Last weekend was perfect for Real Madrid as they increased their lead in La Liga. These four points will be very helpful as their next two games are against difficult rivals.
First it will be Villarreal, who will visit the Bernabéu with the boost of their qualification to the next round of the Europa League. Marcelino’s men are one of the hottest teams this season, and they won’t come to Madrid to leave without points.
Preferred Formation: 4-3-3
This will be a big test for this new midfield with Lucas Silva. Not since the debacle versus Atlético Madrid have they faced a strong rival. A lot has changed in a month, yet not only the midfield has to show a drastic improvement in attitude and football. Villarreal has fast attackers and a decent defense. It’s one of those matches that Real must work as a team and not rely on individual plays to win.
GK: Iker Casillas
The captain has kept three consecutive clean sheets in all competitions. The last time he met Villarreal, he also didn’t concede any goals. Though no rumors have emerged, Navas shouldn’t be ruled out.
RB: Dani Carvajal
It’s not going to be an easy night for Dani. Luciano Vietto and company are in top form and cause headaches to any defense. Now more than ever must he focus on working well in attack and in the back.
Since his return, the back line is a lot more stable. The experienced Portuguese isn’t showing any signs of aging. His strength and leadership will come in handy in this tough part of the year.
CB: Raphaël Varane
He owes his improvement to Pepe’s comeback. Nacho is a good player, but he lacks the minutes to be confident and that affects his partner. The Frenchman should keep profiting from Ramos’ absence.
Much like his teammate on the right side, he needs to keep his wing covered. Combining with Isco and Ronaldo will be key for attacking, still helping out Pepe and Varane could be even more important.
RCM: Lucas Silva
The Brazilian should be very satisfied with his first weeks as a Madridista. All signs point to him starting once again. He gives Kroos and Isco more freedom to move. With more time to adapt, he can continue his adaptation.
CM: Toni Kroos
If Varane owes Pepe, Kroos owes Lucas Silva for his upturn. Toni has a little more help in defending the midfield. With Modrić returning soon, it’s possible he could go back to his previous form.
He has managed to gather ovations from almost every stadium in Spain. He shouldn’t let this praise get to his head. When James and Luka are fit, he will have to really outperform them if he wants to play.
RW: Gareth Bale
He can counter Vietto’s speed and cause some harm himself. Villarreal is a special rival, as he made his debut and scored his first goal against them. This should serve as a motivation for Sunday.
ST: Karim Benzema
Leading the way to last week’s win, he continues to be an irreplaceable player. Chicharito doesn’t help the BBC as much as Karim. However, the Frenchman shouldn’t get too comfortable.
LW: Cristiano Ronaldo
While far from his best version, he has overcome his rough patch with a couple of goals. He needs to do much more and prepare himself for El Clásico. He missed last year’s game and he will want to make up for that.