Real Madrid will face Osasuna on La Liga’s Matchweek 23, looking to maintain their lead over FC Barcelona in the table.
Thursday’s loss to Real Sociedad still stings, but Real Madrid are ready to move on and pick up three more points to bolster their standing as the top team in La Liga this season. Los Blancos may have suffered a defensive breakdown against Martin Odegaard, Alexander Isak, and a highly talented attack, but they were also playing without their best defensive players. Their only regular starting defender, goalkeeper, or defensive midfielder was Sergio Ramos.
On Sunday at Osasuna, Real Madrid will most likely have Dani Carvajal, Thibaut Courtois, Ferland Mendy, and Raphael Varane all back in the lineup. These four players are arguably the best at their respective positions in the league.
But they aren’t the only players who will be key to a victory for Los Merengues. Here are three matchups to watch closely on Matchweek 23 when Real Madrid face Osasuna on the road.
RB Dani Carvajal vs. LB Pervis Estupinan
Since Chimy Avila, who leads the team with nine goals this season, is out due to an injury, Osasuna’s best player on the pitch this Sunday will be Watford loanee Pervis Estupinan. While Osasuna lost to Real Madrid in September, both goals by Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo were scored from the left flank; Estupinan was impressive at the Santiago Bernabeu despite the scoreline.
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The young Ecuador star is second on his team with three assists this season and is excellent defensively. A hard worker who can do everything at the position, Estupinan vs. Dani Carvajal could be a marquee battle between fullbacks.
Carvajal will be tasked with adding plenty to Real’s attack against a disciplined, tight Osasuna side. He’ll find space at a premium on Sunday, so the quality of his crosses will be critical.
Defensively, he’ll likely receive help from the scrappy Lucas Vazquez, but he’ll still need to be disciplined with his positioning against a player as sharp as Estupinan.
LW Vinicius Junior vs. RB Nacho Vidal
Real Madrid aren’t the only team with a standout right back, as Osasuna’s Nacho Vidal has quietly enjoyed a solid 2019-2020 season opposite Pervis Estupinan. He’s one of the most underrated players in La Liga. Vidal has no goals or assists this season, but, defensively, he’s one of the best right backs you’ll find with a whopping 1.7 interceptions per game, according to WhoScored.com.
That average is still behind Estupinan, who also leads the team with 2.5 tackles per game. However, it’s a mighty impressive mark for a fullback. Estupinan and Vidal do so much hard work for Osasuna defensively, and they are a big reason why the team is one of the top half in the league in goals allowed.
Vidal will have his work cut out for him, though, against Vinicius Junior, who is one of the most exciting players in La Liga. He is in amazing form, carving up opposition defenses with his confident and skillful dribbling. Vinicius has shown more patience and calmer passing in the final third, making him a huge threat to any defense. It’s up to Vidal to somewhat mitigate the damage he’ll cause.
CF Karim Benzema vs. CB Unai Garcia
Aridane Hernandez will be suspended for this week’s game, meaning Unai Garcia will start alongside David Garcia, which could be a massive downgrade for Osasuna. David Garcia and Hernandez have been a quality center back partnership for the club this season, even if there’s nothing spectacular about either player.
But Unai Garcia is an unknown right now. The 28-year-old has played only 18 minutes in one substitute appearance for the club in La Liga.
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He could struggle against Karim Benzema, who needs to pick up his form. Real Madrid struggle when Benzema isn’t scoring, and while he works hard, Los Blancos require him to provide end product. They simply don’t have any other major goal-scorers in the squad besides him, as Gareth Bale has flopped badly again in 2019-2020.