Liverpool have been focused on preparation for the Champions League final on May 26 since their 4-0 victory over Brighton on the last matchday of the Premier League season, but their opponents Real Madrid had one last detail to address before they could start doing the same. Zinedine Zidane’s side closed out their La Liga campaign with a 2-2 stalemate against Villarreal, showing familiar strengths and vulnerabilities in doing so.
With the exception of the goalkeeper position, where manager’s son Luca Zidane saw his competitive debut, Real Madrid fielded a relatively strong side for the contest against Javier Calleja’s fifth-placed Villarreal. There would be a fifteen point gap between the two sides by the conclusion of this match, and that disparity showed during the early phases of the meeting.
Los Blancos started strongly, with Gareth Bale in particular putting in another compelling performance and making a late case for featuring in the final against Liverpool. The Welsh international opened the scoring for Real Madrid just eleven minutes into the match, continuing a mini personal scoring streak in the league, while usual suspect Cristiano Ronaldo doubled the visitors’ tally twenty minutes later with a header.
Real Madrid were arguably in control over much of the first half, though they should be concerned with Villarreal’s ability to create chances despite being on the back foot. Ronaldo and Luka Modrić were withdrawn for Lucas Vázquez and Karim Benzema around the one hour mark, no doubt with the weekend final in mind, but those substitutions also preceded something of a wobble by Real Madrid.
Two goals in the final twenty minutes from the hosts meant that Real Madrid had to come away from the Estadio de la Cerámica with shared points, and the shakiness of Zidane’s back line will present a tantalizing proposition to Salah, Mané, and Firmino, if the same lapses in concentration appear in Kiev. On the other hand, Real Madrid remain as dangerous as ever at the other end, perhaps particularly so with Bale finding form at a crucial point.