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With early goals not a feature of Los Blancos' recent games, back the opening strike to come after the midway point of the first half, advises Phil Kitromilides

Saturday sees Real Madrid host Villarreal with Los Blancos missing Cristiano Ronaldo, who serves the first game of a three match ban.

Despite missing one of the world's best players, Madrid should still have more than enough to overcome the Yellow Submarine yet they will remember the problems that they faced at El Madrigal earlier in the season, when they were held to a 2-2 draw.

Nevertheless, Carlo Ancelotti's men remain firm favourites with Paddy Power offering them at 1/3 (1.33) for the win, with the visitors available at 15/2 (8.50).

While Villarreal are one of the better teams in the division, their away form has been erratic, oscillating between brilliant (their 5-2 win at Rayo) and stunningly indifferent (the 1-0 defeat at Valladolid in their last game on the road). Madrid, for their part, have been in relentless form, though their performances have been effective rather than breathtaking.

On the whole they have been getting the job done rather than steamrolling teams and, as such, backing a goalless opening 21 minutes could be a wise investment.

Paddy Power offer odds of 5/6 (1.83) for the first goal of the game to come after the 21st minute and, looking at Madrid's recent league record, this looks like an excellent option. This bet had paid out in six of Los Blancos' last eight league matches, while proving the correct selection in 10 of Villarreal's 12 away fixtures in La Liga.

BET
OF THE
DAY
BEST BET
First goal after 21st minute at 5/6 (1.83) 2.5pt stake with Paddy Power

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Phil Kitromilides is a sports journalist and TV presenter in Madrid

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