Real Madrid host Villarreal at the Bernabeu on Thursday night knowing that a victory will see them crowned La Liga champions.
Zinedine Zidane’s side have been note-perfect since football’s return in Spain, winning every single one of their nine games and leapfrogging a stuttering Barcelona to leave themselves in line for their first league title since 2017, and only their second since 2012.
Los Blancos have opened up a four-point gap at the top of the table over last season’s champions, but their midweek clash to seal the deal will be far from easy. Villarreal have only lost twice since returning to action, and 35-year-old Santi Cazorla is in a real purple patch despite being deep into his twilight years.
When Is Kick Off? Thursday 16 July
What Time Is Kick Off? 20:00 (BST)
Where Is it Being Played? Alfredo di Stefano Stadium
TV Channel/Live Stream: Premier Sports (UK), fuboTV (US)
Real will be without defenders Marcelo and Nacho, who remain sidelined with injuries. Luka Jovic is also doubtful for the clash, having come into contact with a friend who recently tested positive for coronavirus.
Other than that Zidane’s squad has a clean bill of health, with Eden Hazard coming back for a brief cameo on the weekend as he recovers from a knock.
Villarreal will be boosted by the return of several key players. Gerard Moreno and Vicente Iborra are both available following suspension, and January signing Paco Alcacer is also fit for selection following his recent recovery from injury.
Ramiro Funes Mori and Carlos Bacca, however, will again be unavailable due to injury – and Mariano Barbosa is suspended.
Real Madrid: Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Mendy; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Hazard, Benzema, Isco.
Villarreal: Asenjo; Gaspar, Albiol, Torres, Moreno; Chukwueze, Iborra, Anguissa, Cazorla; Moreno, Alcacer.
Zidane’s Madrid have been in superb form of late. They have only conceded three goals in nine games since football’s resumption and – more pertinently – have won all nine of those games to put themselves within touching distance of the trophy.
Madrid’s home form has been exceptional throughout the entire campaign, dropping points on just four occasions, losing no league games and winning all five at the closed Alfredo di Stefano Stadium.
Villarreal boast the fourth-best away record in La Liga though and, although a Champions League finish is off the cards after two losses in their last three games, Javi Calleja’s side will be looking to secure their place in next season’s Europa League.
They also have a strong recent record against the league leaders. A 2-2 draw in the reverse fixture earlier in the campaign means they have only lost once in their last five games against Madrid.
Here’s a look at each side’s last five outings.
Granada 1-2 Real Madrid (13/7)
Real Madrid 2-0 Alaves (10/7)
Athletico Bilbao 0-1 Real Madrid (5/7)
Real Madrid 1-0 Getafe (2/7)
Espanyol 0-1 Real Madrid (28/6)
Villarreal 1-2 Real Sociedad (13/7)
Getafe 1-3 Villarreal (8/7)
Villarreal 1-4 Barcelona (5/7)
Real Betis 0-2 Villarreal (1/7)
Villarreal 2-0 Valencia (28/6)
Despite the return of some key players and Villarreal’s impressive form away from home, Zidane’s men should have what it takes to secure the title on home territory.
Prediction: Real Madrid 2-0 Villarreal