Villarreal host Real Madrid at the Ceramica on Thursday, hoping for a good start to the New Year. This match was postponed due to the World Club championship, which Madrid won.
The visitors: Real Madrid are transitioning to life after Cristiano Ronaldo. With CR7 plying his trade in Turin, the Whites have had to rely on Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale to carry the load more. Sergio Ramos and Marcelo still anchor the defense (Varane too) and Toni Kroos and Luka Modric pull the strings in midfield as always.
Madrid haven’t been pounding in the goals the way they used to—only 24, half of Barcelona’s total!— and have struggled on the road (3-1-4, 11 goals scored, 16 allowed). They’ll be without Marco Asensio and Marcos Llorente for this one, too, but still have to go in as favorites. New ‘caretaker coach’ Solari is likely to call on Casemiro to replace Llorente.
Villarreal: It’s even harder to predict how Villarreal will line up now that new coach Luis Garcia Plaza has had time to reflect on the 2-2 draw at Huesca and the 2-0 win over Spartak. The only thing we know for sure is that Miguel Layun will take the place of suspended Mario Gaspar at right back. So far, García has gone for a 4-4-2, but he may try to tighten up the defense with a 4-1-3-2 or something like that.
One good piece of news for Villarreal is that our strikers seem to be beginning to find the net, and Madrid will allow us some opportunities.
Prediction: I said 1-1 on the Managing Madrid podcast this morning, but I am thinking there might be more goals in it. 2-2, then. I think we might play better than many folks will think.