Real Madrid return to league action on Thursday after their successful FIFA Club World Cup exploits, travelling to face a struggling Villarreal.
Los Blancos have a game in hand, and a victory against the Yellow Submarine could temporarily see them move level on points with third-placed Sevilla.
Meanwhile, Villarreal find themselves in the relegation zone in 18th, and are without a league victory in their last three matches.
Where to Watch
|When Is Kick Off?||Thursday 3 January|
|What Time Is Kick Off?||20:30 (BST)|
|Where Is it Played?||Estadio de la Cerámica|
|TV Channel/Live Stream?||Eleven Sports 1|
Madrid will continue to be without trio Marcos Llorente, Mariano Díaz and Marco Asensio for the meeting with Villarreal. Llorente is sidelined with a tear to his left abductor, with fellow midfielder Asensio out with muscular injury. Meanwhile, forward Díaz has an issue with his sciatic nerve.
Real boss Santiago Solari called up Castilla striker Cristo to train with the first team in preparation for the encounter at El Madrigal.
El Submarino Amarillo will be without Mario Gaspar as a result of suspension. The right-back received a second yellow and was dismissed in their last league encounter against fellow strugglers Huesca.
|Real Madrid||Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Modrić, Casemiro, Kroos; Vázquez, Benzema, Bale.|
|Villarreal||Asenjo; Pedraza, Ruiz, González, Layún; Chukwueze, Cáseres, Trigueros, Fornals; Moreno, Bacca.|
Head to Head Record
Madrid have won 21 of their 36 encounters, with Villarreal coming out on top on just four occasions.
Villarreal came from two goals behind to draw 2-2 with Realthe last time out, after goals from Gareth Bale and current Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo had given the Champions League holders the lead.
El Submarino Amarillo are currently two matches unbeaten against the Galacticos, including the 2-2 draw and a narrow 1-0 victory at the Bernabéu in January 2018. Los Blancos recorded their last victory against Villarreal back in February 2017.
The Castellón outfit have also scored in their last three meetings at home against Real, the last time they failed to do so was back in September 2014.
Solari's men have won their last three matches in all competitions and are also three matches unbeaten in La Liga. They have won just three of their away games in the league.
Meanwhile, Villarreal, who have won just once at home in the league, have gone three league matches without a victory and have conceded at least twice in each of them. The Yellow Submarine have struggled defensively, with their last clean sheet in La Liga coming in September.
Here's how each team has performed in their last five fixtures:
|Real Madrid 4-1 Al Ain (22/12)||Huesca 2-2 Villarreal (16/12)|
|Kashima Antlers 1-3 Real Madrid (19/12)||Villarreal 2-0 Spartak Moscow (13/12)|
|Real Madrid 1-0 Rayo Vallecano (15/12)||Villarreal 2-3 Celta de Vigo (8/12)|
|Real Madrid 0-3 CSKA Moscow (12/12)||Villarreal 8-0 Almería (5/12)|
|Huesca 0-1 Real Madrid (9/12)||Barcelona 2-0 Villarreal (2/12)|
Real Madrid will take great confidence from their FIFA Club World Cup triumph, which concluded their 2018. They will be hoping that their performance in the competition may help to kick-start what has been a miserable league campaign.
Villarreal have won three of their last four matches at home in all competitions, demonstrating how significant the Madrigal is to their form. It has been a difficult ground for visitors and three points would be crucial for Luis García's side, who are battling relegation.
However, Madrid looked like their usual selves in the Club World Cup and should manage to get a win away from home.
Prediction: Villarreal 1-3 Real Madrid