Hello and welcome to our match preview and live coverage of Villarreal vs Real Madrid in week 24 of the 2016/17 LaLiga Santander season, to be played at the Estadio de la Cerámica at 20:45 CET on Sunday 26 February 2017.
Villarreal vs Real Madrid: LaLiga week 24 preview
A tough away assignment awaits the LaLiga leaders, who come into the game fresh from their second league defeat of the season. Hosts Villarreal, meanwhile, head into the match-up on the back of elimination from the Europa League but with all their stars rested for the encounter.
Thrashed 4-0 at home in their last-32 tie with Roma, Villarreal left themselves with a mountain to scale in the second leg in Italy - so much so that boss Fran Escribà opted to sacrifice the clash and rest a host of key figures.
As many as ten players are set to return to the line-up against Real, a match for which Nicola Sansoné is doubtful with a calf niggle. Meanwhile, Manu Trigueros and Denis Cheryshev are expected to overcome minor issues.
The Submarino Amarillo, who are four games unbeaten in the top flight, were the first side to prevent Madrid from winning in LaLiga this season, the teams playing out a 1-1 draw at the Bernabéu in late September.
And on Sunday night, Escribà's charges will look to go one better and grab three points with which to edge a little bit closer to the Champions League places.
Real arrive in Vila-Real out to bounce back from spurning a midweek opportunity to extend their lead at the top of the table in defeat to Valencia.
And depending on Barcelona's result at Atlético Madrid earlier in the day, Real (who still have another game in hand over their title rivals after this weekend) could take to the field on Sunday back down in second.
Los Merengues' demoralising reverse at Mestalla additionally saw them lose defender Raphael Varane to injury, while full-back Danilo also misses out.
Zinedine Zidane could give minutes to Isco and Álvaro Morata, who didn't feature on Wednesday, while Gareth Bale is in contention for a first start since injuring ankle tendons in November.