Real Madrid have won four-straight in La Liga but still find themselves a point behind top-of-the-table Girona.
Los Blancos will need to keep up the momentum but a trip to the Canary Islands could be tricky. Our Spanish football expect Mark Sochon chimes in with his preview...
The teams with the best two defensive records in La Liga meet on Saturday as Real Madrid hop over to the Canary Islands to take on Las Palmas.
They do so without the suspended Jude Bellingham. The Englishman scored his 14th league goal of the campaign to kick off Real Madrid’s comeback in a controversial 3-2 win over Almeria last weekend, but also picked up his fifth booking.
Los Blancos were 2-0 down at the break at home to the bottom team but a host of marginal VAR calls went in their favour after the break. Dani Carvajal continued what has been an excellent season for the experienced right back by popping up at the back post with a 99th minute winner as his side recorded a fourth straight league win.
While they did exit the Copa del Rey against Atleti during that period, Carlo Ancelotti’s team would have been grateful for a midweek rest heading into this match. The games will continue to come thick and fast again though with Madrid derbies against Getafe and Atleti in store next week and Ancelotti will need to decide how best to use his squad over those games.
This is not an easy game by any means against an in-form Las Palmas side who have exceeded all expectations on their return to the top flight. They’ve moved into the top eight after recording 3-0 and 2-0 wins over Villarreal and Rayo Vallecano respectively over the past fortnight.
A quick look at the squad suggests they are most likely overachieving. They have an excellent goalkeeper with Alvaro Valles perhaps the standout keeper in La Liga so far this term. Central defender Mika Marmol and midfielder Kirian Rodriguez have also stood out, but overall it’s a squad that is hardly brimming with genuine quality so much credit must go to their boss Garcia Pimienta who is doing an excellent job.
They are a team with a very clear idea of what they want to do. That’s to build from the back and they are very good at keeping the ball with only Barcelona and Real Madrid enjoying a greater share of possession this season in the Spanish top flight.
They won’t veer from that approach here so it’ll be a different kind of test for Real Madrid who may look to feed balls over the top for Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo to run onto, a strategy that helped Barcelona recover from a slow start to come from behind and win 2-1 here earlier this month.
Punters can perhaps find further clues as to how this game may pan out by taking a look at the reverse fixture. Las Palmas had 53% of the ball at the Santiago Bernabeu, completing over 90% of their passes as they gave a good account of themselves in the Spanish capital.
However Real Madrid have considerably more quality in the final third of the pitch and still won that game 2-0 with Brahim Diaz and Joselu scoring either side of the interval.
One positive for Las Palmas is that Real Madrid look nowhere near as convincing defensively right now as they did back then. Nacho has struggled to fill the void left by the injured David Alaba, goalkeepers Kepa and Andriy Lunin are both going through a tough patch and Los Blancos have let in ten goals in their last four games in all competitions.
Bellingham’s suspension will spark a midfield reshuffle for the visitors with Brahim Diaz potentially getting the nod in the advanced central role. Real Madrid have no other absentees with the exception of Thibaut Courtois, David Alaba and Eder Militao who are all out long-term.
Ancelotti has confirmed that Lunin will start in goal while it’s possible that he may go for an energetic midfield of Eduardo Camavinga, Aurelien Tchouameni and Fede Valverde in this game, although Toni Kroos and Luka Modric are both available.
Las Palmas are expected to go with the same eleven that defeated Rayo 2-0 in Madrid last weekend. They are still missing loanee Julian Araujo to suspension who has been their first choice right back. Meanwhile Saúl Coco and Omenuke Mfulu are still away on AFCON duty with 19 year old centre-back Juanma Herzog currently making the most of his opportunity to play.
You can back Las Palmas to win this game at 6/1. The Draw is 18/5 while Real Madrid are favourites to leave Gran Canaria with three points at 4/9.
With Las Palmas conceding just 17 goals in 21 matches this term, a record bettered only by their opponents, the temptation may be to back a low-scoring game here. You can get odds of 11/10 for Under 2.5 Goals while Under 3.5 Goals is priced at 4/9.
Real Madrid are available at 11/8 to win to nil. You can also back Draw or Real Madrid and Under 2.5 Goals at 7/5.
Ancelotti is expected to pick his two Brazilians up front. Vinicius Junior is priced at 4/1 to score first and 5/4 to score anytime while you can get odds of 13/10 for Rodrygo to score anytime. Bellingham’s suspension could present an opportunity to Brahim Diaz who is available at 15/8 to score anytime.
Bet 2 - Las Palmas +1.0 Half-time Handicap @ 5/6
Las Palmas have not conceded a goal in the First Half at home all season which is an outstanding record for a promoted side to have and it’s giving them a real foothold in games.
They were in front at the break when Barca visited earlier in January and they’ve been at worst level at the interval in all of their last seven league matches home or away.
Given Real Madrid’s really poor First Half last weekend and a record that has seen the title favourites score just 33% of their league goals before the break in La Liga 2023/24, I’m backing Las Palmas +1.0 Half-time Handicap at 5/6 here.
Bet 1 - Las Palmas 10+ Shots @ Evens
Some Las Palmas games this season have resembled chess matches with the Canarian side patiently moving the ball sideways and opposing teams defending in numbers and denying them a clear path towards goal.
That’s unlikely to be the case here though as Real Madrid will come with little else on their mind but trying to win the game. That should help to open things up and it’s worth noting that Las Palmas did have 16 attempts in the reverse fixture while they had 12 shots in the game against Barca.
With the likes of Kirian Rodriguez not shy of shooting from range, they may try to work what has been a slightly shaky Andriy Lunin in recent weeks as much as possible here and I’m backing Las Palmas to have 10+ shots at Evens.
You can check out Mark's La Liga Betting Tips along with those from the rest of the Betfred Insights Spanish Football writers on our La Liga home page...