Real Madrid will be hoping to keep their early grip on the top of the La Liga table when they host Villarreal on Saturday at 8pm (UK time).
Los Blancos are currently two points clear at the top of the league and could extend that lead with Atletico Madrid losing in one of Saturday’s earlier kick-offs.
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Real Madrid vs Villarreal build-up, previous line-ups & injury news:
Saturday’s game will see two of La Liga’s unbeaten sides meet with both looking to hand the other their first loss of the campaign.
Real Madrid’s unbeaten start is a lot more impressive as it has helped them reach La Liga’s summit with the chance to extend that gap, trying to reclaim the title they lost last season. They sit nine points clear of Saturday’s opponents, whose five-match unbeaten start has garnered just seven points with four draws.
In fact, Villarreal only got their first win of the season in midweek, beating Elche 4-1 after five consecutive draws across all competitions (including a 2-2 with Atalanta in the Champions League). But both sides will also have an eye on the return of the Champions League in midweek with Villarreal travelling to Manchester United in a repeat of the 2021 Europa League final, while Real Madrid host Sheriff Tiraspol.
- Real Madrid (vs Real Mallorca): Courtois; Fernandez, Militao, Alaba, Gutierrez; Asensio, Camavinga, Valverde; Rodrygo, Benzema, Vinicius.
- Villarreal (vs Elche): Asenjo; Gaspar, Mandi, Torres, Pedraza; Parejo, Capoue, Trigueros; Pino, Alcacer, Danjuma.
Real Madrid remain without a host of players including Dani Carvajal, Ferland Mendy and Marcelo. Villarreal, meanwhile, have travelled without Dani Raba, Gerard Moreno, Yeremy Pino and Samuel Chukwueze.
Carlo Ancelotti backs Karim Benzema for Ballon d’Or nomination
Real Madrid have been almost perfect at the start of the new La Liga campaign, dropping just two points from their opening six matches, with that coming in a thrilling 3-3 draw against Levante.
While the impressive run will in part be due to Carlo Ancelotti’s arrival in Madrid to provide stability post-Zinedine Zidane, a lot of credit has to go to Karim Benzema. After an excellent campaign last season, the Frenchman appears to have taken his game up another level and is the standout player in Europe.
In just six league appearances for Real Madrid so far this season Benzema has been directly involved in 15 goals, more than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues. The 33-year-old’s eight goals is the most in Europe’s top five leagues, one ahead of Erling Haaland and Robert Lewandowski, while his seven assists sees him level with Paul Pogba.
Karim Benzema has scored more league goals than any other player in Europe's top five divisions this season and no player has provided more assists.
An incredible, record-breaking, start to 2021/22. 🙌 pic.twitter.com/ZFCpti0Fr9
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 22, 2021
His eight goals in La Liga is more than 12 teams in the division have managed and also sees him level with Barcelona and Sevilla. Due to Real Madrid’s failure as a team to win any silverware last season, Benzema isn’t really being tipped for glory in the individual awards with the likes of Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski, Jorginho and N’Golo Kante among the favourites.
But Ancelotti believes Benzema deserves a mention for his personal performances and has ruled out a chance of the Frenchman winning – even if he doesn’t manage it this year.
“He deserves to be on the list of nominees for the Ballon d’Or because of what he’s been doing and what he did last season,” he told reporters.
“He still has time to win it and I don’t think this season will be his last chance. He’s a bit like good wine, he gets better with age.”
Scoreline prediction: Real Madrid 2-1 Villarreal
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