Benitez’s job on line as Real Madrid face Sociedad (Preview)

Madrid, Dec 29 (IANS) Rafael Benitez’s job is very much on the line when Real Madrid entertain Real Sociedad on Wednesday in La Liga as the match will take place during the holiday period.

Real Madrid entertain the Basque side in mid-afternoon on what for many fans is a working day and it will be interesting to see the atmosphere which welcomes the side after their last game, which was a 10-2 thrashing of nine-man Rayo Vallecano, reports Xinhua.

That win didn’t save the side or Benitez from criticism from fans at the Santiago Bernabeu and with rumours of a possible return for Jose Mourinho in the air, anything other than a win against Real Sociedad will just about assure Benitez loses his job, especially in the wake of Madrid’s definitive expulsion from Copa del Rey.

Sergio Ramos is the only player missing for Real Madrid but his side has a good record without the central defender.

Wednesday sees eight other games with league leaders FC Barcelona back in action after their conquest of the World Club Championship. Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez are ready for action as the Catalan side entertain Betis later in the evening.

Betis have a good away record, but despite recent slip-ups which saw them drop points against Valencia and at home to Deportivo la Coruna, Barcelona are very much favourites to take all three points.

Atletico Madrid missed a chance to go top before Christmas when they were surprisingly beaten away to Malaga in their last game, but Diego Simeone’s side will fancy their chances away to local rivals Rayo, who are still in a state of shock after their defeat in the Bernabeu.

The result left its mark in much more than the 10 goals they conceded after Tito and Baena were both sent off in the first half hour and the duo are both suspended for a game. Rayo need to win to stop a run of four defeats which have seen them plummet into relegation zone.

Elsewhere, Celta Vigo and Athletic Club Bilbao play one of the most attractive games of the day as Celta look to keep their top-four spot against Athletic, who many feel have the quality to mount a serious top-four challenge in the second half of the campaign.

Sevilla also hope to maintain their challenge for a return to European placings at home to Espanyol, who have won both of their matches since the arrival of Constantin Galca as first team coach while Deportivo la Coruna face an away game against Getafe, who need to start collecting points in their battle to avoid the drop.

Bottom of the table Levante desperately need to beat Malaga, who have won their last two games, while there is a relegation duel between Las Palmas and Granada.

Eibar want to end a run of five matches without a win at home to Sporting Gijon in what should be a tight affair before the round of matches ends on New Year’s ever as Gary Neville looks for his first league win as Valencia boss as they make the short trip to face an impressive Villarreal.

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