The new La Liga season is in full swing, and there is already talk of a crisis at the Bernabeu. Meanwhile, Villarreal have endured a difficult start to the campaign and will be hoping for a first win of the season when Real Madrid comes to town on Sunday evening.
Zinedine Zidane cut an increasingly frustrated figure on the touchline last weekend as Real Madrid squandered a 1-0 lead to draw 1-1 at home against Valladolid. Madrid pressed for the opener throughout the game but had to wait until the 82nd minute to make their advantage count. Karim Benzema scored his second goal of the season, and many inside the stadium would have thought that would be enough for all three points. However, the travelling side wasn’t about to give up that easily, and on a rare foray forward, they ceased their chance and grabbed an equaliser. There was a feeling of déjà vu, and fans would have been forgiven for thinking they were watching the Madrid from last season. Defensive issues remain a grave concern for Zidane, as the goal that they conceded last weekend was their 15th they’ve let in over their last seven matches including pre-season games. The Frenchman will once again likely be without Eden Hazard, which means Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez will deputise despite being heavily linked with a move away. The duo both spurned a host of chances last time out, which would have undoubtedly caused further frustration for Zidane.
Madrid aren’t the only side with defensive concerns, as Villarreal have also been guilty of leaking far too many goals. They played out a 4-4 draw to open their season against Granada, before falling to a 2-1 defeat against Levante last time out. Javier Calleja would be concerned that his team are averaging three goals against them per game at present, but it may take more time yet for their new-look defence to build up a relationship. In Raul Albiol, they certainly have a leader that given time will be able to fix this problem. There was concern at the club that the departure of Pablo Fornals was going to leave a seismic hole in their attacking threat, but as yet we have yet to see that as a problem. They have scored five goals in their opening two fixtures, and Gerard has already scored twice in the opening two games. Villarreal’s attacking threat coupled with Madrid’s vulnerability ensures that this could be a famous evening at the Yellow Submarine for the home side.
Head to Head
This will be the 39th meeting between the two sides, and Real Madrid holds the dominant record having won on 22 occasions. Villarreal have been successful on four occasions, while there have been 12 draws. The last meeting between the sides was won 3-2 by Madrid, while the two prior fixtures between the sides have ended 2-2. The games have been high scoring in recent seasons, and that is highlighted in the La Liga odds for over 2.5 goals in the game.
The fact that both of these sides have poor defensive records means that this should be an entertaining fixture for the neutrals. However, Madrid will be aware that they can’t fall too far off the pace with their cross-city rivals already winning both of their fixtures this season. Zidane’s side will win the game, but it won’t answer any lingering questions about their defensive issues.