Villarreal play host to Real Madrid at the Ceramica Stadium on Sunday. Should the Yellows win, it would keep us in the hunt for the last Champions league place, especially if Atleti don’t take all the pcan oints against Barcelona.
Lose, and we’re in danger of being overtaken for the European placings altogether by Eibar, Athletic Bilbao, Celta, or even Espanyol.
Draw? Well, it wouldn’t be that bad for us, but it wouldn’t keep our momentum from the Sociedad and Roma matches going either.
Real Madrid: With the midweek loss at the Mestalla, Madrid have allowed at least one goal in each of their last seven away matches (in all competitions), which is frankly bewildering. And with Raphael Varane out for a month, that defense is going to be under the microscope.
Of course, Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and the gang can all score like crazy, Sergio Ramos heads corners home like nobody’s business, and Gareth Bale, though he might not start, is sure to play tomorrow—and his speed, quickness, power, and overall beastliness is tough for anyone to deal with.
Villarreal: Yet again, we go into this match not really knowing how we’re going to score. Cedric Bakambu hasn’t shown anything like his 2016 form, it’s hard to expect much from loanees Adrian or Santos Borré, and Nicola Sansone is out with an injury. Roberto Soldado played 65 minutes against Roma on Thursday and looked good, but will he start, and if he does, will he see enough of the ball to make a difference?
When we played in Madrid we went to a 4-2-3-1 for one of the few times this season. I suppose we could do that again, but I’d be happier if we lined up in more of 4-4-1-1 with Soldado and Bakambu as the respective second and first strikers. The keys against Madrid are, as always, find ways to neutralize their counterattacking speed and individual skill. That means keeping a good defensive shape, defending set pieces well, and not conceding free kicks in dangerous positions. If we can do all that, plus get our forwards involved in attack and maybe get a luck, we can—maybe— win. Easy peasy!
All-time record: Not great, but then, whose record is against Madrid? At least we have been better of late—we are 1-2-1 in our last four home matches against the merengues, with a 3-5-8 home record overall. That’s picking up points in half our matches at home, which is pretty good. Away is not so good (0-5-12).
Prediction: I sneaked a look at our sister site, Managing Madrid, which asks all their contributors to predict the result. 4 of the 10 chose a draw (one 0-0, the other three 1-1), six had Madrid winning—by between one and three goals.
Villarreal has played well against the teams ahead of them in the standings. Do we have a chance to take all three points? Yes, we do, but I’ll go with the 1-1 draw, but hope for a 1-0 home win! Endavant!!