The Rojiblancos invade El Madrigal tomorrow night in what will be the return of Forlán for the first time since his summer transfer to Madrid. While Villarreal are in tremendous form - no losses in eight matches, including five wins - Atlético too arrive in good form, having won three of five including last week's victory away to Sevilla. A win in the match could nearly assure Villarreal a place in the Champions League next year by giving them a nine point lead over fourth place with eight matches remaining.
Atlético are incredibly dangerous up front, and Gonzalo, Godín and Diego Lopez will have to be in top form to hold back Aguero and Forlán. The mattress-makers also have a much-improved defense. They have only allowed just over one goal per match over the last four matches.
Unfortunately Villarreal will be without Cygan and Guille Franco. Franco is out three weeks after re-injuring himself this week in the Mexican friendly against Ghana. The loss of Guille could be huge for the Yellow Submarine, and will probably put Tomasson in a starting role, if the recent trend stays true. Of course, Pellegrini could switch things around and put Rossi and Nihat together up front to counter Atlético's super duo. If it is Tomasson, my guess would be Rossi will get the nod after not starting for so long, but having nailed two goals for the Italy U-21s on Tuesday. Rossi also has an extra day of rest, as Nihat played Wednesday for Turkey.
Pellegrini will have a large group of players available: Diego Lopez, Viera; Javi Venta, Gonzalo, Godín, Capdevila, Angel, Josemi; Josico, Marcos Senna, Pirès, Cazorla, Bruno, Mati Fernandez, Eguren, Cani; Nihat, Rossi and Tomasson.
Probable starting lineup: Diego Lopez; Javi Venta, Gonzalo, Godín, Capdevila; Cani (I think he will get the start ahead of Cazorla), Eguren, Senna, Mati (ahead of Pires); Tomasson & Rossi (ahead of Nihat).
Atleti will be without Simao. Their potential starting lineup: Abbiati; Antonio Lopez, Pablo Ibañez, Pernia, Perea; Nacho Camacho, Maxi Rodriguez, Luis Garcia, Raul Garcia; Aguero & Forlán.
If you are in the US and don't have access to GolTV, you can follow the match on ESPN or Marca (Spanish). Game starts at 5pm et.
Other previews: Soccernet; Goal.com.
Prediction: Difficult to call. Part of me is expecting a 2-2 draw, but I am going to go with a 3-2 victory at home for Villarreal. They do not play great at home, but they play to their competition, and Atleti definitely bring a solid challenge to the match.