MX23RW : Tuesday, May 7 19:16:21| >> :600:283414:283414:
May 5, 2019 at 3.15pm UK at ​Estadio Santiago Bernabéu (Madrid)
Attendance: 46,294
Real Madrid
Mariano (2', 49'), Vallejo (40')
FT(HT: 2-1)
Moreno (11'), Costa (90')

Preview: Real Madrid vs. Villarreal - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Sunday's La Liga clash between Real Madrid and Villarreal, including predictions, team news and head-to-head records.

Real Madrid have three more La Liga matches left to tick off in a season to forget, starting with Sunday's home match against Villarreal.

The Spanish giants require a miracle if they are to finish any higher than third, while their opponents are on course to beat the drop after hitting a good run of form.

Real Madrid

Real Madrid attacker Isco in action against Getafe in La Liga on April 25, 2019© Reuters

Zinedine Zidane's return was supposed to bring with it an upturn in performances, but Madrid's end-of-season matches have had an almost exhibition feel to them.

Madrid have won just two of their last six La Liga matches, losing to Valencia and Rayo Vallecano in that run and also playing out draws with local rivals Leganes and Getafe.

Zidane has at least had a chance to experiment over the past few weeks, completely changing his midfield ranks for the 1-0 loss at Rayo last weekend that saw Los Blancos produce arguably their flattest display yet under the Frenchman.

The biggest concern for Madrid is that Karim Benzema, who is expected to miss the rest of the season with a hamstring injury, is the only player to have netted in their last five matches.

In a campaign that will end trophiless and with the dethroned European champions third in La Liga, barring a nine-point swing on Atletico Madrid over the remaining three matches, it comes as little surprise to see Madrid linked with an array of world-class talent.

The latest reports coming out of Spain suggest that each of Eden Hazard, Paul Pogba, Christian Eriksen, Luka Jovic and Tanguy Ndombele could be recruited as part of a £460m summer splurge.

Madrid's return of 65 points in La Liga this season after 35 games is their lowest figure at this stage since the 2001-02 season when they also had 65 points. On the back of that disappointing campaign, the Spanish giants brought in superstar striker Ronaldo from Inter Milan and went on to win the title.

It seems that an even bigger response will be needed in the off-season 17 years on. For now, all Zidane can do is continue experimenting and count down the days until the summer.

Recent form in La Liga: LWDWDL


Villarreal striker Carlos Bacca celebrates scoring against Barcelona on April 2, 2019© Reuters

With their Europa League campaign coming to an end at the hands of domestic rivals Valencia last month, all focus for Villarreal in the final fortnight is on retaining their top-flight status.

Three wins and a draw in their last four league matches has taken them to 40 points for the season, five points more than Real Valladolid in the final relegation spot.

Villarreal face two top-four sides in their final three games, though, sandwiched by the visit of 13th-placed Eibar, so they may have to rely on a few favours from other teams if they fail to put any more points on the board.

Javier Calleja will be more than happy with his side's current form, however, having won more matches in their last four outings than in the previous 18 in the competition.

However, Villarreal have lost 21 games against Real Madrid in La Liga - more than against any other opponent alongside Barcelona - so their upward momentum may be about to come to an end.

The Yellow Submarine's home and away form has been identical this season, collecting 20 points both at the Estadio de la Ceramica and on their travels. More recently, they have won back-to-back away matches by a 1-0 scoreline at Girona and Real Sociedad.

Being without Carlos Bacca will be a major blow for the visitors, however, as the striker as scored four goals in his six La Liga appearances against Madrid. Only against Celta de Vigo (five) has he scored more goals in the competition.

All the stats point against Villarreal coming away from the Bernabeu with a point, yet this is the best possible time to face a Madrid side lacking motivation and Calleja will not need to remind his players that they are still fighting for survival.

Recent form in La Liga: DLWWWD
Recent form (all competitions): LWLWWD

Team News

Karim Benzema in action for Real Madrid on April 21, 2019© Reuters

Benzema and Sergio Ramos remain on the sidelines for Madrid and Alvaro Odriozola is also unlikely to play again this season.

Zidane has chopped and changed his forward line and midfield of late, which is likely to remain the case on Sunday for this penultimate home game of the campaign.

Mariano Diaz did not make much of an impact against Vallecano through the middle but Zidane has limited options in that position, unless he operates with a false nine.

As for the visitors, Vicente Iborra is back from suspension and is expected to be welcomed straight back into the starting lineup alongside Santi Cazorla in holding midfield as Santiago Caseres is banned.

Cazorla scored twice against Real Madrid in the reverse fixture this season - his first brace in La Liga since September 2011 - which included his only headed goal in the competition.

Karl Toko Ekambi is another player serving a suspension which, combined with Bacca's layoff with a hamstring injury, should see Alfonso Pedraza play just off Gerard Moreno.

Real Madrid possible starting lineup:
Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Nacho, Marcelo; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Bale, Mariano, Asensio

Villarreal possible starting lineup:
Fernandez; Gaspar, Gonzalez, Mori, Quintilla; Cazorla, Iborra; Chukwueze, Fornals, Pedraza; Moreno

Head To Head

Villarreal have won only two of their last seven league games with Madrid, though that is as many as they managed in their previous 30 against them.

At the Bernabeu, the Yellow Submarine have won one of their 18 games played there. That came in their most recent visit in January 2018, prevailing 1-0 in the Spanish capital.

The reverse fixture this season finished 2-2 in early January as Cazorla scored twice, either side of goals from Benzema and Raphael Varane.

Sports Mole Logo

We say: Real Madrid 1-1 Villarreal

Madrid just want the season to end, knowing that they are now destined to finish third. Villarreal still have something to play for and can all but guarantee safety with a positive result at the Bernabeu this weekend, which we are backing them to get.

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