Big match preview: Real Madrid vs Villarreal

Real Madrid simply have to win at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu on Saturday against high-flying Villarreal if they are to stand a realistic chance of chasing down Barcelona on top of La Liga.

13 January 2018
Game week 19
Kick-off: 17:15 (GMT+2)
Venue: Estadio Santiago Bernabéu

Referee: Alberto Undiano
Assistants: Diego Barbero, Iñigo Prieto
Fourth official: David Recio

Head-to-head summary:
Real Madrid 34 21 10 3
Villarreal 34 3 10 21

Previous encounter:
Villarreal 2-3 Real Madrid 26 February 2017
Villarreal goalscorers: Trigueros (50′) , C. Bakambu (56′)
Real scorers: G. Bale (64′), C. Ronaldo (74′), A. Morata (83′)

Players to watch:

Carlos Bacca, the prolific Colombia striker who moved from AC Milan prior last summer, has had a slow start to life in La Liga with Villarreal. He has registered just five league goals and the 31-year-old will no doubt hope to find his shooting boots against Real.

Gareth Bale’s first start against Celta Vigo after a long term calf injury was a successful one, as he bagged a brace last weekend. However, he will have to be sharp as home team goalkeeper Mariano Barbosa has collected an impressive six clean sheets in 2017-18.

Team form and manager quotes:

Despite signing a new deal with Real until 2020, manager Zinedine Zidane is falling under increasing pressure. Los Blancos trail leaders Barcelona by 16 points and it appears anything less than a victory on Saturday could spell the end of any realistic title challenge.

Nonetheless, the French mentor is refusing to focus on the negatives. He said: “I am tired of hearing that Real Madrid are bad, it is easy to say that everything is bad but you know that everything is not negative here. It is great to speak in a negative way about Real Madrid as it sells better.”

Meanwhile, visiting boss Javier Calleja is wary of facing a wounded Madrid side. Villarreal are in sixth position after winning two and drawing one of their last three La Liga matches. He said: “An injured Madrid is dangerous. It is true that it does not happen at the best moment, the numbers prove it. But it’s still Real Madrid and you can not trust how they arrive because at any moment they resuscitate.”

Team news:

Real are without key defender Sergio Ramos who will seemingly be given more time to recover from a knock for next month’s UEFA Champions League tie with Paris Saint-Germain. Dani Carvajal is available to play following the completion of his suspension picked up against Barcelona.

The visitors could miss top scorer Cédric Bakambu who moved to China with Beijing Guoan. Victor Ruiz is also set to miss out due to a ban. Bruno Soriano, Roberto Soriano and Nicolas Sansone remain sidelined indefinitely with long term injuries. Andres Fernandez and Ruben Semedo are also unavailable.