Madrid, Dec 12 (IANS) Real Madrid travel to Villarreal on Sunday for a game which has taken on the feel of a grudge football match as a result of recent events which have seen Rafael Benitez’s side kicked out of the Copa del Rey knockout competition.
Real were eliminated from the cup after fielding Denis Cheryshev, who was suspended for picking up three yellow cards in the competition while he was on loan to Villarreal last season, reports Xinhua.
Villarreal insist they fulfilled all their obligations regarding the suspension, while Real Madrid continue to state they knew nothing about the ban.
As a result of that disagreement, the Directors’ box will make almost as interesting viewing as Sunday’s game and cameras will no doubt be attentive to any crossed word between the two club presidents — Villarreal’s Fernando Roig and Real’s Florentino Perez.
In playing terms, Real travel after an 8-0 win at home over Malmo in midweek: their fifth consecutive win since losing 0-4 at home to Barcelona.
Villarreal should provide a sterner test than any of Real’s recent rivals, despite an injury crisis which has left them without experienced full backs Mario Gaspar, Rukalvina and Jaume Costa.
Real Madrid’s injury worries are not as serious, although they still have a doubt over captain Sergio Ramos’ shoulder injury.
Marcelo is available once again and coach Benitez will be able to play the attacking trio of Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, who during the week received the news of his suspension from the French national side over the ‘Valbuena blackmail affair’.
James Rodriguez will supply the creativity in the Madrid midfield, while Spain international Bruno Soriano will hold things together for the home side.
A win will keep Real in the title hunt, anything else will once again set the alarm bells ringing. But one thing that appears certain is that Cheryshev, the unwilling actor in the controversy, will not be in Madrid’s starting 11.