With Atletico & Barca coming up, Real Madrid first have to tackle a tricky derby away at Getafe

Getafe v Real Madrid, La Liga, March 25, 2010

Getafe 8.03; Draw 4.68; Real Madrid 1.33

Recent history suggests that Real Madrid are set for an uncomfortable Thursday night when Los Blancos travel to the Coliseum Alfonso Perez. In the five last league meetings between Getafe and Real at the Coliseum, Madrid have suffered three defeats and recorded just one win back in 2007. (Getafe or Draw is 2.09.)

Last season’s 3-1 loss at Getafe in December 2008 contributed to the dismissal of then Madrid coach Bernd Schuster, who lasted one more game – a 4-3 home defeat to Sevilla – before making way for Juande Ramos. Although it is a stretch to say that current coach Manuel Pellegrini will be axed if the worse case scenario happens again, but taking into account the situation of Los Merengues, a defeat will surely go down like a lead balloon in Madrid. (Draw/Getafe is 18.89.)

Despite Real’s good domestic form (they have won their last nine league matches on the bounce), Pellegrini’s head remains on the chopping block following Madrid’s Champions League exit at the hands of Lyon. With a difficult derby match against Atletico coming up at the weekend, followed by the huge and potentially title deciding showdown with Barcelona at the Bernabeu a fortnight later, Pellegrini knows his side can ill afford any slip-ups against Getafe.

Complicating matters for Madrid though is a long injury list. Kaka, Karim Benzema, Lassana Diarra and Mahamadou Diarra are all considered doubtful, while Guti was forced to leave training early on Tuesday due to a muscular problem and is not certain to play either. Additionally, Marcelo is in Brazil on personal business, so the visiting midfield will be badly depleted. (Draw/Real Madrid is 4.38.)

With so many absentees in the middle of the park, it will be up to the likes of Xabi Alonso and Esteban Granero to keep the ball ticking over in the midfield, which Dutch playmaker Rafael van der Vaart will be required to offer support to the attack at every opportunity possible.

Elsewhere, the trip to the Madrid suburb should grant Gonzalo Higuain a historic 100th appearance for Real Madrid. Although often placed in the background with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo assuming the role of the Madrid poster boy, Higuain’s achievements this season have been nothing short of sensational as the forward took his tally to 20 goals in his last 17 league games during Madrid’s 3-1 win over Sporting Gijon last Sunday. Higuain is just five behind fellow Argentinian Lionel Messi at the top of the La Liga scoring charts.

Getafe will know that they can cause Real some serious headaches in the local derby too. On a practical level, eighth-placed El Geta still maintain European aspirations for next season but they need to pick up the points if they are to reach their goal in the league.

Hampering their hopes of upsetting Real is the loss of top scorer Roberto Soldado. Soldado, who was an outside bet for the Spanish World Cup squad off the back of his 12 goals this season, has been ruled out for the remainder of the campaign due to a torn meniscus in his right knee. Adding to the hosts’ selection problems, Cata Diaz, Mario Alvarez and David Belenguer are injury doubts, while defender Miguel Torres picked up a red card in his side’s 2-all draw at Bilbao last weekend, and will miss the derby clash through suspension.

In their absences, Getafe will be looking to Venezuelan youngster Miku to shoot them to victory this season. Signed from Valencia in the winter transfer window, the 24-year-old suddenly has a massive chance to make a name for himself as a shoo-in to play until the season’s conclusion.

Getafe will also be looking to right-sided midfielder Pedro Leon to lead the team, after he grabbed a late equaliser against Bilbao last time out. Leon, alongside fellow midfieldrs Manu and Dani Parejo, will look to inspire their team against Madrid.

Stepping back though, while the derby element to the match, combined with the history books, suggests that Getafe could upset the Madrid apple cart, the truth is that the visitors are the favourites to claim the three points. Madrid should run out winners, although it is unlikely that Los Blancos will saunter to victory.

101gg predicts: Getafe 1 – Real Madrid 2 (6.19)

Getafe 8.03; Draw 4.68; Real Madrid 1.33