Villarreal host Real Madrid today in what should be a nearly-sold out Ceramíca—as of yesterday there were fewer than 500 tickets remaining. In recent years this fixture has become more competitive, after so many years of Madrid dominance. And this might not be a bad time to play them, either, as it’s early in the season and they have a number of injuries to contend with as well.
Questions of refereeing aside, there are also questions of coaching. Some neutral observers consider Srs. Calleja and Zidane to be among the weakest coaches in the Primera when it comes to tactics. How will that impact this match?
Real Madrid: A lot of injuries for the merengues: Isco, James, Asensio, Brahim Diaz are all out, Eden Hazard and Rodrygo not expected either. Still, that still leaves Benzema, Bale, Casemiro, Kroos, Ramos.... you get the point. This is a team that spent three times Villarreal’s yearly budget on transfer fees this summer, OK?
Last week Madrid gave up a late goal to Valladolid and ended up with a draw, and there has been criticism of that, and also of players like Courtois and Luka Modric, who turns 34 next week, and suggestions Madrid need to make another big signing before the window closes. I find it hard to relate.
Villarreal: At least we have had a couple of more days to recover from the Levante debacle, but losing Alberto Moreno for several months is a real blow. Ruben Peña is still recovering, too, so probably our back four will be Quintillá, Pau, Albiol and Mario. Will Andrés start in goal? Probably so, though Asenjo will be ready.
I would think Anguissa would come in to the lineup, hopefully with Iborra, but whether we play a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-4-2 I am not sure. Santi will be in there somewhere, so too Samu and Gerard. Madrid should line up in a 4-3-3 and to be honest Villarreal maybe should as well—Ekambi, Gerard and Samu up front, Iborra or Anguissa, Santi and Ontiveros or Moi in the middle. Not expecting that though.
All-time record: Not good, of course; Villarreal are just 4-12-22 in the league against the Whites, and 3-7-9 at home. Since returning to the Primera, we’re 1-3-2 at home, 1-2-3 away. Certainly more competitive.
The most recent of those home victories came in December 2015, 1-0, and in January 2018 we won 1-0 at the Bernabeu. I’m not expecting a 1-0 scoreline today, for either side. We’ve picked up points with 2-2 draws the last two times these teams have met in Vila-real, and that seems a logical scoreline to pick this time.....
Prediction: 2-2 is the logical choice, though there could be a third goal for one side, or even both, for sure. I expect this to be a wide-open game, lots of chances for both sides.