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Villarreal Vs. Real Madrid, La Liga 2012: Match Preview

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Real Madrid will visit El Madrigal at 22:00 (CET) with hopes of ridding themselves of Sunday's bad feelings. Now, it's even more crucial to get the three points out of every game, especially if April's tough schedule is taken into account. Even though Villarreal will be without Borja Valero, El Madrigal is always a difficult stadium--Barcelona only managed to get a 0-0 draw there.

Mourinho's players fell short on getting the win against Villarreal's former player Santi Cazorla and his new Málaga, but the team will likely want to prove itself right after all the criticism Sunday's draw has caused. Di María and Coentrao did not make the list. The Argentinian player returned to the squad's practice today, but is obviously lacking the competitive rhythm needed for these kinds of games. Albiol and Carvalho are also out, but Sahin and Altintop made the cut.

Villarreal is struggling this season. They are barely managing to keep themselves from being relegated o Second Division. But this team is a lot better than their players have shown. Italy's starting striker Giuseppe Rossi got injured at the start of the season and will not come back until the very end. But Villarreal also has Marco Ruben and Nilmar: The Brazilian player performed really well last season, but hasn't been in good form recently.

Even though Borja Valero is overrated, he is also one of la Liga's top10 creative midfielders. Some people believe he should play for a big team like Barcelona or Madrid, but he hasn't showed he is that good thus far. But with Valero, Cani, Rossi, Marco Ruben and Nilmar, Villarreal shouldn't be on the edge of relegation.

Santi Cazorla's departure has been a major issue for Villarreal. He was the key factor in the submarino's offensive system, and Cani hasn't quite gotten to that level of importance yet (and he won't have an easy time doing so). Cazorla was arguably Villarreal's best player alongside Giuseppe Rossi. The Italian player is an striker, so even when he recoversm Villarreal will have a hard time replacing Cazorla's creativity.

Carlos Marchena and Marcos Senna are also on their way down. They aren't top-quality defenders anymore. One of Villarreal's best prospect is Musacchio. He is a young and talented center back that can also perform in the right back. Vilarreal has now signed Martinuccio from Peñarol on a loan. He is a dangerous, creative player that could fill Cazorla's shoes, but given that this is one of his first games in Spanish football, he will probably have a bad night against Pepe, Ramos, Khedira, and the like.

Mourinho should not risk anymore points during the rest of the campaign, so he should start the best possible lineup. Arbeloa should return to the right back position instead of Lass, and maybe Callejón will get a chance to spread the pitch instead of Özil or Kaka. Real Madrid suffers a lot with this center-minded approach and is lacking a pure winger like Di María or Callejón to open up space for Cristiano Ronaldo, Özil/Kaka and Benzema to create danger.

If Real Madrid manages to keep a clean sheet, the three points should clearly go to the Bernabéu. The team has enough firepower to score one or two goals against Villarreal's defense unless Diego López shines or Real Madrid's strikers play below their level. The defensive midfielders and the defensive line are once again key for the merengues.

Follow the game on facebook and twitter and hear post-match commentary next week on Managing Madrid's weekly podcast, available on iTunes.

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