Soccer-Real firing on all cylinders as Villarreal come to town

MADRID (Reuters) - Real Madrid will look to carry on plundering the goals and push ahead in the early stages of the LaLiga title race when they host mid-table Villarreal on Saturday.

Real have picked up 16 from a possible 18 points so far and have rarely looked troubled, something which cannot be said for rivals Atletico Madrid and Barcelona.

That is in no small part due to Karim Benzema's form, with the Frenchman putting in another stellar display in Wednesday's 6-1 hammering of Mallorca as he took his league tally to eight goals and seven assists for the campaign.

"The fact he's scored so many sometimes makes you forget the work he does for the team and assists he provides. He's so complete," Real manager Carlo Ancelotti said.

Madrid have netted 21 league goals - 10 more than any other side - so far, and the Italian lavished praise on his fringe players who have stepped up when needed due to injuries.

"We've got a good mix between youth and experience in the squad. I'm happy that the players who have not featured much are ready to play. It's a really good sign for the squad," he said.

With six first team regulars missing, the fringe players will be called upon again for the visit of Unai Emery's Villarreal, who remain undefeated but only secured their first win of the season on Wednesday as they hammered Elche 4-1.

Atletico, who sit two points behind Real on 14, once again left it until stoppage time to secure victory as they squeezed past Getafe 2-1 on Tuesday.

Diego Simeone's side visit bottom of the table Alaves with doubts over midfield trio Koke, Geoffrey Kondogbia and Thomas Lemar's fitness.

Barcelona, who visit Cadiz on Thursday, have themselves had a tumultuous start to the season and sit eigth with eight points from four games.

Coach Ronald Koeman and president Joan Laporta have become embroiled in public a war of words, with the Dutchman reading a statement at his news conference on Wednesday asking for time to rebuild the squad before refusing to answer questions.

Local media reports say Laporta was unaware Koeman was making the statement and that if Barca fail to beat Cadiz and Levante then the coach is in danger of losing his job.

(Reporting by Joseph Walker; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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