Three questions and three answers from Villarreal 4-4 Real Madrid

Real Madrid made their last away visit of the La Liga season as they travelled to take on Villarreal on Sunday evening, ending in a thrilling and dramatic 4-4 draw. Everything was going smoothly for the champions, who led 4-1 at half-time thanks to goals from Arda Güler, Joselu and Lucas Vázquez, but Alexander Sørloth remarkably scored four goals to draw the Yellow Submarine back level.

Three answers

1. How much of a fight would Villarreal put up?

Villarreal needed a victory in this game to boost their hopes of European football next season, with defeat almost certainly sealing their fate of not competing on a continental level in 2024/25. Not only that, but Real Madrid have won only one of their last six visits to the Estadio de la Cerámica, making it their worst run away against an opponent since a similar stretch of results against Deportivo La Coruña which ended in 2008. This run continued with another appearance to forget in Villa-Real, and Real Madrid will now be looking to end it in 2024/25, when there’s likely to be more at stake.

2. Would Andriy Lunin be able to put himself back into contention?

It seems increasingly clear that the man to start between the sticks in London on June 1st will be Thibaut Courtois, and with Carlo Ancelotti having confirmed that the Belgian will start against Real Betis next weekend, this was effectively Andriy Lunin’s last opportunity to change his mind on the field, rather than by tugging at his heart strings. Conceding four in 90 minutes for the first time in a Real Madrid shirt was the worst possible outcome, especially as it came from just 2.06 xG. His defence did little to protect him with 21 shots conceded, but this will only have further confirmed the option that Ancelotti currently favours. It’s a bitter end to an impressive season for Lunin.

3. Is this last chance saloon for the second string?

Carlo Ancelotti had hinted in the build-up that this would be the final game with his reserve options out on the field, with next weekend’s final league fixture of the season effectively providing a practice session for Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League final a week later. That means that the players out on display had their final chance to stake a claim, even if most of them know that it would take an injury or a miracle for them to find their way into the starting line-up. What they could hope for was a prominent role off the bench should they prove themselves here. However, despite Arda Güler’s brace, Brahim Díaz and Lucas Vázquez’s two goal involvements each, it seems unlikely that anyone comes out of this game with a substantially increased chance of featuring at Wembley.

Three questions

1. Is Arda Güler a midfielder or a forward?

When the signing of Arda Güler was announced last summer, most expected him to settle into the midfield three and provide a long-term alternative to Luka Modrić. Now, the Turkish teenager is operating more like one of the front line, playing similar to Brahim Díaz at some moments, Jude Bellingham at others, and even Rodrygo Goes. Here, he played primarily on the right flank in the most advanced position, looking to cut and drift inside with his superb reading of the game and movement seeing him appear in the right place at the right time to score two well-taken goals. That takes his tally to six in La Liga this season, more than the likes of other young forwards Lamine Yamal and Nico Williams, and firmly shows his goalscoring credentials. Where he fits in next season, with the bolstering of the squad expected in attack, could be an intriguing topic to watch.

2. Just how good have Real Madrid been away this season?

With three points at the Cerámica, Real Madrid wrap up 44 points from a possible 57 away from home in La Liga this season, with 13 wins, five draws and one defeat. That one defeat came in the form of the dreadful Derbi Madrileño defeat to Atlético Madrid in September to stain what had been an otherwise almost perfect record. 44 points away from home is the best record of any club since Real Madrid got 48 points away in 2016/17. This game was a disappointment, especially as these four goals account for 23.5% of all goals they have conceded in 19 away games in La Liga this season, but it still brings a close to a remarkable run.

3. How does Jude Bellingham feel after watching that?

At the start of this evening’s games, Jude Bellingham was one goal behind Girona’s Artem Dovbyk in the race for the Pichichi. Now, Dovybk has extended his tally to 21, two ahead of Bellingham’s 19, but even more frustrating for the Englishman will have been to watch Alexander Sørloth score four to go from being level with him to being way ahead. Three of those came in just eight minutes as Villarreal mounted their comeback, with the help of Gerard Moreno who assisted all three. Bellingham won’t be handling just the frustration of his team dropping points, but also the realisation that it’s highly unlikely he’ll end the season as Pichichi. To do so, he’d need to score at least four next weekend against Betis.

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