Following two consecutive losses against Sociedad and Atlético, Real have recovered well. 18 goals in the last three games isn’t something every team can do. With Ronaldo in his best form yet, Los Blancos look to prove that they can fight with the big ones in La Liga. They struggled a lot against those teams last season, so it’s time for them to set the record straight.
Next month Real will face Athletic, Liverpool and Barcelona in just a matter of weeks. The team has improved since the rough start, still they need to win the difficult games. These sorts of games add up when deciding tournaments, which forces Ancelotti to keep his men focused. Last season they drew 2-2 at El Madrigal, and this year Villarreal won’t make it any easier for Madrid.
Preferred Formation: 4-3-3
This continues to be Carlo’s system. We see variations at times, with the team looking like a 4-4-2. Much like they did in tough games like the Copa del Rey Final or Munich, the players change to give the team some stability. While the system has worked against smaller teams so far, with Kroos and Modrić defending decently, it’s yet to be proved if it’s good with more demanding rivals.
GK: Iker Casillas
It’s not crazy to think that Keylor Navas could start this game. Ancelotti has been vague and mysterious in his press conferences. Many news outlets point that Casillas will be back, but unfortunately people will have to wait until the day of the match.
RB: Álvaro Arbeloa
In order to go back to the balance of attacking and defending, it’s very likely that Arbeloa will start. Carvajal tends to go up frequently, and Villarreal’s wingers are quite good. Keeping a tidy dense will be key, and Arbeloa does that better than Dani.
CB: Raphaël Varane
At the time of writing, Pepe didn’t train with his teammates. Therefore, it’s still doubtful if he’ll be available for the match. The Frenchman has done quite well in these few matches. His importance could increase in this challenging match.
CB: Sergio Ramos
He improved a lot against Elche. Whether Pepe recovers or not, Ramos will certainly play. His steady increase in form needs to continue, as the calendar will get more intense this coming month. The best Ramos will be crucial to overcome those big teams.
At the time of writing, Coentrão also didn’t join the training session. To keep the full back balance stable, Marcelo will be the attack minded one. He performed well up front against Elche, yet he needs to pay more attention on Saturday.
RCM: Luka Modrić
He rested last Tuesday, so it’s almost certain that he will play from the start. Ancelotti needs to test his best lineup versus the top clubs. Luka will need to help out a lot in defense.
CM: Toni Kroos
He hasn’t stopped since his debut in the UEFA Super Cup. The man needs to rest, but it doesn’t look like it’ll happen anytime soon. The German almost never fails. We saw his best version with Illarramendi helping out, yet the Basque probably won’t start.
LCM: James Rodríguez
He’s earned everyone’s praise, as he gets better and better every match. Still lacking matches against tough rivals, it’s the Colombian’s time to prove that he can handle any type of pressure.
RW: Gareth Bale
He hasn’t really been consistent, with poor matches and participation. However, there are moments in a match that he wakes up and scores or assists. His first match as a Madridista was in this stadium last year, and he scored.
ST: Karim Benzema
Fully rested after a great match at Riazor, he’ll be back. Many are claiming that Madrid played better without him last Tuesday, yet a challenging team hasn’t come along yet. He needs to score and prove everyone wrong.
LW: Cristiano Ronaldo
The man is insatiable. Eight goals in seven days and he doesn’t want to stop. Ancelotti stated that CR7 doesn’t need to rest, and the Portuguese has proved that to be true. He’ll look to increase his stats at El Madrigal.