Atletico Madrid go head to head with Villarreal on Sunday night in their attempt to keep the pace behind La Liga leaders Barcelona. Diego Simeone’s men are, however, faced with a tough test to their ambitions as Villarreal have been in pretty good form lately.
Two on the bounce for Rojiblancos
Diego Simeone’s charges have managed to recover from a poor patch which saw then draw two and lose another two games in January. It is fair to mention that one of each came in the Copa del Rey, as Atleti first drew and then loss to Celta Vigo, who managed to upset Rojiblancos and eliminate them from the competition. However, Atletico Madrid were held to a goalless draw against Sevilla in the league as well, before slumping to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Barcelona. Rojiblancos showed good spirit though to get back in the race with back-to-back wins over Eibar 3-1 and at Getafe 1-0, respectively. Fernando Torres gave his team a lead after only two minutes in the game last weekend and the results didn’t change until the end. Atletico Madrid face a season-defining week ahead of them as the high-flying Villarreal’s visit is just the first test in a row. Atleti are playing PSV Eindhoven on Wednesday and then travel to Santiago Bernabeu for a highly anticipated Mardid derby. First things first, Atletico Madrid are holding a six-point lead in front of Villarreal and victory would virtually secure the Champions League football for the next season.
Diego Godin, Juanfran and Felipe Luis all got back from their suspensions and will once again be at Simeone’s disposal. However, Jose Gimenez is under yellow card ban, while Tiago, Augusto Fernandez, Stefan Savic and Thomas are all having injury problems.
Having lost both Copa del Rey legs to Athletic Bilbao at the beginning of 2016, Villarreal have gone six games without a loss. Three wins and three draws in two different competitions are enough to say that Villarreal have seen a significant rise of form lately and that they will be a difficult challenge at Vicente Calderon. Baptistao struck the only goal in October to inflict a 1-0 defeat to Atletico at Madrigal and there is no doubt that the Yellow Submarine will be eager to repeat the feat and record a double over Rojiblancos. Villarreal are heading into the game in Madrid on the back of a 1-0 win over Napoli in the Europa League and will be keen to build on the success. Villarreal’s Bakambu has been the team’s top scorer so far with his eight goals, but Roberto Soldado has improved his form significantly, having netted four so far, including the last week’s winner against Malaga. Villarreal are currently occupying the fourth place in the standings, five points adrift of Real Madrid in third and Marcelino’s men will be eager to close the gap.
Sergio Asenjo and Adrian Lopez continues their recovery from ligament rupture and hamstring injury, respectively. Samuel and Eric Bailly are also the two absentees for the forthcoming fixture.
With plenty at stake, both rivals will be cautious and careful heading into the game. Atletico Madrid need to win and are likely to try and hit Villarreal as early as possible. Last six matched between the two sides were all low-scoring affairs and I expect to see the similar outcome this time as well.
Top pick: Under 2.5 goals 1.56 (5/9) @888Sport
Alternative pick 1: Both teams to score – No 1.53 (8/15) @SkyBet
Alternative pick 2: Atletico Madrid 1.55 (11/20) @Sportingbet