Reigning La Liga champions Real Madrid will be looking to close the gap on the leading La Liga trio as they play host to Villarreal on Saturday afternoon.
Real Problems for Madrid
Albeit with a game in hand, Real Madrid are still in dire straits when it comes to their La Liga position this season. Reigning champions could not have imagined a worse start to their title defence as they currently sit fourth in the table trailing leaders Barcelona by huge 16 points.
Zinedine Zidane’s charges have a chance to close the gap and cut the deficit when they welcome Villarreal to Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday. Los Blancos are facing a big test of their team spirit, unity and overall ability to go through the ongoing season with their heads held high. Most recent results would not suggest such a scenario knowing that Real Madrid won only one of their last three matches in all competitions – the 3-0 Copa del Rey victory at Numancia. A 3-0 defeat at the hands of Barcelona came and the frustrating 2-2 draw at struggling Celta Vigo last time out came as a huge blow for Los Blancos who need a swift return to winning ways. Los Blancos have won only two of their last five encounters with Villarreal and will need to be on top of their game on Saturday.
Real Madrid will be without captain Sergio Ramos who suffered a muscle strain in training and will be out for two or three weeks. Karim Benzema is also nursing his injury issue and will not be able to help his teammates against Villarreal.
At the time when their Saturday rivals are being accused of lack of transfer activity, Villarreal have made certain steps to boost their squad during the January transfer window. El Submarino Amarillo have signed Jiangsu Suning forward Roger Martinez who is expected to help the La Liga side improve their scoring exploits in the second part of the season.
Javier Calleja’s men are currently occupying the sixth place in the standings with 28 points to their name. With 25 goals scored after 18 matches, the Yellow Submarine are not the most prolific side in the league. Under 2.5 goals were scored in their last six matches in all competitions and the arrival of Roger Martinez is expected to improve those number significantly. The 23-year-old Colombia international arrived as a direct replacement for Cedric Bakambu who is set for a £35 million switch to China. DR Congo striker netted nine times in 15 La Liga appearances this season but he was not involved in his team’s last two matches due to the ongoing transfer negotiations. Villarreal will have little to hope for at Santiago Bernabeu if head to head results are anything to go by, knowing they have yet to win a single game in Madrid.
Bakambu is out of the team with his move to China imminent whereas his replacement Roger Martinez could be given a league debut this weekend. Goalkeeper Andres Fernandez is not expected to return until February, whereas visitors will not be able to count on injured Bruno Soriano, Ruben Semedo, Nicola Sansone and Roberto Soriano.
Victor Ruiz is missing out due to the yellow card suspension.
Real Madrid are under huge pressure and will not settle for anything less than three points. Los Blancos have been accused of not playing attractive football – like Barcelona – and will be out to prove their critics wrong by doing their best to record a convincing and compelling victory.
Top pick: Real Madrid to Win to Nil 2.75 (7/4) @188bet
Alternative pick 1: Real Madrid to Win both Halves 2.50 (6/4) @888sport
Alternative pick 2: Both teams to score – no 2.62 (13/8) @BetVictor