Real Madrid vs Villarreal: Part 3 of 'LaLiga in four hours'
Villarreal arrive in Madrid knowing that they will not face Gareth Bale, who is out injured following a golf marathon, and that they have a chance to play their part in the title race.
Four hours, three games and only a point separates them. LaLiga has refound the emotion that it had lost and, with the key games being played almost simultaneously, the last couple of weeks have given us guaranteed thrills in what could be a nervy few hours. It's Madrid that will bring the triple-play to a close and they are looking at this round hoping for two favours - that of Athletic, against Atlético, and Depo, who host Barcelona.
Villarreal are coming into the Lion's Den. Zidane has overseen ten games at the Bernabeu, resulting in nine wins and heaps of goals (40). This is possibly the hardest opponent at the worst time (and you can follow it live right here with us). Marcelino's team are five down (Soldado, Mussachio, Jaume Costa, Samu Castillejo and Pina), and are suffering fatigue for their Europa League exerts. They have lost three of their last six after previously going 14 matchdays unbeaten. It was a clash where rotation may have been a sensible option but instead has turned into a game for the surviving members of the sqaud. Good news for the Yellow Submarines is the welcome return of Bruno.
Zidane, has more to choose from but, again, he is without Gareth Bale. The Welshman, for one reason or another, has already missed 18 games this season. Against Getafe he played 57 minutes, scored a goal, and then took a day off to play 36 holes of golf across two courses in Cádiz. He also attended the Spanish Open, as we reported earlier in the week, but two days later we find him with a sick note.
Carvajal is also injured, likely forcing Danilo back into the side. This may be positive for those looking to get a better transfer fee when the market opens but will be news greeted with a groan from many in the Bernabeu based on his below par performances this season. This time out it sounds like Kroos could be rested but with Modric and Casemiro back in the middle. Isco and James are also expected to continue on their road to redemption with Ramos starting at the back.
Everyone connected with Los Blancos will already know the full-time result from Barça's trip to Depo by the time they kick-off. What effect that has could be crucial in deciding the fate of this year's championship.
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