When Real Madrid travels to seventh-place Villarreal on Saturday, they have the opportunity to leapfrog rivals FC Barcelona for first place in La Liga.
Real Madrid and Barcelona are tied on points at the top, but the goal difference tiebreaker has them in second place coming into the weekend round of fixtures. Barcelona will play 2021 champions Atletico Madrid on Sunday.
While Real Madrid has won both of their matches since returning from the 2022 World Cup break — two road clean sheets, one in the Copa del Rey — Villarreal has won three in the same time span, with an additional round in the Copa del Rey.
Quique Setien’s Villarreal have won five consecutive competitive games after being winless in his first four matches after taking over from former coach Unai Emery, who went to Aston Villa. It’s a reassuring run for a coach who has been out of the game for more than two years.
Madrid will be trying to maintain their momentum as they prepare for the Spanish Supercopa, which will be played in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Los Merengues will have a second chance to win silverware in 2022/23, having already won the 2022 UEFA Super Cup in August.