After the long international break, we are just a day away from this highly anticipated match in El Madrigal. There are a lot of angles to this game.
- 2 teams with perfect record after 3 games going up against each other
- The much-hyped possible debut of the world''s most expensive player, Gareth Bale
- The Iker Casillas - Diego Lopez stuff. And Diego is returning to the place that he called home for a number of years and where he made his name.
There are another couple that I think is more relevant for our team.
- With 9 points in the first 3 matches, Villarreal is essentially playing on "house money". They are not expected to get any points on Saturday. But if they do, it is bonus. The pressure is on Real Madrid.
- We havent had an opportunity to enjoy playing such a high profile opponent at El Madrigal in a long time. Yeah Villarreal did get a draw vs. Real Madrid in 2012 but those were the days when the fanbase was under the cloud of uncertainty and the fear of getting relegated. The sky above Vila-real is spotlessly blue these days, as far as the eye could see.
Real Madrid playing style under Carlo Ancelotti is almost diametrically opposite from how they used to play under Jose Mourinho. Rapid and devastating counter-attacks have given way to a more patient approach that involves a lot of horizontal movement on the pitch. Most players still seem to be easing into the new system. Most notable of them is Cristiano Ronaldo, who has to adapt to this new style where he doesn't get enough opportunities to run and slalom with the ball in space like he used to do in the past.
Isco though, seems to fit right into the system from minute 1 of the season. He has been playing great, creating chances for teammates as well as scoring goals himself. 3 goals and 3 assists so far. He will be the biggest danger along with Ronaldo. Karim Benzema, Luca Modric, Ángel Di Maria are others that could cause damage anytime. And then there is Gareth Bale. It is unlikely that he would start but almost certain that he would see some minutes in the 2nd half.
Tactics for Villarreal
The key when you play teams who are flat out superior to you on paper is how much you can change the nature of the battle. David v Golaith. If David tried to fight Golaith on Golaith's terms instead of his sling shot, we might never have had the story to talk about.
- While this Real Madrid team is far from flawless, Villarreal have to account for the likes of Ronaldo, Isco, Benzema, Di Maria, Modric all the time. Have the awareness of where these guys are on the pitch with respect to Asenjo's goal. Always have a man on each of them as they approach near our defensive third.
- Prepare to be out-possessed. Villarreal is normally used to winning the possession battle at home. This is one of those few games where that wont happen. If playing with the ball is a skill, playing effectively when you dont have the ball is even harder. The key is to keep everything in front of you and not let too many through balls. Push the play wide as much as possible.
- Establish our midfield. Bruno - Pina/Trigueros should try to establish their control even if it means it is slightly further behind than normal. This forces them to play to the outside and attack from there. With 2 relatively inexperienced fullbacks in La Liga, if they want to push up to support the attack, they are forced to take risks.
- Depending on how much their fullbacks attack, there will be space behind them for Cani and Aquino/Perez to exploit. The key to exploit those is quick release by Villarreal defence to the wide players when they break-up an attack or win back possession.
More discussion of the tactics, back & forth on lineup choices etc in the podcast
Casillas, Diego López, Jesús, Pepe, Ramos, Carvajal, Nacho, Llorente,Khedira, Bale, Casemiro, Modric, Di María, Isco, Illarra, José Rodríguez, Cristiano Ronaldo, Benzema, Morata, Jesé.
Likely Starting line-ups
Asenjo;Mario-Musacchio-Dorado-Costa; Perez(Aquino)-Bruno-Pina(Trigueros)-Cani; Jony-Perbet
Real Madrid 4-2-3-1
There are some weaknesses in this Real Madrid (especially at fullback position) and they are switching to a new style of play. That gives hope for Villarreal, especially as they are playing at home. That said, Real Madrid even in 3rd gear is a few notches above the Almerias, Valladolids and Osasunas of the world. So it is very good test to see how competitive the yellow submarine is. Marcelino has shown in the past that he prepares his team well and adapts his gameplan based on the opponent.
I expect Villarreal to keep this competitive for the most part but dont see them getting anything out of this. Hoping for a fun match with a few goals and a lot of good football and none of the bad stuff we saw last time when these two teams played at El Madrigal