Match Preview: Real Madrid vs Villarreal
Real Madrid have hit a roadblock. Their LaLiga campaign ends tonight against Villarreal. Half a shot at the trophy, but realistically it’s all in Atlético Madrid’s hands or should we say Real Valladolid’s hands. This could well be the last straw for some if not all of Madrid’s core players, and of course their manager.
But this is a club driven by success, by winning and nothing should come in between them and the three points tonight as long as they play anywhere near as well as they’ve done in some of these decisive games all season.
What to Expect:
Villarreal of course come to the Alfredo Di Stéfano with a lot in mind — a possible European spot (if they win and Betis lose in Vigo) and without doubt the Europa League final. The game because of which the final day’s schedule was pulled back a day.
The focus, however, remains on the home side. Unbeaten in 17 games, hoping for a miracle in Valladolid that could potentially hand them the title. Real will go all to be crowned champions. What happens elsewhere comes down to fate, or so the Madrid players should choose to believe.
This is LaLiga. Rooting for Madrid means backing the superior side. Anyone who thinks Villarreal have half a chance or at the very least ought to make it a tight contest is one to side with the thrills and the chills that a game of this magnitude offers. Volatile instability throughout the league, but I very much doubt if Villarreal have got what it takes to outdo Real Madrid tonight.
Remember, Madrid have to win and expect their cross city rivals to slip up. Anything of that sort and Los Blancos are champions, in an outright manner or through the H2H rule. Villarreal are fighting for a Europa league spot but they may well compromise and look forward to the Europa league final to offer them a Champions League spot. Atleti cannot slip up, regardless of what goes on in the Capital. Lastly, Valladolid have great incentive too with relegation seeming inevitable at this point.
You wouldn’t put it past the two underdogs to win of course but at the end of the day the two rivals have sufficient experience in these games. Huge pressure, high stakes.
Real Madrid have further bad news, and some good news as well. Eden Hazard is, rather paradoxically, out of this fixture and so is Toni Kroos after testing positive for COVID earlier in the week. Sergio Ramos is back, and aims to get some minutes in before he leads Spain at the Euros but the captain isn’t expected to start anyway. Raphaël Varane has also made a full recovery but questions over his involvement linger.
As for Emery’s men Samuel Chukwueze, Juan Foyth and Vicente Iborra are all ruled out. Etienne Capoue, Mario Gaspar and Geronimo Rulli return from their respective suspensions. The Yellow Submarine are likely to make changes from the side that was triumphant against Sevilla, with one eye on the Europa league final. Dani Parejo, Gerard Moreno and Pau Torres are some of Villarreal’s key players but it seems as if they’ll have to make some compromise tonight, to have it convenient when they go into the game against Manchester United.
Odriozola — Nacho — Militão — Gutiérrez
Valverde — Casemiro — Modrić
Vinícius — Benzema — Asensio
Gaspar— Albiol —Torres — Pedraza
Coquelin— Capoue —Parejo — Gómez
Player to Watch:
Real Madrid: Karim Benzema. Called up for France in midweek, already on 22 goals this season with one every 128 minutes and in most cases, decisively. Benzema has set his standards incredibly high, it’s hard for someone to not count on him for a game that decides at least half of his team’s final destiny. He was rather quiet versus Bilbao, but I expect a big performance from him here.
Villarreal: Pau Torres. El Submarino Amarillo have loads of talented players. Carlos Bacca grabbed a hat trick against Sevilla and Gerard Moreno has been ever so influential this season. In context of this game however, Pau Torres will be the name most relevant to how Villarreal will want to play. They will want to restrict their opponents, clear out any danger in and around the 18 yard box and then look to catch them out on the break, preferably with balls over the top.
Pau does all of that. He’s decent in the air, times his tackles as well as any other top defender does and is technically able. His emergence to the Spanish set up, and a future role as a possible heir to Sergio Ramos has reaped rewards for both him and the teams he’s represented.
Real Madrid 2-0 Villarreal
Madrid have to win at all costs. I prefer to think of it as somewhat of a final. The hosts will surely look to dominate from the start, let Villarreal have as little of the ball as possible and score from the chances they create. What goes on elsewhere is not in Real’s hands anyway.