Santiago Solari will be without four first-team players when Real Madrid travel to Estadio de la Ceramica to take on Villarreal on Thursday.
Real Madrid will be hoping to continue their winning run, when they play their first game of 2019 against a struggling Villarreal side at the Ceramica on Thursday night. Santiago Solari and his men will be buoyed coming into this match, following the straightforward triumph at the FIFA Club World Cup last month.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference, the Real Madrid boss did not provide any update as to the team news, but did iterate that the mood in the camp is positive ahead of a tricky game against Villarreal.
“Everyone seems very happy to me, but not just now, since a long time ago. Ending the year with a title was important for everyone. It was symbolic in completing a cycle of victories that they started. Now it’s up to us to start the year with the humility necessary to compete in these three competitions.”
As far as team news is concerned, Solari does not have many pressing issues, especially in defence, with Nacho the only player who is on the sidelines. With all of his first-choice defenders at his disposal, the manager could be expected to name his strongest possible back four, which will provide cover to Thibaut Courtois.
Raphael Varane has been steadily improving in recent games, and will give company to Sergio Ramos at the heart of the Real Madrid defence. Dani Carvajal has made an emphatic return from injury, while Marcelo is a consisted figure on the left flank.
In midfield, Marcos Llorente is a major absentee, with the holding midfielder recovering from a minor groin injury. But, with Casemiro now fully fit, there aren’t many major concerns, with the Brazilian set to slot into the midfield trio alongside the much improved creative partners Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.
Up ahead in attack, Solari is without Mariano Diaz and Marco Asensio for the trip to Villarreal. But, Lucas Vazquez had usurped Asensio in recent weeks anyway, while Karim Benzema is a certain starter as the focal point of the Real Madrid attack.
The final spot in the side will be taken by Gareth Bale, who will aim to produce another solid performance against the side who were his first victims as a Real Madrid player back in 2013. Isco continues to be out of favour, while Vinicius Junior will be an option off the bench.