Twelfth-ranked Sporting Gijon host Real Madrid on Sunday for the first time in over a decade. The Whites can clinch their eighth straight win but will have to do so without the likes of Robben, Sneijder, Guti, Van der Vaart, Metzelder and Salgado. It's a date with destiny as two clubs who combine for over 200 years of history meet in the longest-standing stadium in Spain.
Throughout the 37 seasons Real Madrid and Sporting Gigon have coincided in Spain's top flight, the two sides have met 75 times, 41 of which have fallen in favor of the Madridistas. Sunday's hosts have won on 12 occasions and manged to pull off 22 draws against the Madridistas.The record when playing in Gijon is however somewhat more balanced: 15 Madridista wins, 10 defeats and 12 draws. The Whites last visited Gijon and El Molinon Stadium in 1997, a 0-2 victory led by Fernando Morientes and Raul.
Eleven seasons later Raul returns to Gijon as the club's all-time top scorer alongside Alfredo di Stefano, but Real Madrid will be slightly short-handed on Sunday with Robben, Sneijder, Guti, Metzelder and Salgado injured, Van der Vaart serving a one match suspension, and Codina and Drenthe not included on the squad list. Dani Parejo, however, did make the trip and may see his first action of the season.
Juande Ramos' starting eleven should include Casillas in goal; the all-star defense comprised of Sergio Ramos, Cannavaro, Pepe and Heinze; Gago, Lass and Faubert in the midfield; and Raul, Higuain and Huntelaar up front. However, the Madridista coach may opt for Marcelo and Parejo.
Real Madrid can seal their eighth straight win and cut into Barcelona's lead after the league leaders drew against Betis on Saturday. But Sporting are no pushover and hope to maintain a foothold in the middle section of the table. After being completely dismantled 7-1 earlier this season at the Santiago Bernabeu, expect the hosts to be fired up and El Molinon to roll out the red carpet for two century-old clubs.