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Preview: Real Madrid vs. Eibar

Sports Mole previews Sunday evening's La Liga showdown between Real Madrid and Eibar at the Bernabeu.

Real Madrid are going in search of just their second home league win of the campaign this weekend when out-of-form Eibar travel to the Bernabeu.

Los Blancos have already thrown away seven points on home soil this term, while also being held there by Tottenham Hotspur in European competition in midweek, meaning that victory is a must on Sunday evening.

Real Madrid

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring during the La Liga game between Getafe and Real Madrid on October 14, 2017© Offside

Cristiano Ronaldo's rather muted celebration against Getafe last weekend said an awful lot about Madrid's performances so far this season, as they continue to stutter in the early weeks of their first title defence in five years.

The good news for boss Zinedine Zidane is that his side do at least appear to have found some momentum in La Liga now, winning three games in a row to climb up the division into their current standing of third place behind Barcelona and Valencia.

Those three successive victories have come at a good time, too, as Madrid suffered a shock 2-1 loss at the hands of Real Betis exactly a month ago to see their rather poor home form at the time continue.

Having also slipped up against Valencia and Levante in the Spanish capital this season, the 2-0 victory over Espanyol just before the international break was much welcomed by Zidane, followed up with a late 2-1 win away to city rivals Getafe last time out.

The margin of victory was slim and Los Blancos certainly had to work hard for the three points, with Ronaldo striking five minutes from time to cancel out Jorge Molina's earlier leveller and close the gap a little more on Barca, who played out a lively 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid on the same day.

Reigning Spanish and European champions Madrid showed once again against Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League in midweek that they are not quite at full flow, though, as they were made to settle for a 1-1 draw that leaves their hopes of finishing top of Group H in jeopardy at the midway point.

Zidane has remained positive throughout, insisting that he is unfazed by the early-season wobble that has left his side playing catch up pretty much from the off, but he knows that nine points from nine against Eibar, Girona and Las Palmas is pretty much a must over the next two-and-a-half weeks.

With the gap on Barcelona now at five points, and a tasty derby clash against Atletico to look forward to in a month's time, Zidane will be hoping that his side can finally find their feet and put opponents away in the same manner as they did in last season's hugely successful campaign.

Recent form in La Liga: DWLWWW
Recent form (all competitions): LWWWWD


Eibar's coach Jose Luis Mendilibar gestures during the Spanish league football match Levante UD vs SD Eibar at the Ciutat de Valencia stadium in Valencia on September 23, 2015© Getty Images

Eibar may find themselves outside the relegation zone after picking up a point last weekend, but there is no doubt that they are in real danger of being dragged into a battle to stay out of the bottom three on current form.

Following a fairly bright start to the season, when beating Malaga and Leganes in their first four games, Los Armeros have since lost three and drawn one to find themselves in 16th place and one point above the dropzone.

Worryingly for boss Jose Luis Mendilibar, his side have the joint-worst goal difference in the division with -14, conceding 17 times and scoring just three across their first eight top-flight fixtures.

A goalless draw at home to fellow strugglers Deportivo La Coruna last time out in what was a bore draw at the Ipurua did at least provide Eibar with a welcome respite, as they kept out the opposition for the third time this season.

Sixteen goals had been shipped in the three games prior to that most recent outing, with Lionel Messi helping himself to four of those in table-toppers Barcelona's recent 6-1 thrashing at Camp Nou.

Eibar have also failed to score in five of their eight matches so far, including in each of the last three, giving them the joint-worst attack stats to go with the second-worst defence stats in the Spanish top flight - not a great combination.

Mendilibar's task looks bleak, then, but the perennial underdogs are keen to stick with their man after three years of over-achieving following their promotion to the big time in 2014

The experienced coach also has experience of guiding teams away from trouble, much like he did with Osasuna when taking them from the relegation zone into the top half, though if something similar is to happen with Eibar then they need to start scoring goals and keeping the opposition out.

Recent form in La Liga: WLLLLD

Team News

Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo have a chat during the Champions League game between Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid on September 26, 2017© Offside

Zidane revealed earlier this week that forward Gareth Bale is touch-and-go for the reverse match against Tottenham Hotspur at the start of next month, all but ruling the Welshman out of the three league and cup games between now and then.

Mateo Kovacic is another who has been struggling with an injury problem, while youngster Achraf Hakimi has deputised at right-back due to Dani Carvajal's recent heart scare.

Madrid are unlikely to rotate too much for the visit of Eibar, having already dropped too many points on home soil in the opening months of the campaign.

In terms of the away side, Mendilibar has had to contend with numerous injury problems in recent weeks and will again be without an array of first-team squad members for this one.

Ivan Ramis, Fran Rico, Yoel Rodriguez and Ivan Alejo are all expected to miss out, as well as former Madrid attacker Pedro Leon, who spent three years at the Bernabeu.

That could mean a starting spot through the middle for Sergi Enrich, despite netting just one league goal in eight appearances so far this term, five of which have been starts.

Real Madrid possible starting lineup:
Navas; Nacho, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Isco; Ronaldo, Benzema

Eibar possible starting lineup:
Dmitrovic; Arbilla, Oliveira, Lomban; Capa, Escalante, Garcia, Junca; Jordan, Enrich, Inui

Head To Head

These two sides have met eight times since 2004, with Madrid winning six of those and drawing the other two - most recently being held 1-1 in October 2016.

Normal service was resumed in last season's reverse fixture at the Ipurua, though, as Karim Benzema netted twice in a 4-1 victory for the visitors.

Defending champions Madrid have scored 18 goals in the last six meetings against Eibar, meanwhile, keeping a clean sheet in four of those.

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We say: Real Madrid 2-0 Eibar

Eibar have conceded at least three goals in their last three away games and have failed to score in five of their last seven overall. The omens do not look particularly good for Los Armeros right now, it is fair to say, though Madrid have hardly been on fire at the Bernabeu and this may just be a good time to take on the champions.

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Who will win Sunday's La Liga clash between Real Madrid and Eibar?

Real Madrid
Real Madrid
Zinedine Zidane looks on during the UEFA Champions League match between AS Roma and Real Madrid on February 17, 2016
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