Real Madrid's character to be tested by rampant Celta Vigo

Reuters , Thursday 31 Dec 2020

Eibar v Real Madrid
FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - La Liga Santander - Eibar v Real Madrid - Ipurua Municipal Stadium, Eibar, Spain - December 20, 2020 Real Madrid's Karim Benzema celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates. Reuters

After being knocked down from a six-game winning streak with a surprise draw at Elche, La Liga champions Real Madrid have the misfortune to be facing a resurgent Celta Vigo in their next game on Saturday.

After scrapping their way to survival in the last two seasons and making a horrendous start to this campaign which cost Oscar Garcia his job, Celta are in the midst of a stunning revival under Argentine Eduardo Coudet.

In his first job in European football after successful stints in Argentina and Brazil, Coudet has turned Celta from the worst side in the league and sure candidates for relegation into genuine top-four hopefuls.

Since he officially took charge and sat in the dugout for a 3-1 win over Granada on Nov. 29, Celta have been an unbeaten run of five wins from six games, collecting 16 points and scoring 14 goals while conceding only three.

Before then, Celta had taken seven points from 10 games, scoring eight and letting in 19.

Striker Iago Aspas has scored a goal or got an assist in all six of Coudet’s games and he said key to the team’s revival has been the coach’s relentless attitude to pressing and arming the midfield with players with “good feet” behind him.

Team mate Nolito gave a different explanation.

“He has given us a couple of kicks up the backside, which is what we all needed,” he said.

“Since he has arrived things are going very well for us and we’re more confident. We like the coach because he tells us how it is. We have to train hard and really compete in sessions as that’s how we’ll learn to compete in matches.

“But we have to keep going and not relax even for a second and think we are great because we won a few matches in a row.”

Celta head to the Spanish capital eighth in the standings on 23 points, three behind fourth-placed Sevilla.

Real meanwhile are second, falling two points behind leaders Atletico Madrid after a frustrating draw at Elche which left goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois blaming the referee and coach Zinedine Zidane criticising Elche’s negative tactics.

Eden Hazard could return to the starting line-up for Real for the first time in over a month after making his comeback from the bench against Elche.

Elsewhere, Atletico visit Alaves looking to consolidate their lead at the top, while Barcelona, who had a chastening 1-1 draw at home to Eibar on Tuesday, visit basement club Huesca.

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