Both Real Madrid and Villarreal will be looking for their first League victories of the new year when they go head to head on Saturday at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Real Madrid are coming off a tense 2-2 draw against Numancia. In the League, they are currently placed fourth, albeit with an extra game in hand. They have 32 points to their name and are 16 points behind table toppers Barcelona.

Villarreal on the other hand, are 6 points on the table, only 4 points behind their next opponents. They’re coming off a narrow 2-1 victory over Leganes. They’ve won 8 games this season, drawing 4 and losing 6. They’re a point above seventh placed Eibar and a point behind fifth placed Sevilla.

Tactics

Real Madrid

Quite a number of changes are expected to the side that started in their 2-2 draw against Numancia and they are expected to revert back to their 4-3-1-2 formation. Keylor Navas is expected to come back into the starting XI ahead of Kiko Casilla.

Raphael Varane and Marcelo are expected to come back into the squad and join Nacho Fernandez and Dani Carvajal in defence. Mateo Kovacic, Marcos Llorente and Dani Ceballos are all expected to be dropped and Luka Modric, Casemiro and Toni Kroos are expected to come into midfield.

The front three of Lucas Vazquez, Marco Asensio and Borja Mayoral are all expected to be benched as well. Isco is expected to come into the squad and start in a central attacking midfield role, with Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo leading the line together.

Probable Starting XI(4-3-1-2): Keylor Navas; Dani Carvajal, Nacho Fernandez, Raphael Varane, Marcelo; Luka Modric, Casemiro, Toni Kroos; Isco; Gareth Bale, Cristiano RonaldoReal Madrid vs Villarreal(1)

Villarreal CF

Javier Calleja’s men are expected to retain their usual 4-4-2 formation and most of the same players that started in their 2-1 victory against Leganes earlier this week. Sergio Asenjo is expected to start in goal ahead of Mariano Barbosa.

Antonio Rukavina is expected to make way for Mario Gaspar at right-back. Alvaro Gonzalez and Daniele Bonera are expected to start centerback while Jaume Costa is expected to start in left-back ahead of Adrian Marin. Samu Castillejo and Pablo Fornals are expected to start on the wings.

Manu Trigueros and Rodrigo Hernandez are expected to retain their place in the starting XI in central midfield, while Carlos Bacca and Enes Unal are likely to start in attack one again.

Probable Starting XI(4-4-2): Sergio Asenjo; Mario Gaspar, Alvaro Gonzalez, Daniele Bonera, Jaume Costa; Samu Castillejo, Rodrigo Hernandez, Manu Trigueros, Pablo Fornals; Enes Unal, Carlos Bacca

Real Madrid vs Villarreal(2)

Key Statistics

  • Real Madrid are undefeated against Villarreal in their last 16 home matches in all competitions.
  • In 17 games against Villarreal across all competitions, Cristiano Ronaldo has been directly involved in 17 goals(12 goals, 5 assists).
  • In 17 matches at the Santiago Bernabeu, Real Madrid have won 12 and drawn 5 matches against Villarreal.
  • Real Madrid and Villarreal have drawn 2 of their last 3 matches at the Bernabeu.

Player To Watch

Gareth Bale

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 26: Gareth Bale of Real Madrid in action during the La Liga match between Villarreal CF and Real Madrid at Estadio de la Ceramica on February 26, 2017 in Villarreal, Spain. (Photo by Fotopress/Getty Images)

Gareth Bale in action during the La Liga match against Villarreal CF at Estadio de la Ceramica on February 26, 2017 in Villarreal, Spain. (Picture Courtesy – Getty Images)

The Welshman has been in good form since his return from injury. In their last Liga match against Celta Vigo, he scored a brace which kept them in the game and helped them salvage a draw. All eyes will on the Welshman to see how he fares against the side he opened his Real Madrid account nearly 5 years ago.

Prediction

Real Madrid 2-1 Villarreal CF

Zidane’s men cannot afford to drop points anymore at the this stage of the season. Despite having a game in hand over their nearest rivals, they are still precariously placed at fourth placed and dropping points at this stage would put them in an extremely difficult position in the Champions League qualification.

A big, morale boosting victory is desperately needed at the Bernabeu and we expect the reigning Champions to take no prisoners when they welcome Javier Calleja’s men. Villarreal are no pushovers, but we predict a tense, hard fought victory for Real Madrid.