With five games remaining, La Liga title race is wide open with three teams back in the run after the unexpected turn of events and Barcelona’s incredible slump in form. Resurgent Real Madrid play host to Villarreal looking to put additional pressure on Atleti and the Catalans in the closing game of the 34th La Liga round on Thursday night.
Los Blancos back in business
You would have been considered foolish just one month ago if you were to suggest that anyone other than Barcelona might go out to win the La Liga title. Still, just a couple of rounds later and the race is back on with the Spanish champions suffering inexplicable dip in form, which got the Madrid rivals back in contention for domestic honours. With Barcelona losing to Real Madrid, Real Sociedad and now Valencia, Spain’s top flight has become the most thrilling race in Europe with Atletico Madrid level on terms with the Catalans and Real Madrid just one point behind Luis Enrique’s men. Contrary to their bitter rivals’ form, Real Madrid have been imperious in La Liga since the Madrid derby loss in February. Seven wins on the bounce and 27 goals scored during that time have brought Zidane’s men back in the title frame. Coming off from another compelling performance at Getafe, Real Madrid will use the 5-1 win as a huge morale boost in their upcoming match against Villarreal. Cristiano Ronaldo has continued his goalscoring spree and is now standing at 31 league goals in 33 matches. The Portuguese star has netted nine goals in his last ten matches in all competitions and will have to be closely monitored against the Yellow Submarine.
Zinedine Zidane has no major selection worries ahead of the match with Villarreal as there are no players on the injury list. Sergio Ramos could retain his place in the starting line-up, while the French manager is not expected to make significant changes to his team.
Villarreal on course to the Champions League
First among the equals, Villarreal is standing up within the competition occupying the fourth place in the table behind the three frontrunners. Yellow Submarine have amassed 60 points in 33 rounds and one could say that Villarreal have had a fairly successful campaign. There have been ups and down, such is the 2-1 loss at Rayo Vallecano in the last round, but Marcelino’s men can be pleased with what they-ve done so far. Rayo slump was their first loss after a six-match unbeaten run and after the stretch of four consecutive wins. Yellow Submarine have achieved a major success in the UEFA Europa League as they have dispatched Sparta Prague with the 6-3 aggregate win to book their place in the semi-finals of the competition. Marcelino’s men are in the middle of a busy run as they are to play Real Sociedad after the trip to Santiago Bernabeu, before they travel to Anfield for the first leg of the Europa League semis against Liverpool. Villarreal are motivated to make the best out of their incoming run but beating highly motivated Real Madrid would be considered a feat.
Marcelino will also have almost full crop of players to choose from, with the exception of Mateo Musacchio who is suffering from a hamstring injury. Cerdic Bakambu is pushing for a starting place and could be involved from the off after having started the game against Rayo from the bench.
Buoyed by their fantastic run of form, but with Barcelona’s struggles as well, Real Madrid are bursting with confidence ahead of the Villarreal match. Zinedine Zidane’s men are firm favourites to grab all three points and should be supported to do so.
Top pick: HT/FT Home win 1.67 (4/6) @Bet365
Alternative pick 1: Both teams to score – Yes 1.6 (3/5) @888sport
Alternative pick 2: Ronaldo to score anytime 1.44 (4/9) @WilliamHill