Absences on both sides as Real Madrid entertains Sevilla

14:47, December 19, 2010      

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Both Real Madrid and Sevilla will be without key players when the two sides meet in the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium this Sunday night.

Depending on Barcelona's result away to local rivals Espanyol, Real Madrid will go into the game needing a win to either keep up the pace on their title rivals, or to go back to the top of the table.

Coach Jose Mourinho has several key players out through injury: Kaka is still to appear this season after his knee operation, while Gonzalo Higuain is out with his lumbar hernia. Sergio Ramos has a muscle problem, while Xabi Alonso and Marcelo are both suspended.

That means Mourinho will have to restructure his defense and midfield with Arbeloa shifting to left back and Raul Albiol fitting in on the right, while Lassana Diarra and Sami Khedira form an untried midfield pairing.

Madrid will lose the attacking thrusts of Marcelo and Ramos down the flanks and that could tempt Mourinho to play Pedro Leon with striker Karim Benzema, who disappointed in Zaragoza last week, having to settle for a seat on the bench.

Sevilla have equally important injury worries. Freddy Kanoute, Diego Perotti and Jesus Navas are all unlikely to play, while central defender Alexis is suspended.

Gregory Manzano's men have lost their last four league matches and are in crisis after losing at home to relegation threatened Almeria last weekend.

Manzano's men got a morale boost when they drew at home to Dortmund to qualify for the last 32 of the Europa League in midweek. That means the club's European adventure will continue into the New Year, but it could come at the price of leaving the players with heavy legs.

Manzano's job is probably safe given that the club showed patience in waiting for him to leave Mallorca last season, but a heavy defeat would raise even more questions about his continuity.

For Madrid, however, the game gives them the chance to recapture the initiative in the title race or watch the title disappear into the distance once again.

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