No one thought that Villarreal’s struggles would continue for this long. Villarreal somehow find themselves in the relegation zone despite being fifth in La Liga last season, and there is a real chance they go down. The club has been in La Liga for the better part of two decades, and the Yellow Submarine always seem to be contending for a spot in the top five. This year, Villarreal will be content with simply staying afloat, and they hope that the new year will bring a change of fortune when they take on Real Madrid.
Don't miss the Spanish La Liga action from El Madrigal in Villarreal, Spain at 3:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, January 3, 2019. Catch every moment of the match live on beIN Sports.
Spanish La Liga Betting at BookMaker.eu
Real Madrid -114
Unlike the other teams in Spain, Real Madrid was a little busy on the holidays. They were taking part in the FIFA Club World Cup, and they had little trouble proving their supremacy. Real fielded their regular lineup and hammered the Kashima Antlers and Al Ain, and now they will turn their attention back to La Liga. Their fortunes have improved domestically since the club sacked Julen Lopetegui and replaced him with junior team manager Santi Solari. They have won five of their last six domestic matches after being throttled by rivals Barcelona at the Camp Nou, and the lone loss came to Eibar.
Villarreal are just 3-6-7 on the year, and they are in 18th place in La Liga. They have been pretty good on defense, allowing just 21 goals, but they have floundered on the offensive end and that has them in this position. It feels like they are close to breaking through though. They scored just two goals in their first five matches, yet they have steadily improved since that point.
The three-week break has given most Spanish teams time to get players healthy. Real Madrid has only one player on its injured list. Mariano is questionable to play here due to a hamstring injury.
Villarreal are hopeful that some of their injured players will be back too. Defender Miguelon Llambrich has been out with a back injury since the beginning of the month, as well as midfielder Manuel Iturra. Those two players and forward Nicola Sansone are all questionable for this match. Bruno is a long-term absence, and defender Mario Gaspar will be unavailable due to a red card suspension.
Player to Watch
Isco has not been a favorite of Solari’s. Although many believe that Isco is the best player on the team, he has not started a match since the game against Eibar, but the new year may bring a change. Not featuring Isco for this long is just head-scratching, and Solari may want to give one of his stars another chance before he wants a move out of the Bernabeu.
La Liga Prop Bet – Under 2.5 +143
Villarreal have performed better on offense recently, but they will now face one of the most talented back lines in the world. Real Madrid have all their starters healthy in the back, and they will be out to help secure a clean sheet.
Additionally, I think Villarreal will be able to fluster Real Madrid’s attack. The Yellow Submarine have been good in defense, and they are likely to play for the draw given their struggles.
Free Soccer Betting Pick
The under and the draw are both solid plays to me. Villarreal have settled for too many draws, but they are right to be content with one here. Meanwhile, Real Madrid know they need to get wins to catch Barcelona for the league title, but they might be a little rusty after the holiday.
Spanish La Liga Odds: Villarreal 1, Real Madrid 1
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