Real Madrid Vs. Villarreal, 2011 Spanish La Liga Week 9: 3rd Plays 16th In Marquee Fixture

MADRID SPAIN - OCTOBER 03: Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid reacts Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid celebrates after scoring Real's sixth goal during the La Liga match against Deportivo La Coruna at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on October 3 2010 in Madrid Spain. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

Second and Fourth last season, Real Madrid and Villarreal go into this game separated by 13 places and 12 points.

In recent years, this has been one of Spain's BIG games. There are dismayingly few of these now though as La Liga increasingly resembles the Scottish Premier League. Villarreal's decline is symptomatic of the league's diminishing competition. The Yellow Submarine travels to the Santiago Bernabeu still in the Champions League (though with no points from three games), but sitting seventeenth in the table - with one league win and no shirt sponsor.

In last season's edition of this fixture, Villarreal were unlucky in losing 4-2 to a Cristiano Ronaldo inspired Madrid. The Portugal captain bagged a hat-trick that night. Marca may have been trying to distract from little Levante's rise to the top of La Liga (a position achieved through a 3-0 win over Villarreal), but the eleven hat-tricks they reported Ronaldo as having scored this season is phenomenally impressive.

Madrid, who have won each of their last four games by four goal margins, are huge favorites with the bookmakers (Villarreal are available at as much as 20/1). They may be without Ricardo CarvalhoNuri Sahin and Raul Albiol, but given their proclivity in front of goal (Gonzalo Higuain has matched Ronaldo's hat-trick haul for this season, it's 3-3) Villarreal will most likely need more than the 'courage' for which their coach Juan Carlos Garrido has called. Missing Nilmar and Carlos Marchena, they'll need a huge amount of luck too.

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