Real Madrid will be aiming to consolidate their position at the top of the La Liga table when they take on Villarreal at the Santiago Bernabeu this weekend.

Matchday 7 of the 2021/22 La Liga kicks off this weekend and leaders Real Madrid will be in action late on Saturday as they play hosts to Unai Emery’s Villarreal outfit, hoping to extend their winning streak.

Following a change in regime in the summer, Real Madrid have made a fine start to life under new manager Carlo Ancelotti.Β Los Blancos have won five of their six league games thus far (D1), with the latest one coming in the form of a resounding 6-1 triumph over RCD Mallorca, that sent them to the top of the table, with a two-point advantage over reigning champions Atletico Madrid in second.

Ancelotti will be hoping to grab another victory on Saturday night that would allow his team to strengthen their grip at the top this early into the season and maintain the momentum ahead of a busy run of fixtures ahead. However, things will be anything but easy for theΒ Merengues as they lock horns with Villarreal.

The Yellow Submarine, too, are unbeaten in the new season so far. However, unlike Real Madrid, they have just won one of their five games, drawing the remaining four, although the victory came in their most recent fixture as Unai Emery’s men beat Elche 4-1 earlier this week. The result meant that they are currently 12th in table, only four points shy of the fourth spot in the standings.

The corresponding fixture last season ended in a 2-1 win for Real Madrid with Karim Benzema and Luka Modric scoring late goals to seal three points for their team. Ahead of their latest meeting on Saturday night, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

Real Madrid

Real Madrid continue to be without the services of Ferland Mendy, Gareth Bale, Dani Carvajal, Marcelo and Dani Ceballos. Toni Kroos also remains unavailable although he is closing in on making a return. Carlo Ancelotti could make a few changes to the side that thrashed Mallorca earlier in the week.

Thibaut Courtois will be manning the goal yet again for Real Madrid hoping to secure a clean sheet. Eder Militao and David Alaba are settling in nicely at the heart of the defence and should hold on to their places. Nacho could be given a breather at right-back, with Lucas Vazquez getting the nod in the position while Miguel Gutierrez should continue on the left.

Eduardo Camavinga enjoyed a positive outing on his first start for his new club, but is expected to make way for Casemiro on Saturday. Luka Modric is also expected to return to the starting XI, potentially at the expense of Federico Valverde, who could do with a rest after having played constantly since the start of the season.

Marco Asensio, who was the star of the show in midweek with a hat-trick against his former club, ought to get another start to build on his fine performance. The Spaniard should once again occupy the inside-right slot in the centre of the park. No changes are expected in the attacking third, with Rodrygo, Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior all starting from kickoff yet again.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3):Β Courtois; Vazquez, Militao, Alaba, Gutierrez; Asensio, Casemiro, Modric; Rodrygo, Benzema, Vinicius

Villarreal

Villarreal, too, have a few injury issues to contend with as well, with Unai Emery likely to be without Samuel Chukwueze, Dani Raba, Yeremi Pino and Gerard Moreno. The visitors will mirror Real Madrid’s formation and set up in a 4-3-3 setup in front of goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli on Saturday night.

Juan Foyth could replace Mario Gaspar at right-back but Alfonso Pedraza is expected to hold on to his place on the left side of the defence. Pau Torres, who had been linked with a move to Real Madrid in the summer, is a nailed-on starter in defence while ex-Los Blancos star Raul Albiol should start ahead of Aissa Mandi.

Etienne Capoue will be tasked with providing protection the backline while Manu Trigueros and Dani Parejo will take over the creative responsibilities from the middle of the park.

Summer signing Arnaut Danjuma will pose a threat from the left-wing, while Moi Gomez ought to feature on the right with Chukwueze absent with an injury. In the absence of Gerard Moreno, Paco Alcacer ought to start as the centre-forward, with Boulaye Dia an option from the bench.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3):Β Rulli; Foyth, Albiol, Torres, Pedraza; Parejo, Capoue, Trigueros; Gomez, Alcacer, Danjuma

Key Stats

  • Real Madrid have lost just once in their 21 home matches in La Liga against Villarreal (W15 D5)
  • Villarreal have drawn their last three away games in La Liga and could record four consecutive draws in the competition for the first time since March 2016.
  • Real Madrid are unbeaten in their last 24 games in La Liga (W18 D6), their longest run without losing since a 28-game unbeaten streak between March 2016 and January 2017.
  • In just six games this season in La Liga, Vinicius junior has been involved in seven gaols (five goals, two assists) more than in 35 matches last season.
  • Carlo Ancelotti will manage his 800th game as a manager within Europe’s big five leagues. The Italian has won 75.6% of his matches as Real Madrid coach in La Liga.

Player to Watch

Karim Benzema

Easily the best player in La Liga, possibly Europe, since the start of the new season. Benzema has been involved in 15 goals this season in the Spanish top-flight, scoring eight goals and setting up seven more – the best start of any player after the first six games of a season in the 21st century, surpassing former teammate Cristiano Ronaldo.

A peerless goalscorer, the veteran forward has also been a top-notch provider this term, with some of his link-up play with Vinicius Junior has been brilliant to say the least. Donning the captain’s armband in Marcelo’s absence, Benzema has led the team by example so far and Ancelotti will be expecting more of the same on Saturday.

Prediction

Real Madrid 2-0 Villarreal

Real Madrid are in sublime form heading into the game, picking up five wins out of six. And while Villarreal have proven to be hard to beat, they weren’t exactly firing on all cylinders, up until the last game at least, when they beat Elche. However, the league leaders will be a whole different kettle of fish and considering the form that Ancelotti’s men have shown, they should be able to bag three points on Saturday.

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