Villarreal vs. Real Madrid: What to Expect Tactically from Both Sides

Tre' AtkinsonFeatured ColumnistSeptember 12, 2013

Villarreal vs. Real Madrid: What to Expect Tactically from Both Sides

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    Newly promoted Villarreal is set to host Real Madrid at the legendary Estadio El Madrigal on Saturday in what will prove to be one of the most exciting La Liga matches to watch this season.

    Villarreal and Real Madrid boast two of the most exciting offenses in La Liga but score goals in much different ways. In this article I will take a look at what each side will look to do tactically and what it could mean for fans watching at home.

    The two Spanish clubs are undefeated this season having won all three of their games thus far. But this match could be the deciding game of the early season.

    Villarreal will be looking to continue its impressive run following promotion while Real Madrid will attempt to solidify its place at the top of the table.

    Regardless of the outcome fans are in for a treat. So let’s take a look at how both sides will tackle this clash shall we?


    Note that all statistics are courtesy of

Villarreal Will Look to Utilize Set Pieces

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    Real Madrid is one of the standout La Liga clubs that regularly struggle to defend set pieces. Due to the ability of set pieces to level the playing field expect Villarreal to make the most of every chance they get.

    Not only does Real Madrid struggle to defend set pieces, but Villarreal is one of the strongest clubs in Spain at scoring from dead-ball situations.

    Villarreal manager Marcelino Garcia Toral is known for always having his team organized, and that could cause serious problems for the visitors.

    The home side has several players capable of delivering pinpoint passes in Giovani dos Santos and Javier Aquino. However, Villarreal has even deadlier finishers in Bruno and Jeremy Perbet, who are tall and know how to head the ball in traffic.

    Expect the Yellow Submarine to take every chance to test Real Madrid from set pieces.

Real Madrid Will Look for the Through Ball Often

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    Though Real Madrid boasts incredible talent on the wings with most attacks coming through Cristiano Ronaldo, many do not realize that most of Los Blancos' forward runs come through the middle of the pitch.

    When it comes to creating chances, Real Madrid relies heavily on through balls. Of all the chances created this season by Real Madrid, nearly 50 percent came through the middle of the pitch.

    Having forwards with a lot of pace gives Real Madrid the freedom to run onto chances and take advantage of defenders who lose focus. Pace will certainly be on Real Madrid’s side, particularly as speed is not a strength of the Villareal back line.

    Look for Ancelotti to have his forwards constantly looking to run in behind the Villarreal defense and use their pace as much as possible.

    Isco will be tasked with making sure the ball is played forward at the right time, while Luka Modric will also play an important role in creating chances.

    Villarreal's defenders will need to be sure to constantly watch for attackers breaking through the middle as they will not be able to beat the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo in a foot race.

Villarreal Will Use Width

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    Without question the weakest point in the Real Madrid defense is the full-backs. Luckily for Villarreal, it specializes in attacking down the wings.

    If there is any club that knows how to utilize space to create chances it is Villarreal. While most clubs look to score through the forwards, the Yellow Submarine puts the biggest emphasis on the wingers.

    Marcelino Toral will certainly look to beat Real Madrid by keeping the ball wide and looking to cut inside and create space. If everything goes according to plan Ancelotti's men could have a very long night defending these attacks.

    But Villarreal will be given an added boost as they won’t be facing Real Madrid’s best defensive lineup.

    According to reports from ESPN, Brazilian left-back Marcelo will miss the match due to injury. Even more worrisome is that his replacement, Fabio Coentrao, has also pulled up injured in recent days according to reports from

    Without their very best full-backs to offer, Real Madrid could be more susceptible than ever. Villarreal will look to take advantage, and it has the quality to make things difficult for their visitors.

Real Madrid Will Attempt to Keep Possession Early

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    Once a club that focused purely on counter-attacking football, Real Madrid has added the importance of keeping possession to their weekly game plan under Carlo Ancelotti.

    In just a few games under Ancelotti it has become evident that Real Madrid will look to be more patient and make wise decisions with the ball. Counter-attacking is still the prime means by which to score goals, but they are no longer a one-trick pony.

    The Madrid-based club is averaging over 55 percent possession each game, and it has already begun to pay dividends.

    Real Madrid’s attacks have added diversity this season and more well-rounded variety. This could prove very useful against Villarreal, which has only finished a match with more possession than their opponents once this season.

    Look for Los Blancos to focus on keeping the ball early on to force Villarreal to make mistakes and take a quick lead. However, that will not last for long.

    Eventually Real Madrid will need to let off the gas in order to create more counter-attacking chances. But expect Villarreal to struggle to keep the ball against Real Madrid, which could see the game get out of hand early.

Many Counter-Attacks

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    Despite Villarreal and Real Madrid’s differences, both clubs hold a heavy emphasis on counter attacking football. All tactical approaches aside, this match will come down to which team can hit on the break the best.

    For Villarreal, the goal will be to get the ball to the wings to quickly work the ball up the flank and look to press inside for goal-scoring opportunities.

    The home side won’t see much of the ball and knows its best option is to strike fast rather than trying to build play from the back.

    Real Madrid on the other hand will look to do what they do best.

    Isco and Modric will orchestrate the attacks as Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel di Maria continue to be target men on the counter. Expect Real Madrid to create countless chances in this match with Isco the man pulling the strings.

    Both sides will create several chances in this match. It is unlikely that either club earns a clean sheet on the night, but it is also unlikely that Villarreal will be able to pull off the upset.

    The Yellow Submarine will give Real Madrid a run for their money, but the Spanish giants will prove to be just too much for the home side. Regardless of the final score this is definitely one game you can’t miss.


    How will Villarreal and Real Madrid approach the match? Who will be the most important player for each side? Who will come out on top? Leave your thoughts and comments below!


    Tre’ Atkinson. Follow me on Twitter for more discussions on everything to do with Spanish football!