Real Madrid go into Sunday’s clash with Villarreal on the back of a 6-0 home win against Celta Vigo last weekend.
However, with one eye on the Champions League final on the 26th of May, Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane may be looking to rest his key players in preparation for their biggest game of the season.
Here’s how Zidane might set up for this one.
While Kiko Casilla may be disappointed not to get a run out against Villarreal at the weekend, it is unlikely that Zidane will feel it necessary to rotate his goalkeepers and Keylor Navas should start ahead of the Spaniard.
Real Madrid have a full clean bill of health ahead of the weekend, meaning Zidane has the luxury of options across his backline.
It is unlikely though that Real Madrid will field a full strength defensive lineup. Daniel Carvajal has only recently recovered from a hamstring injury that saw him out for 21 days meaning Hakimi should get the nod at right back. Theo Hernandez should also come into the starting lineup to give Marcelo a rest ahead of the Champions League final.
Whether Sergio Ramos keeps his place is the biggest question in defence. Nacho is fit and many will expect him to start ahead of his more experienced teammate. But Ramos was rested against Celta Vigo last weekend, and it may be detrimental to his Champions League performance if he starts having not played for two weeks. Ramos will also add experience to a very young backline.
Both Kovacic and Marco Llorente should start as a midfield pair. Real Madrid’s normal midfield starters Kroos and Modric are ageing and a rest ahead of the Champions League will be extremely beneficial for Madrid’s chances against Liverpool. Casemiro will also likely be rested.
Vasquez and Asensio typically occupy the positions on the wing when Zidane sets up in a 4-4-2. The two wingers and pace and creativity to the Real Madrid midfield, and both will want to give Zidane something to think about when he selects his team for the Champions League. This game could dictate whether Zidane selects Asensio or Isco for the big game in Kiev.
Mayoral should come into the starting lineup in order to continue his progression. The young Spaniard has scored just one this season, but has featured off the bench eleven times indicating that Zidane has faith in his ability.
His strike partner should be Gareth Bale who has been in scintillating form in Ronaldo’s absence, having scored seven in his last nine games.
The Welshman has staked a claim to be a part of the Real Madrid eleven that faces Liverpool on May 26, and a good performance against Villarreal could add fuel to the debate on whether he should start or not. Zidane himself admitted after Bale’s man-of-the-match performance against Celta Vigo last weekend that he now faces a selection dilemma for the match in Kiev.