Villarreal needed a break more than perhaps any other team in Europe. The Yellow Submarine are trying not to repeat their stunning collapse and demotion during the 2011-12 campaign. After eight straight years of top eight finishes, they finished 18th that season and dropped down to Serie B as a result. They immediately earned promotion back to the top flight, and Villarreal didn’t look like they missed a beat when they finished in the top six for five straight years.
Now, they find themselves in the same precarious spot as before. Villarreal are currently 18th in the La Liga table, and they are one point behind Athletic Bilbao. The Yellow Submarine are hoping that the new year will bring them new fortunes when they face Real Madrid next Thursday.
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- Villarreal vs. Real Madrid
- Date and Time: January 3, 2019, 3:30 p.m. ET
- Location: El Madrigal, Villarreal, Spain
- US Television Coverage: beIN Sports
- Betting Line: Real Madrid -0.5, O/U 3
While every other team in Spain had three weeks for because of the holidays, Real Madrid were off for just two weeks. Last week, they headed to Abu Dhabi to participate in the FIFA Club World Cup, and they were able to knock off both Kashima Antlers and Al Ain to claim another trophy for the club. Their performance in domestic play has improved since Santi Solari replaced Julen Lopetegui. Real Madrid still find themselves in fourth place in the table, but they have now won five of their last six matches with the lone loss coming against Eibar.
Defense has not been the issue for Villarreal. They have allowed just 21 goals in 16 matches, and that’s one of the best totals in the league. The problem has been the offense. They scored just two goals in their first five matches, and they have tallied only 17 goals on the year. The Yellow Submarine are improving in this area, and they have been a little unlucky to be this far back with a -4 goal differential, but they know they need to be better to avoid the drop.
The time off led many Real Madrid players to rest nagging injuries, and the lone player on their injury report is Mariano. He is considered questionable to play because of a hamstring injury.
Once again, Villarreal don’t find themselves so fortunate in this area either. Defender Miguelon Llambrich has been out for a back injury for a month and is questionable, and fellow defender Mario Gaspar will be unavailable due to suspension. Midfielder Manuel Ittura and forward Nicola Sansone are questionable too, while midfielder Bruno is a long-term injury.
Player to Watch
It’s all hands on deck at the moment for Villarreal, and that’s why the club is holding firm in its refusal to sell teenage star Samuel Chukwueze. They were offered 40 million Euro for Chukwueze a short time ago, and they turned it down as they know he is key to their chances of staying up. He has two goals in six matches, and he flashes a lot of potential whenever he is on the pitch. New manager Luis Garcia looks set to use him more than former manager Javier Calleja.
Spanish La Liga Free Picks
The under and the draw are both great bets in this one. Villarreal have been good enough in defense to be confident in their ability to hold Real Madrid at bay, and the visitors have one of the most talented back lines in the world. Along these lines, playing the Yellow Submarine on the goal line isn’t too bad of an idea.
Spanish La Liga Prediction: Villarreal 1, Real Madrid 1
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