MX23RW : Tuesday, June 15 09:57:46| >> :120:6754:6754:
Jan 13, 2018 at 3.15pm UK at Estadio Santiago Bernabéu (Madrid)
Attendance: 63,403
Real Madrid
FT(HT: 0-0)
Fornals (88')

Preview: Real Madrid vs. Villarreal – prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole provides the team news, lineups and a full preview of Saturday's La Liga clash between Real Madrid and Villarreal.

Real Madrid will attempt to return to winning ways in La Liga when they welcome Villarreal to the Bernabeu on Saturday afternoon.

The Spanish champions are currently fourth in Spain's top flight – 16 points behind league leaders Barcelona. Villarreal, meanwhile, sit two positions and four points behind their opponents entering this weekend's match.

Real Madrid

Real Madrid's Marcelo in action against Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League on October 17, 2017© Offside

Real Madrid might be the reigning Spanish, European and world champions, but there is no question that things are just not right at the moment. Bar an incredible collapse from Barcelona in the second half of the season, Los Blancos are going to relinquish the Spanish title to their bitter rivals once again.

Sixteen points currently separate fourth-placed Madrid from league leaders Barcelona. Zinedine Zidane's side do have a game in hand, but it is extremely difficult to imagine the capital giants closing that gap, and they are also seven points behind second-placed Atletico Madrid at this stage.

It seems a long time ago, but Real Madrid's last home league match was against Barcelona on December 23. Ernesto Valverde's side recorded a 3-0 win at the Bernabeu to move further clear at the summit, and Los Blancos then dropped more points away to Celta Vigo last weekend as they could only draw 2-2 at the Balaidos.

Considering that Barcelona have won six more league matches than Real Madrid at this stage of the season, all is not well. The Madrid giants did manage to book their spot in the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey on Wednesday night, but they were held 2-2 by Segunda Division side Numancia at the Bernabeu in the second leg of their last-16 tie.

Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo have both struggled to find the back of the net in the league this season, but Gareth Bale netted a brace against Celta last time out, and the Welshman will be looking to build on that performance in this match.

It is simply a must-win game for Real Madrid as they look to gain some ground on Barcelona, but it does appear that the damage has already been done when it comes to retaining their title during the 2017-18 campaign.

Recent form: DWDWLD
Recent form (all competitions): WWLWDD


Marcelino Garcia Toral in charge of Villarreal in 2015© Offside

Villarreal will enter Saturday's match knowing that a win would move them to within one point of the Spanish champions, and they will bring a three-game unbeaten run to the Spanish capital.

The Yellow Submarine were held at home by Deportivo La Coruna in their first match of 2018, but have won their last two away league fixtures – both 1-0 – against Celta Vigo and Valencia.

Javi Calleja's side have only lost once since the start of December, and that was a 2-0 home reverse to Barcelona. A total of 28 points from 18 matches has left them in sixth position – just one point behind fifth-placed Sevilla, and as mentioned, four points off Real Madrid entering this weekend's match.

Only Barcelona (7) and Atletico (6) have won more away league games than Villarreal (4) during the 2017-18 campaign. They finished fifth in Spain's top flight last season, and will have their eye on at least repeating that this term.

Like Real Madrid, the Yellow Submarine were in Copa del Rey action on Wednesday night, but despite beating Leganes 2-1, they exited the competition on away goals. Calleja's team are still in the Europa League, however, and will face Lyon in the round of 32 next month.

It is a tough ask for Villarreal to triumph this weekend, but they did pick up a point in a 1-1 draw when they travelled to the Bernabeu last season. A similar result on this occasion would heap more pressure on Zidane.

Recent form: LLLWWD
Recent form (all competitions): LWWLDW

Team News

Gareth Bale in action for Real Madrid in September 2017© Offside

Dani Carvajal will return to the XI after serving a La Liga suspension, but Sergio Ramos and Benzema are still on the treatment table for Real Madrid.

Nacho and Carvajal could be the only two players that keep their spots from the team that started against Numancia on Wednesday night as the likes of Keylor Navas, Marcelo, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Ronaldo and Bale all prepare to return.

Isco is expected to be given the nod to start in an advanced area once again, with Bale playing alongside Ronaldo in a central position.

As for Villarreal, centre-back Alvaro Gonzalez will miss out through suspension, but Manu Trigueros is back from a ban and should come into the XI.

Samu Castillejo could be the player that makes way in the final third of the field, with Carlos Bacca, Dani Raba and Enes Unal all expected to be included.

Real Madrid possible starting lineup:
Navas; Carvajal, Nacho, Varane, Marcelo; Kroos, Casemiro, Modric; Isco, Ronaldo, Bale

Villarreal possible starting lineup:
Asenjo; Gaspar, Bonera, Ruiz, Costa; Fornals, Trigueros, Rodri; Raba, Bacca, Unal

Head To Head

Real Madrid recorded a 3-2 win over Villarreal when the two teams met at the Estadio de la Ceramica last time out. The points were shared, however, when the pair locked horns at the Bernabeu last season.

Villarreal have not beaten Los Blancos in the league since a 1-0 victory on home soil in December 2015, and that was their first win over the Madrid giants since May 2009.

Despite Villarreal's struggles when it comes to beating Real Madrid; the Yellow Submarine have earned a point on two of their last three visits to the Bernabeu.

Sports Mole Logo

We say: Real Madrid 2-0 Villarreal

Confidence is not exactly high at Real Madrid, and Villarreal know what it takes to avoid defeat at the Bernabeu. A number of players have a point to prove in a white shirt, however, and we expect the home side to collect all three points courtesy of a 2-0 success.

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Cristiano Ronaldo with the Ballon d'Or on December 7, 2017
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