seeing more of the ball in Real Madrid's half of the field. It is still very finely balanced here.
Attacking down the left, Vasquez continues to cause Eibar problems and the Spaniard wins another corner for his team after linking with James. The resulting set piece is delivered into a dangerous area, but Ramis is on hand to make the clearance. Real Madrid remain on the attack here.
GOAL! Eibar 0-2 Real Madrid (Benzema)
Real Madrid double their lead in the 25th minute as Benzema taps a deep James free kick into the back of the net. Again, it is poor defending from Eibar and the visitors have a two-goal lead here.
Little over 15 minutes of the first period remaining and Real Madrid lead 2-0 in the Basque County. The visitors, who are heading top as things stand, have not had to be too impressive to secure a two-goal lead, which is worrying for Eibar, who have really struggled to get going on home soil this afternoon.
GOAL! Eibar 0-3 Real Madrid (James)
What an absolute nightmare for Eibar. The home side concede a third as James places a low Benzema cross into the top corner. Who needs Ronaldo and Bale? Real Madrid lead by three!
BOOKING! Escalante (Eibar) is booked for a foul on Casemiro.
Little over 10 minutes of the first period remaining and in truth, this game is already over. Eibar have offered absolutely nothing in the final third and their defensive is all over the place here.
As it stands, Real Madrid are returning to the top of La Liga ahead of Barcelona, who host Celta Vigo later tonight. Barcelona will expect to return to the summit after that match, but Celta actually have a brilliant recent record at Camp Nou. Real Madrid are so incredibly comfortable here.
Possession football for Real Madrid as they pass and probe in Eibar's half of the field. Benzema, without Bale and Ronaldo, looks full of running and freedom in the final third of the pitch.
CHANCE! Much better from Eibar as Enrich turns inside the Real Madrid box and looks to find the bottom corner, but a combination of Ramos and Navas prevent the ball from going in!
Eibar have come alive in the final moments of this half as they press Real Madrid high up the field, but it is surely too little, too late. In fairness to the home supporters, they have stayed with their team despite a miserable first period. Los Blancos are in a very comfortable position here.
SAVE! Yoel has to get down and keep out Benzema's low strike.
HALF-TIME: Eibar 0-3 Real Madrid
So there we have it. The referee brings the first period to a close with Real Madrid leading Eibar 3-0 courtesy of a double from Benzema and smart finish from James. In truth, it has been a very difficult afternoon for the home side, who have struggled to get going in the final third of the field. As it stands, Real Madrid are returning to the top of Spain's top flight ahead of champions Barcelona.
STATISTICS! Real Madrid have dominated the possession with 59%, while they managed nine attempts in the first period - six of which were on target. Eibar, on the other hand, only had one attempt on target in the opening 45 minutes. Just the one booking - Eibar's Escalante (32 min).
BENCH WATCH! Even with the absences of Bale and Ronaldo, Real Madrid have plenty of attacking options on their bench this afternoon, with Isco, Mariano and Kroos all available for Zidane. As for Eibar, head coach Mendilibar has forward options in the shape of Bebe, Keke, Rivera and Inui.
RESTART! Eibar resume the action on home soil...
... no changes from either side at the break, but I suspect that both managers will already have alterations in mind for the second period. Indeed, both will be looking to rest players. With the greatest will in the world, Real Madrid have already secured all the points this afternoon.
Stoppage in play as Luna receives some treatment, but the full-back does return to his feet and should be fit to continue. The injury actually occurred after Luna dived into a challenge with Modric.
Half-chance for Benzema as a header from Casemiro releases the striker inside the Eibar box, but his effort is across goal and eventually the offside flag comes to the home side's rescue.
Eibar have been neat and tidy in possession of the football, but the home side have really struggled to cause Real Madrid serious problems. Enrich had a half-chance in the first period when he turned inside the box, but apart from that the Basque outfit have created very little this afternoon.
Capa breaks down the right for Eibar before cutting inside and attempting to find Adrian, but Pepe is on hand to make a strong clearance and eventually Real Madrid clear their lines.
EIBAR SUB! Arbilla replaces Luna for the home side.
No movement on the Real Madrid bench as things stand, but we are entering the stage of the match where Zidane will be considering freshening things up. Asensio has another half-chance for the visitors after breaking into the Eibar box, but Ramos is across to make the clearance.
GOAL! Eibar 0-4 Real Madrid (Asensio)
Real Madrid have their fourth of the afternoon as Asensio finds the back of the net after James' effort had clipped the outside of the post and bounced kindly for the young Spaniard!
BOOKING! Nacho (Real Madrid) is booked for a late tackle on Leon.
EIBAR SUB! Rivera replaces Adrian for the home side.
Just a reminder that Barcelona host Celta Vigo later tonight and you can follow our live coverage of that match from 6.45pm UK time. Barcelona, as it stands, are dropping to second spot in the table.
Possession football from Eibar as we approach the final 20 minutes of football this afternoon. The home side have been really impressive in recent weeks, but they have never got going in this match. Real Madrid have not had to do too much to open up a four-goal lead in this game.
GOAL DISALLOWED! Eibar have the ball in the back of the net through Escalante, but the offside flag is raised and the home supporters are left frustrated once again.
REAL MADRID SUB! Kovacic replaces Modric for Real Madrid.
GOAL! Eibar 1-4 Real Madrid (Pena)
Eibar have one back on home soil as Pena heads a super Leon cross into the bottom corner. It is a brilliantly-worked goal from the Basque side and they are deservedly on the scoresheet here.
REAL MADRID SUB! Isco replaces James for Real Madrid.
Little over 10 minutes of the second period remaining and it is Eibar in possession of the ball. Another goal for the home side at this point would make things a bit uncomfortable for Real Madrid, who have conceded a lot of goals in recent weeks. It is much better from the hosts at the moment.
Still Eibar dominate the ball as we enter the final 10 minutes of football here.
Eibar are doing to stay down in seventh position when this result is confirmed, while Real Madrid are moving two points clear of Barcelona at the top of the table courtesy of their 18th league win of the campaign. Who needs Ronaldo and Bale? Maybe neither will get back in the team!
It is strange because there have been five goals in this match, but not much has happened for long spells. The game has drifted in the second period and not too much is occurring at the moment.
EIBAR SUB! Inui replaces Leon for the home side.
Lucas uses his pace to break into the Eibar box, but the Spaniard cannot evade Arbilla and Eibar manage to survive another dangerous situation. The home side have been pretty good in the second period, but they suffered a lot of damage in the first and have been unable to turn it around.
Half-chance for Real Madrid to score a fifth as Danilo breaks down the right and delivers a low cross towards Mariano, but the ball has too much weight and Eibar survive.
FULL-TIME: Eibar 1-4 Real Madrid
So there we have it. The referee brings the second period to a close with Real Madrid running out 4-1 winners over hosts Eibar as the Madrid giants return to the top of La Liga ahead of champions Barcelona. Thanks for joining Sports Mole for our live coverage once again. Until next time!