Villarreal face Real Madrid in El Madrigal in the last of this weekend's La Liga matches, with the visitors needing a win to stay relatively close to Barcelona, and Villarreal.....well, we never expect to get anything out of a match with Real Madrid, but we need to play well to feel better about ourselves, regardless of the result.
Marcelino was livid after the Plzen debacle, saying Real Madrid could score seven on us if we defend like that, and he's probably right. At the moment we are too reliant on Soldado and Bakambu--our midfielders haven't been setting up many chances or scoring them--and our defense has been a house of cards lately. So, it's hard to feel optimistic about our chances against Ronaldo, Bale, Benzema,et al.
There is the delightful subplot of the whole Copa del Rey debacle, too. "Villarreal didn't tell us Cheryshev was suspended", cried Florentino Perez, trying to put the blame elsewhere.
Villarreal: The Yellow Submarine will welcome Alphonse Areola in goal, but the four ahead of him will be an interesting choice for Marcelino. Eric Bailly will start, I expect with Mateo Musacchio, though it could be Victor Ruiz instead; with Mario unable to go at right back, I guess Antonio Rukavina will play there. Left back has to be Adrian Marin with Jokic's injury and his uninspired play whenever he's been used, unless Jaume Costa is ready to go--he was a surprise inclusion in our squad, which is:
- Keepers: Areola, Barbosa.
- Defenders: Rukavina, Musacchio, Víctor Ruiz, Bailly, Jaume Costa, Adrián Marín.
- Midfielders: Bruno Soriano, Samu Castillejo, Samu García, Jonathan dos Santos, Trigueros, Denis Suárez, Tomás Pina, Nahuel.
- Strikers: Soldado, Bakambu.
Denis Suarez and Tomas Pina didn't play on Thursday so I expect to see Castillejo, Suarez, Bruno and Pina in midfield with Soldado and Bakambu as the strikers.
Real Madrid (one of the keepers will drop off the list before game time):
Goalkeepers: Keylor Navas, Kiko Casilla and Rubén Yáñez.
Defenders: Pepe, Ramos, Nacho, Marcelo and Danilo.
Midfielders: Kroos, James, Bale, Casemiro, Kovacic, Modric and Isco.
Attackers: Jesé, Lucas Vázquez, Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Note that Denis Cheryshev is not included; rumors seem to have returned that he will join us in January, though after the Copa del Rey debacle, I wouldn't be putting money on that.
Barcelona threw away a two-goal lead today and only managed a draw with Depor at the Camp Nou, so a Madrid win would put them within two points of the Blaugrana.
All-time records: Villarreal have not had much luck against Los Blancos, winning only twice in fifteen matches in El Madrigal, with five draws. Our only two wins were in 2006-07 (Marquitos scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win), and in May 2009 (3-2 win ,Capdevila with a late winner, Cani and Robert Pires with the other goals).
Since joining Real Madrid in 2009, Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 11 goals against us in nine matches, only failing to net once (and Madrid won that one, 3-0). So it's probably likely he'll score a goal this time, too.
Prediction: I'm really missing Robin the optimist. About the most optimistic I can be is a draw. How about 2-2?