Real Madrid return to La Liga action on Wednesday with the short Christmas break having done little to quiet the intense speculation surrounding Rafael Benitez’s future.
Benitez oversaw a stunning 10-2 rout of Rayo Vallecano last time out but that devastating display was not greeted with fanfare by the Santiago Bernabeu crowd.
Instead Benitez was whistled before the game and the players received similar jeers from the supporters at half-time despite leading 4-2.
The Administrative Tribunal for Sport’s (TAD) decision to uphold Madrid’s expulsion from the Copa del Rey for fielding the ineligible Denis Cheryshev is unlikely to help the pre-game atmosphere in the capital against Sociedad.
However, for all their struggles, on and off the field, Madrid trail arch rivals Barcelona – who have been held by Valencia and Deportivo La Coruna in their last two league games – by just two points although they have played a game more.
They will be expected to at least maintain that gap against struggling Sociedad.
The removal of David Moyes as coach and appointment of Eusebio Sacristan in November has brought about something of an improvement from Sociedad, who have lost just two of their last five league games.
But the Basque club are only two points above the relegation zone and – having not won at the Bernabeu since 2004 – few will anticipate Sociedad pulling off a shock.
Defender Diego Reyes said: “In football, you never know. This is a huge game against a great rival – one of the best in the world; we will try to concentrate on playing our game and focus on what we do because with character and personality, you can achieve great things.
“We have surplus motivation – it’s normal when you will be up against three of the most important forwards in the world, so motivation is not an issue for us.
“Madrid will be equally as keen as us to take three points but we will keep fighting to get out of the poor run we have been in and to do that, we have to stand up to every team.
“We are fully committed and we know what we want and what the coach wants from us. We’re working hard and I think we’re on the right path.”
David Zurutuza is out for Sociedad with a hamstring injury, while defender Dani Carvajal and Raphael Varane are back in training for Madrid. Sergio Ramos has been struggling with muscle pain in his right leg and is extremely doubtful.
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