La Liga Monday, Round 17: Real Madrid Enter Life Without Gonzalo Higuain, Can Karim Benzema Step Up?

If Real Madrid are going to chase down Barcelona for the La Liga title, they are going to have to do it without their best striker, Gonzalo Higuain. His season appears to be over due to an injury that should put him out of action for around six months. As a result, Karim Benzema should start tonight.

A fixture of the French national team and the title winning sides of Olympique Lyon, Benzema's move to Los Merengues was a high profile one. He was expected to be the great out and out striker Real were lacking. A true No. 9. The new Ronaldo. Instead, his finishing and tactical awareness have seemed suspect at best in most of his time on the pitch, despite his occasional flashes of brilliance.

Benzema's shortcomings and Higuain's injury have fans speculating about players Jose Mourinho might pursue in the January transfer window. Despite looming speculation that Manchester City are on the verge of signing Edin Dzeko and that Juventus are his true first choice, the Madridistas would probably be happy to see the Bosnian in white. Fernando Llorente of Athletic Bilbao and Luis Suarez of Ajax are two other players whose names have been tossed around quite a bit. Later today, before the matches, we'll take a look at some possible January transfer targets for Madrid in the striker position.

However, there are games to be played today! It's not all about wild speculation, there's going to be some real football going on. Real have to go away to Getafe, who have held their own in the top half of La Liga so far this season. Between their complete forward Manu, their playmaker Daniel Parejo, their tough holding midfielder Derek Boateng, and a solid defense, Getafe provide some serious competition to the established big boys in Spain. Madrid will be favored, but it shouldn't be a walkover, especially without Higuain.

That game takes place at 4 pm ET, but there are a flurry of 2 pm kickoffs as well. The one that will be covered here is the match between Atletico Madrid and Racing Santander. Atleti currently sit in sixth place and should remain a contender for a top four position very deep into the season. Everyone knows about Sergio Aguero and Diego Forlan, but those two haven't got much help from the center of their midfield at this point. Their team has already done some January transfer business to address this problem, picking up Elias from Corinthians. It will be interesting to see how soon he is introduced into the team and how he adjusts to La Liga.

We'll be here with live coverage starting just before the 2 pm ET kickoffs, but check back before that for some fun with transfer madness. We'll be taking a deeper look at Jose Mourinho's transfer market options in the striking department.

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