Real Madrid need to rediscover home comforts when they entertain Villarreal in the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday afternoon.
Although they qualified for the quarter-finals of the King’s Cup knockout competition on Wednesday following a 2-2 draw at home to second division Numancia, there was little reason for cheer following another lackluster display from Zinedine Zidane’s side as none of the fringe players except Lucas Vazquez were able to give a case for a promotion into Saturday’s starting 11.
The draw means that Madrid have failed to win seven of their 15 home games in all competitions this season, while in the Liga Santander 10 points have been dropped in front of their home fans.
Real Madrid will kick off on Saturday 16 points behind Barcelona in the race for the league, although the reality now is that rather than focusing on the title, they have to ensure a top-3 finish in the league to avoid a Champions League play-off at the start of next season.
Gareth Bale, who was rested in midweek, will return to the side after his two goals in Vigo and Zidane will hope his pace can inject some much needed energy into a side that looked flat a week ago.
Karim Benzema remains a doubt, while Marcos Llorente will be sidelined after suffering a shoulder injury against Numancia and Sergio Ramos is still out with a muscle problem.
Dani Carvajal will return at right back, however, against a Villarreal side that has injury worries of their own.
Javier Calleja’s project suffered an important loss with the sale of Cedric Bakambu, who had scored nine league goals, to China last week and Calleja’s men will travel without the injured quartet of Bruno Soriano, Leo Suarez, Ruben Semedo and Nicola Sansone, while central defender Victor Ruiz is suspended.
That leaves Carlos Bacca to lead the attack, while Enes Unal, who returned from loan with Levante with a goal last week, and new arrival Roger Martinez will probably await their chances from the bench.