Real Madrid travel to Anoeta for a match on Sunday night to battle an ominously in-form Real Sociedad in the absence of several key players and with the minimum requirement to avoid anything defeat after dropping points their past two Liga outings.
Although he would not admit as much, this is a game Zidane would have loved to play a week later than the fixture computer has decided.
When Real Betis visit the Bernabeu next Wednesday, the Frenchman will have Cristiano Ronaldo available for domestic duty after his lengthy ban and Marcelo back from his harsh disciplinary layoff.
Real already are four points behind in the early pace in La Liga, a pace that is being set by the eternal foe Barcelona and Eusebio’s free-flowing Sociedad. That gap is now seven points with Barcelona victory away at Getafe yesterday.
No team have scored more in the opening three games than Sociedad, and two players who will be more than familiar to Sunday’s visitors have been in excellent form.
Diego Llorente, who was sold in the summer, has scored three already from defence in all competitions and is worth a goal every 38 minutes — a statistic even Ronaldo would be proud of. Asier Illarramendi has netted in two from midfield and is in the sort of form that persuaded Real to get him in the first place. Neither will be lacking that little extra bit of motivation, and elder statesman Xabi Prieto is in a state of grace with four assists and a goal to his name.
Gareth Bale probably will be called on to lead the line, as he did against Levante after Benzema limped off, with the Welshman fluffing several clear chances in his role as the spearhead of a 4-2-3-1.