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Villarreal at Real Madrid: La Liga Preview

A title and a place in Europe on the line in La Liga clash.

Villarreal CF v Real Madrid CF - La Liga Photo by Jose Breton/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Welp. We’ve been through the details of what this one means. A point or better ensures we go to Europe next season. A loss means have to watch a team celebrate a title as we leave the field.

Our opponents

Real Madrid have been arguably the best defensive team in the top five leagues this season. They’ve won nine matches in a row, and play a different lineup pretty much every single match. The exact players will be hard to predict, but a tactical feature to watch ought to be fullback runs into the box. In their last four games, such runs have drawn three penalties and resulted in a Ferland Mendy goal.

We of course drew them back in September. Gerard and Moi had the goals on our side and a Gareth Bale brace leveled things out. I’m a little embarrassed to realize this, but we are the only team in La Liga to concede a goal to Gareth Bale this season. They packed the midfield against Granada, but I don’t think Zidane will go with that two consecutive matches. Vinicius didn’t play last match, so I think we’ll see him, Benzema, and Asensio up top, Casemiro, Fede Valverde, and Toni Kroos in midfield, and Mendy, Ramos, Varane, Carvajal above Courtois in the back.


Thank goodness we’ll have Gerard and Iborra back. Without Moreno we had no organization up front and without Iborra our midfield just didn’t get anything done. I think we’ll line up something like this:

I think Paco was carrying something last match, hopefully he’s past it and can start on Thursday. If he has two healthy strikers I think Calleja will try to get back to the 442. If we’re facing Vinicius, the right flank will have their hands full. Benzema running at Albiol doesn’t really fill me with confidence either. Thing is, I think we’re as good as Real is offensively when we’re healthy, but we aren’t nearly as good as they are defensively.

A midfield matchup I look forward to is Fede Valverde vs Zambo. Both players press a good deal and carry the ball well, and one of them making a big play could turn the match.


I’m really nervous that we’ve played badly in two of the last three games. Our best chance of getting something out of this, I think, is keeping a clean sheet, so I’m gonna predict 0-0.