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Match Preview: Villarreal - Atletico de Madrid

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Villarreal take on a team in Atlético de Madrid tomorrow who, at the beginning of the season, were expected to be direct rivals for Champions League positions. And it looked to be the case as Atlético stormed out of the gates, netting four goals against Málaga and picking up nine points through four matches. But now, having lost three straight (albeit to Sevilla, Barca and Madrid), things are not looking to good for Aguirre and the boys. Pulling out a draw at home against Liverpool in the Champions League might have saved Aguirre his job.

Villarreal continue to be a force in the league, having won five and drawn two in the process of holding on to third place through seven matches. After having meandered to victory in five of the seven La Liga matches while only scoring eight goals, Villarreal found an offensive spark midweek against Aalborg in the Champions League, putting up six (but suffering three).

So, which Villarreal shows up? The team that has rock-solid defense but not a ton of offense? Or the team that seems to score left and right, but gives up three to a lesser AaB squad? Hopefully a combination, of course, but no matter what, defense will be key tomorrow. If they are allowed to, Atlético will score and score and score. With Kun Aguero and Diego Forlan up front, they cannot be taken lightly. Villarreal should be able to rely on the combination of Gonzalo and Godín in the back to steady Wednesday's shaky showing. They have almost a full squad at their disposal, including:

  • Keepers: Diego López and Viera.
  • Defenders: Javi Venta, Ángel, Fuentes, Gonzalo, Godín and Capdevila.
  • Midfielders: Senna, Edmilson, Bruno, Cani, Cazorla, Matías Fernández and Pires.
  • Forwards: Guille Franco, Llorente, Altidore and Rossi.

Notably, Cygan has been held out as a tactical decision. Otherwise, it is just the three known injuries: Nihat, Ibagaza, and Eguren. Villarreal have become somewhat used to starting without Nihat, and with Rossi finding the net against Aalborg, it is the perfect time to give him another start. My expected lineup looks like this:

Diego Lopez

Javi Venta - Gonzalo - Godín - Capdevila

Cazorla - Edmilson - Senna - Pires

Llorente - Rossi

The possibility remains that Altidore could find his way into the match, although it is unlikely. Pellegrini did decide to leave Cygan off the touchline and give Altidore a seat, though, so it can't be counted out.

For those interested, Atlético brings the following lineup:

GOALKEEPERS: Leo Franco, Bernabéu
DEFENDERS: Seitaridis, Antonio López, Pernía, Heitinga, Pablo Ibáñez, Álvaro Domínguez.
MIDFIELDERS: Raúl García, Luis García, Maxi Rodríguez, Paulo Assunção, Éver Banega, Maniche, Miguel de las Cuevas, Simão, Ignacio Camacho. (they are ALWAYS midfielder heavy, aren't they?)
STRIKERS: Forlán, Kun Agüero, Sinama-Pongolle.

Forlan is expected to make his first start at El Madrigal in a uniform other than that of the Yellow Submarine, so it should be a special night for him and the fans. Hopefully, though, it won't be too memorable for him by the time the final whistle is blown. Villarreal have the momentum, and have the confidence to take on a weakened Atlético side. I came across an interesting line of matches from the SoccerPulse forum. Here are all the Villarreal-Atletico matches that have been played in El Madrigal since Villarreal's promotion:

29/03-08 CF Villarreal vs. Atlético Madrid 3:0
08/04-07 CF Villarreal vs. Atlético Madrid 0:1
18/03-06 CF Villarreal vs. Atlético Madrid 1:1
20/02-05 CF Villarreal vs. Atlético Madrid 3:2
10/08-04 CF Villarreal vs. Atlético Madrid 2:0 *Intertoto Cup
28/03-04 CF Villarreal vs. Atlético Madrid 0:0
05/01-03 CF Villarreal vs. Atlético Madrid 4:3

15/11-98 CF Villarreal vs. Atlético Madrid 2:1

*Thank you DerEGG. Seems like Atlético just can't find the magic in Vila-Real.

I have a feeling that we finally put together a couple of goals in a Liga match and have an impressive scoreline to take away. Atlético's defense is suspect, and without Ujfalusi, it will be even worse. Keeping a clean sheet will be a monumental task, but I think Rossi has a couple of goals in him to overcome any scoring by the red and whites. Final score: 3-1.