Afternoon all! The first of Sports Mole
's three back-to-back live La Liga commentaries comes from El Madrigal as Villarreal welcome Real Madrid
. Just one point separates the two sides in the table, with Villarreal on eight from five games and Real Madrid on nine. Right, before anything else, let me bring you up-to-speed with the all-important team news.
VILLARREAL: Asenjo; Mario, Musacchio, V.Ruiz, Gabriel; Bruno, Trigueros, Cani, Gomez; Vietto, Uche
REAL: Casillas; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Kroos, Modric; Ronaldo, James, Bale; Benzema
No real surprises in the Villarreal XI this afternoon, with leading scorer from last season Ikechukwu Uche joined in attack by Luciano Vietto. Bruno and Cani also start in midfield, while there is a place for highly-rated youngster Moi Gomez. Victor Ruiz, meanwhile, continues at centre-back alongside Mateo Musacchio.
For Real Madrid, Iker Casillas and Karim Benzema both return to the XI, with Keylor Navas and Isco dropping out of the team. Raphael Varane also starts in central defence in place of the injured Pepe, while Marcelo is preferred to Fabio Coentrao at left-back. Cristiano Ronaldo
, who has seven goals in his last two league games, will seemingly move to the left this afternoon, with Benzema playing through the middle.
It has been a confident start to the season from Villarreal. The Yellow Submarine have won two, drawn two and lost one of their five matches thus far, with that run of form leaving them in seventh spot in the table on eight points. Their first home game of this season ended in a 1-0 defeat to Barcelona, but they beat Rayo Vallecano 4-2 in this stadium on September 21. They are not used to losing at El Madrigal.
Injuries, especially in attacking positions, have harmed Villarreal's chances in a couple of matches this season, but they again look likely to be challenging for a European position. They picked up a 1-1 draw at Eibar last time out, while they have held Real Madrid to draws in each of the last two meetings between the pair in this particular stadium. Little under 15 minutes until kickoff this afternoon...
Real Madrid, meanwhile, lost two of their first three league games this season, including back-to-back defeats to Real Sociedad and Atletico Madrid. However, since then, they have won their last three in all competitions, scoring an incredible 18 times in the process. They thumped Basel 5-1 in the Champions League at the Bernabeu, before beating Deportivo La Coruna 8-2 away from home on September 20.
Last time out, Los Blancos put five past Elche at the Bernabeu, with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring four times to make it seven goals in his last two league matches. As a result, Real Madrid currently sit in fifth position in the table on nine points, two points behind fourth-place and current champions Atletico Madrid and four behind Sevilla, Barcelona and Valencia, who all have 13 after five games.
PREDICTION: One thing is for certain - this is a very difficult match for Real Madrid. Villarreal are used to winning football games in this stadium and Los Blancos have not won at El Madrigal in their last two visits. I am finding it difficult to separate the two teams once more, but on this occasion I think that the visitors will just have enough in attack to secure a 2-1 win.
Here we go then. Both sets of players join us on the pitch ahead of the first period. It must be said that there is a wonderful atmosphere inside the stadium. Let's hope that the football matches up!
Right, the pre-match handshakes have been undertaken and the flags have been exchanged. It promises to be a fascinating afternoon of La Liga football as the home side get the first 45 minutes underway.
All-action start in the middle of the park as Cani and Modric immediately clash in a meaty challenge. The former threads a pass into Uche moments later, but Casillas is across to clear for a corner. The first set piece is cleared by Pepe, before Ruiz heads wide from a Gomez cross. Strong start from the home side.
I have a feeling that we could be in for something special this afternoon. It has been end-to-end football in the opening four minutes, with Uche much involved for Villarreal and Ronaldo for Real Madrid. Trigueros also advances beyond the Real Madrid back four, but Casillas is again out to claim at the vital moment.
GOAL DISALLOWED! Real Madrid have the ball in the back of the net as Ramos fires home from inside the box, but the centre-back is deemed to have handled. Nervous moments for the home side.
CHANCE! Wonderful chance for Villarreal this time as Uche finds some space outside the box before driving one towards the bottom corner, but Casillas is on hand to make a really smart save. This has been end-to-end thus far, with both sides prepared to commit numbers in the final third. Super stuff.
The away side are all over the place at the back as Vietto finds some space in the final third before driving one into the box, but Marcelo is on hand to clear. Real Madrid are down the other end with James moments later, but the Colombian cannot find the run of Marcelo, who has been heavily involved thus far.
CHANCE! Ronaldo comes close for the away side after finding some space outside the box, but Asenjo is across to make a brilliant save. The resulting corner is delivered towards the near post, but Mario is on hand to clear ahead of Ramos. Still goalless with 11 minutes on the clock, but plenty happening.
In keeping with the end-to-end period of the match, Uche breaks for Villarreal before cutting into the Real Madrid box, but Varane is across to clear at the vital moment. The resulting corner eventually falls to Mario, but his effort is deflected onto Ramos during a period of pinball inside the box.
Another half-chance for the home side as Bruno meets a cross from Gabriel, but his low effort just moves wide of the post. You just get the feeling that the first goal - if there indeed is one - will be vital.
Not too much to report in terms of chances in the last couple of minutes, but the tempo remains high, with both sides committing numbers in the final third. Real Madrid force a corner following bright work from James, but once again the danger is cleared by Musacchio. Moments later, James fires high and wide.
PLANE ALERT! A plane pulling the banner 'Come home Ronaldo' has just flown above El Madrigal. It has been organised by Manchester United fans, who want their hero to return. Will it work?
Nervy moment in the Villarreal defence as a header from Gabriel threatens to fall for Ronaldo, but Mario is across to clear at the vital moment. The home side are down the other end moments later, but Uche cannot find the run of Gomez, who had found some space ahead of Marcelo. Still goalless at El Madrigal.
CHANCE! Wonderful chance for the home side as Gabi breaks into the Real Madrid box before crossing towards Uche, but Ramos just about does enough to clear at the vital moment. How on earth is this game still goalless? The opening 23 minutes have just flown past at El Madrigal.
Possession football from the home side over the last couple of minutes, but Real Madrid look dangerous each time they break into the final third. Uche continues to cause problems to the Real Madrid defence, but Ramos and Varane have thus far been able to contain the Nigerian. It has been a brilliant contest thus far.
Real Madrid have a free kick just outside the box as Bruno fells Ronaldo, who does not look too comfortable has he returns to his feet. The resulting set piece is delivered by Kroos, but Musacchio gets up above Ramos. Ramos makes contact from a cross moments later, but the offside flag had been raised.
CHANCE! Oh my word what a chance for Villarreal. Summer signing Vietto shows excellent ability to drive into the Real Madrid box, but his final effort is high and wide. What an opportunity.
The away side want a penalty as Ronaldo goes down inside the box under pressure from Mario, but the referee is not interested. Ronaldo is not moving too well at the moment after taking a couple of early tackles. Still goalless with little under 15 minutes of the first period remaining at El Madrigal.
GOAL! Villarreal 0-1 Real Madrid (Modric)
The away side have the lead with 32 minutes on the clock as Modric rattles one into the bottom corner from outside the box. It caught Asenjo unawares, with the goalkeeper unable to react.
CHANCE! Villarreal come close to levelling as Vietto meets a cross from Cani, but his header just moves wide of the post. The home side are not out of this match, far from it.
Villarreal again threaten as Vietto drives into the Real Madrid half, but Carvajal comes across to fell the forward. The resulting free kick is taken quickly, but Ramos is on hand to clear. The opening 37 minutes of this contest have just flown past. There has hardly been time to take a breath!
Villarreal have a free kick just outside the box as Uche is felled by Ramos. The resulting set piece is taken by Bruno, but his effort is deflected behind for a corner. Good pressure from the home side in the latter stages of the half, but Real Madrid continue to look dangerous on the counter attack.
GOAL! Villarreal 0-2 Real Madrid (Ronaldo)
As I said, Real Madrid continue to look dangerous on the counter. Their second comes through that avenue as Benzema breaks onto a long pass before finding Ronaldo, who slides his effort into the bottom corner.
Villarreal again threaten with a low cross from Gomez, eventually it falls to Uche, who fires over the crossbar from close range, but the offside flag had been raised. Moments later, Casillas makes a brilliant save to deny Vietto from close range. It is all happening with 43 minutes on the clock.
Carvajal again threatens for the away side after breaking down the right and delivering towards the near post, but Mario is on hand to clear for a corner. Another goal here would surely end the contest.
HALF-TIME: Villarreal 0-2 Real Madrid
So there we have it. The referee brings the first period to an end with Real Madrid leading Villarreal 2-0. Both sides have had chances during an end-to-end contest, but goals from Modric and Ronaldo have proved the difference. You just get the feeling that the home side need to score the next goal if they are to take something from this match.
STATS! Real Madrid have just about shaded the possession with 53%, while they have had five attempts - two of which have been on target. Villarreal, meanwhile, have hit the target with three of their six attempts. There has been just the one yellow card, with Ramos booked after 38 minutes.
BENCH WATCH! Villarreal have Giovani dos Santos on their bench this afternoon, with the Mexican recently returning from injury. His brother, Jonathan dos Santos is also available. The visitors, meanwhile, have the likes of Javier Hernandez and Isco in reserve.
Here we go then. Both sets of players join us on the pitch for the second 45 minutes. Can Villarreal overturn a two-goal deficit? Real Madrid have been clinical in the final third thus far this afternoon. Right, the away side get the second 45 minutes underway.
No changes from either manager at the interval, which is not much of a surprise. However, I suspect that changes could occur from the home side if the score remains 2-0 for the next 15 minutes or so. The away side have taken control of the possession in the early moments of the second period.
Half-chance for the home side as Uche finds some space inside the Real Madrid box before feeding Uche, but the Nigerian could only spin and fire wide of the post. If Villarreal can score the next goal, then it is very much game on. But another for Real Madrid would surely end the match as a contest.
Another half-chance for the home side as Gomez drives towards the edge of the Real Madrid box before driving one towards goal, but his effort is deflected wide of the post. The visitors are down the other end moments later, but Mario comes across to challenge Ronaldo. The second period is just starting to gather pace.
Another half-chance for Villarreal as Uche manages to turn away from two defenders inside the box before feeding Mario, but his effort is wide of the post. The home side are giving a good account of themselves at the moment, but Real Madrid remain such a threat with their pace and power in the final third.
Mario continues to force the issue for the home side in forward positions, but the right-back has thus far been able to deliver a telling cross. Real Madrid are down the other end with Bale, who feed a pass into Kroos, but the German cannot find Ronaldo. Still 2-0 to Los Blancos with 56 minutes played.
Not too much to report in terms of clear chances in the last few minutes, but the match continues to flow from end-to-end. In truth, there has not been too much in general play here, but Real Madrid have been more clinical in the final third. Little over 30 minutes of this contest remaining at El Madrigal.
SUB! Change for Villarreal as Espinosa replaces Gomez.
Good pressure from the home side in the last couple of moments with Bruno and Cani both involved in the final third, but they just cannot find that elusive pass. Still no movement on the Real Madrid defence, but Marcelo seems to be struggling with some sort of head injury. Could a change occur?
SUB! Second Villarreal change as Giovani replaces Uche.
Not too much to report in terms of clear chances in the last couple of moments, but the away side have started to up the tempo following a period of Villarreal possession. Bale delivers towards the near post for Benzema, but Asenjo is out to collect. I have a feeling that this could be a fun final 25 minutes or so.
SUB! Third and final change for Villarreal as Trigueros is replaced by Jonathan dos Santos.
Decent spell for Real Madrid in the last couple of moments as Ramos and Ronaldo both come close from corners, but neither can find the back of the net. Still 2-0 Los Blancos with 70 minutes on the clock.
Ramos produces another brilliant defensive header to clear a cross from Jonathan dos Santos, who had found some space in a wide position. The resulting corner is driven towards Giovani, but the Mexican cannot beat Varane in the air. One goal for the home side would make it a very interesting final 20 minutes or so.
SUB! First change for the visitors as Illarramendi replaces James.
Another Villarreal attack forms in a wide position as Jonathan finds Mario, who delivers towards the near post, but Marcelo is on hand to make the challenge. The Brazilian has been very good this afternoon.
SUB! However, Marcelo cannot continue following that face injury and has been replaced by Nacho.
Little over 10 minutes of this contest remaining and Real Madrid continue to hold firm. Villarreal have a half-chance as Jonathan dos Santos finds some space outside the box, but his effort is straight at Casillas. In fairness to the away side - they have been very good at the back this afternoon. Much improved in that sense.
Not too much to report in terms of chances in the last couple of minutes, but the home side continue to press. Real Madrid have a rare chance to counter as Benzema drives down the left before finding Modric, but the Frenchman cannot collect at the vital moment. Still 2-0 to the visitors with 81 minutes on the clock.
Villarreal threaten with a couple of free kicks in quick succession, but Real Madrid survive again as Giovani fires high and wide of the crossbar. Time is starting to run out at El Madrigal.
SUB! Third and final change for Real Madrid as Isco replaces Benzema.
Real Madrid have the ball in the corner as time starts to run out at El Madrigal. There has not been too much between the two teams in terms of general play, but the away side have been clinical in the final third. In truth, clear chances have been few and far between in the second 45 minutes.
Half-chance for the away side to make it 3-0 as Ronaldo spins inside the box before floating one towards the far corner, but Asenjo is on hand to collect. Down the other end, Vietto is hacked down by Ramos.
The fourth official indicates that we will play three additional minutes here.
It just will not happen for Villarreal as Real Madrid continue to hold out in the latter stages. They will indeed make it three wins in a row in the league. Much more like it from Los Blancos.
FULL-TIME: Villarreal 0-2 Real Madrid
So there we have it. Real Madrid do indeed pick up the three points with a 2-0 win. Thanks for joining Sports Mole for the action and be sure to remain with us for Barcelona against Granada. Until then!