Match Preview: Villarreal vs Real Madrid – 2021/22

By: Mohammed Sahel

Early kick off, finally. Real Madrid travel to the outskirts of Spain. The Merengues last won at the Ceramica in 2017, when Alvaro Morata’s header and Cristiano Ronaldo’s spot kick were enough to overturn a 2-0 deficit and win 3-2 late on. 

Fast forward five years, and the yellow submarine remain the only team in the top 6 (bar, perhaps Bilbao) that prove to be an irksome task everytime they contest in a LaLiga game. Unai Emery’s side have been in a tight battle with Sociedad over sixth place. Madrid, while comfortable at the top, need to play exceptionally well ahead of their Champions League clash in Paris.

What to Expect: 

This isn’t the Villarreal team from the times of the past. They are extremely delightful to watch, and boast supreme Spanish talent all over the place. In Pau Torres, a brilliant defender who Real Madrid themselves keep a constant eye on. In Dani Parejo, a veteran midfielder who now plies his trade with Villarreal since switching from Valencia. Gérard Moreno is a brilliant centre forward, as good as they come really in Spain.

Quality in their ranks, and a proven manager on the bench. Lining up usually in a 4-4-2, their first team has quality in abundance in midfield. The electric Samuel Chukwueze starts on the right hand side, he is likely to be their man to lead the counter. Parejo and Capoue boss the midfield, while Yeremi Pino leads the line. 

In possession, Emery’s side are meticulous, well organised and play the ball from side to side. Their most lethal moves come from when they play out the back and Parejo distributes, with Chukwueze and Pedraza running either side of the opposition defence. From set pieces, they aren’t the best proposition.

As for their weaknesses, Villarreal are most vulnerable against teams who’s full backs and wingers attack high and wide. This often forces their wide midfielders back and asks for their full backs to tuck in and play with their backs to goal. While players like Pau and Yeremi Pino are immensely technical, they suffer physically. Capoue is possibly the toughest of them all.

Real Madrid will remain patient during today’s game, given their rival’s expertise at playing out from the back. Having Marcelo in the first eleven should be an advantage, as long as Chukwueze is dealt with. With Benzema not back yet, Carlo Ancelotti may well deploy a false 9 again, and Isco might play tonight. It will be tighter than many might expect.

Team News: 

Mariano remains out, and so does Ferland Mendy. This leaves Real Madrid with limited options at full-back on either side of the defence. David Alaba might be asked to fill in. It’s a ‘maybe, maybe not’. Benzema’s hamstring hasn’t recovered in time, hopefully we do see him play in Paris. Vinícius Júnior is back from suspension while Casemiro and Vazquez are back in the squad after recovering from gastrointestinal problems that kept them out of the last game.

Former Arsenal midfielder Francis Coquelin is a major doubt for the hosts, as they also leave behind Gérard Moreno and Ruben Pena to a long term injury.

Expected Line-ups: 

Real Madrid: 


Carvajal — Militão — Alaba — Marcelo

Modrić — Casemiro — Kroos

Asensio — Jovic — Vini Jr.


Gerónimo Rulli

Foyth — Albiol — Pau Torres — Pedraza

Chukwueze — Capoue — Parejo — Moreno

Yéremi Pino — Arnaut Danjuma

Player to Watch: 

Villarreal: Dani Parejo. Villarreal’s midfield maestro likely won’t get any goal involvement today, but he is the player that’s most involved. Parejo is a fluent passer of the ball, his delivery from set pieces is second to none and pairing a player of his technical class with a more physical, robust presence like Étienne Capoue makes for a solid midfield pivot. 

Real Madrid: Isco. The former Malaga man received high praise from the manager following last week’s victory at home. He operated mostly as a false 9, in the absence of Karim Benzema. Clearly with him, fluidity won’t be a problem and he wins the odd ball in the box too. If he manages to drag a player or two out, Madrid’s wingers may receive the ball in space. And of course, on the ball, in narrow space he’s as exquisite as ever. Also, may help take some of the playmaking burden off Modric and Kroos when he does drop a little deeper.


Villarreal 1-2 Real Madrid. 

It is a fixture that’s always been a close affair. Each one of those Madrid players playing tonight will look at this as a pre-PSG encounter. It’s been long enough since we’ve overcome the yellow wall in opposition territory. Hala Madrid!

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