Or it could be our toughest test all season at home. Atlético Madrid are in great form. They haven't lost a competitive game barring one at Cornella vs. Espanyol. Diego Costa - the man of the moment in Spain is in the form of his life. He scores, creates, defends, gets under your skin, gets under the officials skins, in short - the sort of player you would love to have on your team and hate to play against. This will be his first match after being called up for the Spanish National team for he first time, a few days after he officially choose to represent La Roja. Expect to see a lot of media people at El Madrigal this weekend to cover the record-setting Atlético and Diego Costa.
A team with few weaknesses
If the lead-off made it sound like Atleti is a one-man team, it is not. This team is loaded with talent starting with Thibaut Courtois in goal, the loanee from Chelsea, a solid back-4 in Felipé Luis, Joao Miranda, Diego Godin and Juanfran Torres (although Felipe & Godin will miss this game), captain Gabi and Koke in the midfield and the likes of Costa, David Villa, Arda Turan, Adrian Lopez make this team really hard to beat.
Thanks to Uruguay's participation in the World Cup qualifying playoff, Godin, 'Cebolla' Cristian Rodriguez and back up defender Gimenez will miss the trip to Vila-real. Felipé Luís is serving a suspension. Mario Suarez is hurt but Arda Turan who has been out for a few weeks has practiced and will likely be in the 18.
While a re-jigged backline offers Villarreal some hope, the home team will be without their talismanic forward, Giovani Dos Santos due to a quad injury picked up at Elche on Monday.
Diego "El Cholo" Simeone has successfully moulded this team into his image a tough, intelligent, asphyxiating and at times nasty football team.
Despite the absence of Gio, Villarreal come into the game game after a huge win at Elche, a place where we never won before. Those 3 points should help us approach this game from a calmer and more comfortable position. Ikechuku Uche and Hernán Perez looked very good at Elche and they will likely start on Sunday. Jonathan Pereira might get the nod to take the place of the injured Giovani.
Stats and Matchups
I was surprised to see how similar these two are in terms of overall possession per game - both a shade under 47%. Neither employ the long ball very well. Both score a big % of their goals from open play, although Atlético is very good at set pieces as well.
Where Atleti is really good is limiting the shots of the opponents. They allow the 2nd fewest shots on target in all of the top leagues in Europe (Source : Opta). This is the stat of concern for us as we arent the most efficient team in terms of finishing our chances. If we need our guys to be 'on the money' for a game, I hope they pick this one.
Interesting contrast in attacks. Atleti attacks more from its left (Felipé Luis and Koke) than right. Villarreal on the contrary generate more attacks from its right. In this context the absence of the brazilian leftback could hurt them a bit although Mario Gaspart will still have to deal with the threat of Koke, one of the top guy for assists in La Liga.
Bruno and Trigueros/Pina will have their work cut-out as they need to be at their best to take advantage probably the one area where we match evenly or better (vs Gabi and Tiago Mendes). Bruno might have to do some helping duty when the wingers cut in.
Squad lists for the game
Courtois, Bounou, Alderweireld, Manquillo, Juanfran, Miranda, Insua, Lucas, Tiago, Koke, Raúl García, Arda Turan, Gabi, Óliver, Guilavogui, Adrián, Villa, Baptistao, Diego Costa
Asenjo; Mario-Musacchio-Gabriel-Costa;Hernán-Bruno-Pina-Cani; Uche-Jony
Atletico Madrid 4-4-2
Courtois; Juanfran-Miranda-Toby Alderweireld-Insua;Adrian-Gabi-Tiago-Koke; Costa-Villa
This is a tough game. I was at the last home game at El Madrigal. A couple of errors early and we could never recover from them despite playing much better than Getafe rest of the way. There is no margin for error against Atlético. A special game for Sergio Asenjo as he still belongs to Atleti. Last time Atletico played at El Madrigal was that fateful night in May 2012 when got relegated by a late Falcao goal. This game is not nearly as transcendental but a win or even a point will make the groguets happy! Endavant Submarino!!!