Real Madrid have continued their climb up the table with their third win in a week, this time seeing off Villarreal 2-0 at El Madrigal to move up to fourth.
Cristiano Ronaldo continued his fine goal-scoring form, bagging Madrid’s second after Luka Modric emphatically put them in front.
Casillas was reinstated as No.1 in place of Keylor Navas, who featured in the win against Elche, and kept Villarreal out on a number of occasions. Also returning was Karim Benzema and Modric.
Villarreal could on dream of such depth, with a number of players still injured, including Jaume Costa, Bojan Jokic and Hernan Perez as Marcelino made six changes from the side which drew 1-1 at Eibar.
Despite this, the home side enjoyed an explosive start, with Casillas called into action early on to deny Villarreal striker Ikechukwu Uche.
Sergio Ramos did however put the ball into the back off the net after just five minutes from a corner, but his effort was chalked off, with the centre half used his hand to control the ball. The free-scoring Ronaldo drew an early save from Sergio Asenjo, as they began to grow into the game.
Dangerous counter attacks
But Villarreal looked lively on the counterattack, exploiting the space Real Madrid’s full-backs vacated, but poor crosses often let them down.
However the best chance of the opening half-hour fell to Luciano Vietto, who stepped pass Sergio Ramos, but lacked any composure, firing high and wide.
Madrid’s build-up play seemed to be lacking, and it would take a moment of individual brilliance, and it came from Luka Modric.
He picked the ball up from midfield partner Kroos, and with little warning, stuck a powerful effort from two yards, which left Asenjo baffled and unmoved in the Villarreal goal.
The host pressed for an equaliser, and were punished for their adventurous nature, as Real doubled their lead in a brilliant counterattacking move.
James Rodriguez played a raking pass from his own half to Karim Benzema, who did exceptionally to keep the ball despite the attentions of Victor Ruiz, and pick out Ronaldo, who seldom misses, and didn’t on this occasion.
Suddenly, Madrid looked in complete control, but The Yellow Submarine squandered two excellent chances to pull one back before half time. First it was Uche, who fired over with the goal at his mercy, before Trigueros had a goal-bound effort well blocked by Marcelo.
The second half proved to be a frustrating period for Villarreal, as they missed a spate of half-chances. Clear-cut chances were few and far between for both sides.
It became increasingly evident that Real were content to sit back and soak up any pressure and break.
No late consolation
Both Giovani and Jonathan dos Santos emerged from the bench, as Marcelino desperately looked to claw one back, with both only just returning to full fitness.
A long range effort from Jonathan plucked from the air by Casillas was as close as Villarreal came to an increasingly unlikely goal, as Real ran out comfortable winners.
Real Madrid: Casillas; Carvajal, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo; Kroos, Modric; Bale, James, Ronaldo; Benzema.
Villarreal: Asenjo; Mario, Musacchio, Victor Ruiz, Gabriel; Moi Gomez, Trigueros, Bruno, Cani; Uche, Vietto.