Villarreal vs Real Madrid Preview: Previous Encounter, Key Battle, Team News & More

Villarreal welcome Champions League finalists Real Madrid to the Estadio de la Cerámica on Sunday in the last game of the league season for both sides. 

Villarreal have already secured a spot in the Europa League group stages for next season, and Real Madrid have predictably finished within the Champions League places. The motivation for both clubs, therefore, will be merely to secure the highest possible league position that they can. A win for Real Madrid opens the possibility of a second place finish if ?Atletico Madrid fail to overcome ninth-placed Eibar on the same day; while Villarreal will be looking to consolidate a fifth-placed finish.  

The Champions League final against ?Liverpool is on the horizon, but Real Madrid will be eager to put in one final display against a Villarreal in order to build momentum for the big game on 26th of May. 

Here is everything you need to know ahead of the final day in La Liga:


Previous Encounter

Real Madrid v Villarreal - La Liga

The last time these two sides faced each other was back in January of this year, and Villarreal came out surprise winners against Los Blancos with Pablo Fornals grabbing the only goal of the game. 

Real Madrid predictably dominated but the home team were uncharacteristically wasteful in front of goal. Madrid’s total of 28 shots included just seven that were on target. Madrid did have the ball in the net though. Cristiano Ronaldo flicked a Toni Kroos cross onto the head of Gareth Bale, but the Welshman’s close-range effort was correctly judged offside by the third official. 

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Villarreal looked dangerous on their rare forays into the Real Madrid half. Denis Cheryshev and Carlos Bacca nearly capitalised on Madrid’s hesitant defending, but the breakthrough came midway through the second period.

Cheryshev broke clear down the left hand side and found Enes Ünal in the penalty area. Ünal’s shot was well blocked by an onrushing Keylor Navas but it rebounded into the path of Fornals, who cooly dispatched a first-time chip over the goalkeepers head to settle the game.

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Villarreal’s steely determination was characterised by Asenjo in goal for the away side, who’s efforts went a long way to sealing the win.

Before the half time interval the Spaniard denied rasping efforts from Marcelo and Ronaldo, but a heroic save late in the second-half to deny Ronaldo’s close-range effort was arguably his best.


Key Battle 

Sergio Asenjo vs Gareth Bale

Real Madrid v Celta de Vigo - La Liga

If Villarreal are to come away with something from Sunday’s game, they will need to contain an in-form Gareth Bale. The Welsh forward has scored seven in his last nine games, and turned in a man-of-the-match performance ?last time out against Celta Vigo. 

Villarreal’s season has largely been defined by the man in the sticks, Sergio Asenjo, who will be the key to keeping Gareth Bale off the score sheet this weekend.

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Villarreal have conceded a lot of chances this season as exemplified by the performance against Real Madrid in January, and their fifth-place league position can largely be attributed to Asenjo who has kept them in a number of games. 

But the home team have conceded seven in their last two games, and Asenjo was remarkably poor in the 5-1 loss to Barcelona. He made just one save all game, and cannot replicate that performance if Villarreal want to take points off of Madrid on Sunday. 


Team News

With the Champions League final quickly approaching Zinedine Zidane is expected to heavily rotate his squad for Sunday’s fixture, with youngsters Marcos Llorente and Borja Mayoral likely to be given the nod. 

The game may also see the continued involvement of Gareth Bale who scored twice against Celta Vigo last weekend, in Madrid’s 6-0 victory. The Welshman will be looking to give Zidane a ?selection headache ahead of the Champions League final, with his form in recent weeks justifying his claim for a starting berth in Kiev. 


Villarreal are still without Bruno Soriano, Ramiro Guerra and Rúben Semedo through injury, but the three stars have not made a big impact this season. It is likely that manager Javi Calleja will keep faith with the same back four that he has used all season, with Denis Cheryshev featuring on the left-hand side of the attack against his former club.


Potential Villarreal Starting Lineup: Asenjo Costs, Ruiz, Gonzalez, Gaspar; Trigueros, Rodri, Cheryshev, Fornals, Castillejo; Bacca. 

Potential Real Madrid Starting Lineup: Navas, Hakimi, Vallejo, RamosHernández; Vasquez, Kovacic, Llorente, Asensio; Bale, Mayoral.


Prediction

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It is difficult to know what to expect from Real Madrid in this fixture. The possible presence of numerous fringe players in the starting lineup may jeopardise their chances of taking anything from the game, especially with Villarreal in fine form.

Villarreal have won four of their last five home games in La Liga, with Valencia, Celta Vigo, Leganes and ?Atletico Madrid all recently falling short at La Ceramica.

Only Barcelona have triumphed over the Yellow Submarine since the middle of April, and the host’s form has allowed them to easily secure themselves a spot in the Europa League for next season.

With Los Blancos having their eyes firmly on the Champions League a tight game may be on the cards this Sunday.

Prediction: Villarreal 2-2 Real Madrid

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Report Claims Chelsea Among 3 Clubs Willing to Pay £175m for Liverpool Hotshot This Summer

??Chelsea are among three clubs willing to pay ?Liverpool’s asking price of £175m to land star forward Mohamed Salah, per Spanish source ?Diario Gol.

The publication claims that Real Madrid are also keen on signing the Egyptian this summer but are unwilling to meet the Reds’ valuation, while Manchester City and Bayern Munich aren’t averse.

Salah, now considered to be Chelsea’s biggest mistake given the season he’s had at Liverpool, was on the Blues’ payroll after joining from Basel in 2014. But he failed to hit the heights under Jose Mourinho at Stamford Bridge and was loaned out to both Fiorentina and AS Roma before signing a permanent deal with the latter.

The crafty forward made the switch to Liverpool last summer and has since notched 44 goals in just 51 appearances, winning the Premier League’s Golden Boot and the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award in the process.

He is also set for a Champions League final against Madrid later this month and could possibly end his first season at Anfield in the best way possible by winning the coveted European trophy.

City, who won the Premier League title this season, could have an interest in the player and it wouldn’t come as a shock if they decided to spend the aforementioned amount. But Bayern are notoriously careful with their purse strings and spending £175m on one player just doesn’t seem like something they’d be keen on doing.

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It would be quite a surprise to see the Blues get involved too, based on the asking price, especially for one of their former players.

Madrid, meanwhile, are said to be ready to offer Gareth Bale, Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez in a part-exchange.

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Antoine Griezmann Included in France World Cup Squad But Anthony Martial & Dimitri Payet Miss Out

Frances’ World Cup squad for the competition in Russia later this summer has been announced, with the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba? and N’Golo Kante all being included in the final 23-man squad.

Griezmann, who scored twice during ?Atletico Madrid’s 3-0 Europa League final win on Wednesday night, is included while Marseille’s Dimitri Payet, who was substituted due to injury, misses out.

?Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris will lead Les Bleus in Russia, Paris Saint-Germain youngster Kylian Mbappe is included, while ?Manchester United’s Paul Pogba makes it but club teammate Anthony Martial misses out.

Benjamin Mendy, who has been sidelined for most of the season after rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, makes his way into the 23 alongside Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti, 

Big things are expected from France, who are widely regarded to have one of the best squads in international football. In their last international tournament, Didier Deschamps’ side reached the final of Euro 2016 but were defeated 1-0 by Portugal.

Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette misses out, with former Gunners teammate Olivier Giroud preferred up front 

Full Squad

Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur), Steve Mandanda (Marseille), Alphonse Areola (PSG)

Defenders: Djibril Sidibé (AS Monaco), Benjamin Pavard (Stuttgart), Raphaël Varane (Real Madrid), Presnel Kimpembe (PSG), Adil Rami (Marseille), Samuel Umtiti (Barcelona), Lucas Hernandez (Atletico Madrid), Benjamin Mendy (Manchester City)

Midfielders: Paul Pogba (Manchester United), N’Golo Kanté (Chelsea), Corentin Tolisso (Bayern Munich), Blaise Matuidi (Juventus), Steven N’Zonzi (Sevilla), Thomas Lemar (AS Monaco)

Forwards: Kylian Mbappé (PSG), Olivier Giroud (Chelsea), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Ousmane Dembélé (FC Barcelona), Nabil Fékir (Lyon), Florian Thauvin (Marseille)

??France begin their World Cup campaign on 16 June against Australia before facing fellow Group C opponents Peru and Denmark.

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Lionel Messi Hands Real Madrid Unlikely Compliment & Laments Shock Champions League Exit

??Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi has handed rivals ?Real Madrid some high praise, claiming that they have the best players in the world position for position.

The crafty Argentinian notes that, while Barca are similarly built, Madrid can win games even if they’re playing badly, something typified by their run to the Champions League final despite being seemingly outclassed by most of their opposition.

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“Position by position, Madrid have the best players in the world,” Messi said in an interview with TyC Sports. “[Barca] do as well, but Madrid have something that only they have. When they play badly, they still get results. We have to be the far superior side to win.”

The Catalan side made quite the mess of their own European campaign, going out in the quarter final stage courtesy of AS Roma despite claiming a 4-1 advantage in the first leg.

“The Champions League [loss was a mistake],” he lamented. “Given the [4-1] advantage we had before the second leg, we [should have reached] the semi final. It was a huge disappointment.

AS Roma v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final Second Leg

“[But] it motivates me to see Madrid in the Champions League final again; to see them winning leagues. I want to win the Champions League every year. I want to be a league champion every year — it’s what we all want.”

The forward also ?touched on the rumours linking him with a Pep Guardiola reunion at Manchester City, claiming that the only way he will play alongside compatriot Sergio Aguero at club level is if the City forward joins Barcelona.

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Messi will be hoping to end his ten-year international drought with Argentina in this year’s FIFA World Cup after several disappointments. La Albiceleste won their last piece of silverware in the 2008 Olympics, going home with the gold. 

Yet that’s hardly something for Messi to look back on, especially as he’s been to a World Cup final.

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Report Claims Real Madrid Interest in PSG’s Neymar Is ‘Smokescreen’ for Pursuit of Real Target

?A stunning report has claimed that Real Madrid’s apparent interest in signing Paris Saint-Germain talisman Neymar is being used as a mere distraction, with Los Blancos intent on signing his teammate Kylian Mbappé this summer.

As claimed by Sport, Mbappé is currently on loan at Paris Saint-Germain, who have a €180m option to buy the 19-year-old sensation at the season. 

The permanent deal going through was previously believed to be a formality, but Los Blancos’ interest in Mbappé could derail the move,   and their reported pursuit of Neymar could prove to be a masterstroke in footballing deception.

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It was originally believed that Paris Saint-Germain had structured their deal for Mbappé to allow them to comply with Financial Fair Play regulations, given that they splashed out €222m on Neymar last summer. However, PSG may now have to abandon their hopes of signing the French international on a permanent basis, should he fail to agree to terms with the club.

Despite powering their way to the Champions League final, Real Madrid had a highly disappointing La Liga campaign, and could finish third beyond Atlético Madrid on the final day of the season – potentially 15 points behind runaway winners Barcelona. Los Blancos are likely to spend heavily in the summer, and Mbappé could prove an ideal marquee signing.

Meanwhile, reports have also suggested that ?Bayern Munich superstar Robert Lewandowski could move to the Bernabéu this summer, with the Polish international thought to be weighing up a move to either Los Blancos of Premier League side Chelsea. The 29-year-old has excelled during his time at Die Bayern, scoring a stunning 150 goals in 194 appearances.

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