Francisco Seco/Associated Press
Real Madrid continue their La Liga campaign on Saturday afternoon with Villarreal the visitors to the Santiago Bernabeu.
Zinedine Zidane’s side were held by Celta Vigo last time out in the league and are now 16 points behind leaders Barcelona, although they have played a game less then their rivals.
Villarreal, meanwhile, head to the Spanish capital knowing a victory will move them to within a point of Los Blancos.
Date: Saturday, January 13
Time: 3:15 p.m. (GMT)/10:15 p.m. (ET)
TV Info: beIN Sport (U.S.)
Real Madrid are still without captain Sergio Ramos who has suffered a setback in his recovery from a calf injury, per Reuters.
Karim Benzema is also sidelined with a hip problem and is not expected back until later in January, per Marca‘s Pablo Polo.
Zidane is coming under scrutiny due to Real Madrid’s disappointing defence of their La Liga trophy as the team are so far behind rivals Barcelona.
Real look a shadow of the team that retained their UEFA Champions League trophy in May with key players Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema out of form, while Gareth Bale has struggled with injury.
The club also appear to have lost some strength in depth with Alvaro Morata and James Rodriguez having moved on in the summer.
However, Zidane has said he does not plan to strengthen in the January transfer window and that he trusts his current squad, per beIN Sports.
Madrid have been boosted by the return to fitness of Bale who started and scored twice in the draw against Celta.
ESPN FC’s Dermot Corrigan said the Welshman looks in good shape after a lengthy spell out with injury:
Dermot Corrigan @dermotmcorrigan
Not to say that Bale and Ronaldo working as a partnership / not sure they’ve linked up at all. But Bale looks razor sharp and fully fit.
After the game, Zidane also said the team had held a meeting to talk about their current situation, per Corrigan.
It’s therefore possible Zidane may look to make changes for the Villarreal clash, but certainly improvements will be needed with Madrid looking jaded against Celta.
Villarreal were also held last time out in the league, as they conceded an 86th-minute equaliser in a 1-1 draw with Deportivo La Coruna.
It was only their fourth league draw of the season and leaves them in sixth place in the table ahead of his weekend’s round of fixtures.
The Yellow Submarine may also be weakened by the loss of top scorer Cedric Bakambu who is set to join Chinese Super League side Beijing Guoan, per European football writer Andy Brassell:
Andy Brassell @andybrassell
Cédric Bakambu to Beijing Guoan already one of the more eye-popping deals of Jan so far. Now @francefootball reports Beijing end up paying €74m w/tax obligations & he’ll earn €18m/year pre-tax
However, the club have moved quickly to replace Bakambu with Colombian forward Roger Martinez, per Marca‘s M. A. Rodriguez.
Martinez was named on the bench for Villarreal’s Copa del Rey clash against Leganes on Wednesday but could feature against Real Madrid.
Villarreal have the players to cause the hosts problems, but Zidane will demand a response from his side after a difficult spell, and with Bale back and in form, Real may just have the extra firepower to secure all three points.