Real Madrid will look to end its recent struggles when it welcomes Villarreal to the Bernabeu on Saturday in Spanish Primera play.
Group Clubs Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain 13 Jan 2018 3:15 pm (GMT)
Key Stat: Villarreal have taken points off of Real in three of the last five matches.
Expert Verdict: Real Madrid are one of those rare teams in the world of football that you just never want to bet against. Still yet, they have not been at their best this season and it's getting to a point where you have to look at their match very closely before evaluating. This won't be their easiest ever match, but they should be getting a favorable outcome.
Zinedine Zidane has injuries to center back Sergio Ramos and forward Karim Benzema that are keeping them out at the moment.
It looked like Real Madrid would be able to snap a poor La Liga run last weekend after Gareth Bale scored twice in less than three minutes to give them the lead, but the Welshman hadn't done enough in the end to quite give them all three points. But he has been in sparkling recent form for Los Blancos, and you have to think he will be back at it here for them as they attempt to climb up the table.
Real have two draws, two wins, and a loss in their last five matches:
2-2 home draw vs Numancia (Copa del Rey)
2-2 draw at Celta Vigo
0-3 win at Numancia (Copa del Rey)
0-3 home loss vs Barcelona
1-0 win vs Gremio (Club World Cup)
Defenders:Carvajal, Varane, Nacho, Marcelo
Midfielders:Modric, Casemiro, Kroos, Isco
Javier Calleja has a long list of injuries here. Goalkeeping Andres Fernandez, midfielders Bruno and Roberto Soriano, center back Ruben Semedo, and forward Nicola Sansone are all out. Center back Victor Ruiz is out serving a suspension. Striker Cedric Bakambu looks set to move to China anytime now, so he's unlikely to play here.
Villarreal missed midfielders Trigueros last time out in the league as they fell to a draw. They had been one quite the run before that, so they will be glad to have him back after suspension here. He scored against Real the last time they met, all the way back in February, so this looks like the ideal time and place for him to come back in and try to play a telling role in the tale.
Villarreal have three wins, a draw, and a loss in their last five matches:
2-1 home win vs Leganes (Copa del Rey)
1-1 home draw vs Deportivo La Coruna
1-0 loss at Leganes (Copa del Rey)
0-1 win at Valencia
0-1 win at Celta Vigo
Defenders:Gaspar, Gonzalez, Ruiz, Costa
Midfielders:Hernandez, Castillejo, Fornals, Trigueros
In 34 meetings since 1998, Real Madrid have 21 wins, ten draws, and just three losses. Here's a look at the last five results:
Feb 26, 2017: Villarreal 2-3 Real Madrid
Sep 21, 2016: Real Madrid 1-1 Villarreal
Apr 20, 2016: Real Madrid 3-0 Villarreal
Dec 13, 2015: Villarreal 1-0 Real Madrid
Mar 1, 2015: Real Madrid 1-1 Villarreal
Bet365 have the following odds available for this match:
Real Madrid are at ¼ to win, a draw is at 11/2, and a Villarreal win is at 8/1.
Real Madrid enter this round of fixtures in fourth place in the Primera. Even after all of their recent slip ups, they have not seen a challenger really put pressure on them from behind. So if they turn it around even marginally, they should be fine to go on and finish third or fourth easily. But remember, that is nowhere near good enough for Real. Just one point from their last two and only one win in their last four is not good enough for them. Villarreal enter in sixth place. They are on a good run at the moment with seven points from their last three Liga matches. They are just one back of Sevilla in fifth, and they could close the gap to just one back of Real with a win. Keep in mind that Real still have a match in hand, though.
Los Blancos' home record has not been up to their usual and expected standard this season. At the Bernabeu, they have 17 points from nine matches. They have lost twice and drawn twice there, and their most recent match was the loss to Barcelona. It's just not been a banner season for them, but it's going to have to stop soon you'd have to think. The Yellow Submarine come into this match with a reasonable away record. They have 14 points from ten matches, including four wins and losses so far. They have won each of their last two on the road, so they are a threat in this match.
Bale to score anytime, via Ladbrokes, is at 8/13.
Real have not been the side that we all know that they can be so far, and it is putting real pressure on Zinedine Zidane to turn it around before he gets the sack. They must get better soon, and this could be the beginning.