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Real Madrid vs Celta Vigo preview: prediction and team news

Real Madrid were held to a 1-1 draw by RB Leipzig on Wednesday, but still managed to qualify for the Champions League quarterfinals with a third draw in four matches in all competitions (1 win). Still top of La Liga, Real Madrid have had a tough week after losing their appeal against Jude Bellingham’s red card in the 2-2 draw against Valencia last weekend.

Not only will he be out for two league matches, but coach Carlo Ancelotti is also facing legal problems after Spanish prosecutors accused him this week of committing tax fraud during his first spell in charge of the club. The Italian dismissed the question in front of the press and said he remained focused on extending “Los Blancos'” 18-match unbeaten home run in La Liga (15 wins, 3 draws), while admitting that the midweek match was “poorly played”.

That could encourage Celta Vigo, who are one place above the relegation zone after recording a vital 1-0 win against bottom side Almería last Friday. The victory was timely for under-pressure coach Rafa Benítez, as some reports suggested that a defeat would have cost him his job, with Celta having won only one of their last seven league matches (2 draws, 4 defeats).

Benítez is no stranger to this kind of pressure, having also spent time in the Real Madrid hot seat. Earning Celta their first league win at this stadium since November 2006 (1 draw, 10 defeats) would be a huge boost to his job security. But with only two away wins in La Liga this season (5 draws, 6 defeats), the embarrassment of having let a 2-0 lead slip to draw 2-2 at Cadiz in their last away game, and Benítez’s record of four consecutive defeats as a manager against Ancelotti, the omens are not good for “Los Celestes”.

Team News

Real Madrid

Jude Bellingham is suspended after picking up a controversial red card for dissent against Valencia.

Joselu returns from injury, having featured against RB Leipzig in the Champions League, and will provide as an extra attacking option for Ancelotti on Sunday.

Brahim Diaz will likely take on the familiar task of replacing Jude Bellingham in his absence.

Celta Vigo

Iago Aspas returns from his suspension to play his 201st game for the club against Real Madrid.

Carlos Dominguez could feature at the back this weekend. He has been back in training and has been given the green light by Rafa Benitez.

Jonathan Bamba returned to the starting XI last weekend against Almeria and should feature there again at left midfield.

Players to watch: Bellingham’s absence could give Brahim Díaz the chance to add to his four La Liga goals this season, three of which have been openers. For the visitors, Óscar Mingueza has found form in recent times, with two contributions in his last two starts (1 goal, 1 assist).

Key stat: Celta have conceded after the 85th minute in three of their last four matches (1 win, 1 draw, 2 defeats).

Prediction

Real Madrid welcome Celta Vigo to the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday afternoon with the chance to potentially go 10 points clear at the top of La Liga with 11 games to play. Celta bedded in well in the reverse fixture, but fell short thanks to a late Jude Bellingham strike, who will be absent from this one through suspension.

Celta last beat Real back in December of 2012 in the Copa del Rey. Iago Aspas, who played his 200th match for the club two weeks ago against Cadiz, started that game. Real have struggled against teams that sit back and defend this season, which will likely be Rafa Benitez’s most important course of action on Sunday as they aim to distance the relegation gap between themselves and Cadiz.

Real Madrid should give their fans something to shout about after the disappointing performance against Leipzig in the Champions League.

Real Madrid 3-1 Celta Vigo

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