After a two week break in the Primera Division, League action returns to Spanish football with crucial fixtures at the top and bottom as we head into a vital period before the winter break. The fixture that stands out though is Real Madrid's trip to Pamplona where they take on Osasuna at the famous El Sadar.
Since their defeat to Barcelona in October, Los Blancos have been building up a head of steam and have won five on the trot in the League to close the gap on a faltering Barcelona. This weekend represents a stern test as they head to the chilly Pyrenees to play in an old fashioned, tight football stadium in front of a ferocious crowd.
Having harshly sacked Coach Jose Luis Mendilibar after just three games, Los Rojillos appointed hometown favourite Javi Gracia. Results have been patchy since, but he has guided them to just above the relegation zone as we head into this weekend’s fixtures. Their usual strong home form has let them down this term and they will see no better opportunity than against rivals Real Madrid to get that back on track. On a shoestring budget with an ageing squad, selling any talent they produce onto the bigger clubs, Osasuna's aim will always be survival and this year looks like it will be their toughest test yet to stay in the top Division.
It is strange to come into this game fancying the home side for a result though, but history gives us good reason to back the Navarran side. Real Madrid sides of years gone by have only triumphed on 14 occasions in 35 visits. In the last five visits they've only won once, a stunning figure considering the humungous gap between the two sides. What it is about Pamplona that Madrid don't like we don't know, it's become a mental block for them. The home side are sure to come out into a cauldron-like atmosphere and start the game with a phenomenal pace, hounding down their superiors like a pack of wolves. If Carlo Ancelotti's side can overcome a test like this, it will be a huge result in terms of pushing for the title. For Osasuna, another positive result will boost their survival targets in what promises to be a long season for them.
There are not many atmospheres like it in Spain and Madrid won't be given the warm welcome they may receive at other grounds as fans cheer their big name heroes – Pamplona will be full of hatred and ready to battle when it comes to Saturday afternoon, Ronaldo and company, you have been warned.