Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo will return to action against Real Betis on Wednesday after serving a five-match suspension, as the champions look to keep the pressure on La Liga leaders Barcelona.
Ronaldo was sent off during the Spanish Super Cup win over Barcelona on Aug. 13 and banned for five matches after pushing the referee, meaning he is yet to feature in the league this season.
The Portuguese hitman struck twice in his only appearance since the incident, a comfortable 3-0 win over Apoel Nicosia in the Champions League last Wednesday.
Youngster Borja Mayoral and Gareth Bale struck for a weakened Madrid on Sunday as they beat Real Sociedad 3-1, but as well as Ronaldo, Marcelo and Toni Kroos are expected to return after suspension and injury respectively.
Despite the impressive display against a previously unbeaten Real Sociedad, Ronaldo’s return will be vital for Madrid as they look to take advantage of a soft fixture schedule over the next two months to push rivals Barcelona.
The Catalans, who face Eibar on Tuesday, sit top of the table and are four points ahead of Madrid, in fourth place.
Barcelona were rocked by Ousmane Dembele’s injury during their 2-1 win at Getafe on Saturday, with the French winger set to miss around four months with a ruptured hamstring.
Madrid’s home clash with Betis marks the start of a run of league fixtures which, on paper, they should win, including home games against Espanyol, Eibar and Las Palmas.
“If we carry on like this we can do a lot of damage,” said Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane after his side’s win in the Basque Country.
“We’re back on track but we’ve got to keep going because there’s another game on Wednesday.”
Mid-table Betis have not beaten Madrid in the league at the Bernabeu in 19 years and only five times in 51 attempts.
If they are to defeat them on Wednesday, they will need experienced winger Joaquin, 36, and summer signing Andres Guardado, 30, to continue their excellent form.
“They are like kids in a school yard, they give it back to the guy that gives it back to them,” Betis coach Quique Setien said of the midfielders.
“(Guardado) is a footballer I can’t describe, extraordinary. He has enormous quality and an enormous work rate. Just like Joaquin, they are reference points for the team.”