Atletico Madrid visits Vila-real again, in what is always a fascinating and emotional game. The team that condemned us to a year in the Segunda wilderness, so to speak; the team that features Diego Godin, an ex-amarillo “gone bad”, and the “anti-football”, knife-in-your-teeth approach of Simeone, standing on the touchline all in black waving his players on.
Well, that’s one way to look at it. The other is that Atleti probably remain the least appreciated team in any of the European leagues. Their 2013-14 La Liga winning side nearly pulled off the La Liga and Champions League double, they got back to the Champions League final in 2015-16, but all most fans outside Spain talk about is Real Madrid and Barcelona, while in the US, a sighting of an Atleti shirt is almost as rare as Villarreal’s. And Cholo Simeone took over a team that had no identity; everyone thought he was going to be one of those coaches who last a year or two at most, while here it is 6 years later and he’s still around (and has a contract to 2020).
So, a great team, but an opponent we love to beat. What’s wrong with that? Bring ‘em on!!
Atletico Madrid: The Atleti team news this week has been all about the dreadful broken leg for Filipe Luis, which has him out for the rest of the season, while Juanfran came off the Moscow pitch with a less severe injury. Otherwise, Atleti are in fine form, with Antoine Griezmann scoring seemingly at will, Saul and Koke dominating midfield, and a strong back line in front of Jan Oblak. Even without their missing players, count on them to fight for every ball and try to provoke us into committing fouls in dangerous areas of the pitch. Last year’s 3-0 home win for us is unlikely to be repeated; that was as supine an Atleti as I’ve seen in a long time. I don’t expect to see them play that way tomorrow.
Villarreal: Our team call has Raba over Cheryshev, but otherwise is what one might expect:
Keepers, Asenjo and Barbosa;
Defenders, Mario, Alvaro, Ruiz, Jaume Costa, Rukavina, Bonera;
Midfielders, Fornals, Castillejo, Trigueros, Rodri, Javi Fuego, Soriano and Raba;
Strikers, Bacca, Ünal and Sansone
I am hoping to see Fornals, Trigueros, Rodri and Soriano in the midfield, Bacca and Sansone up top.
All-time record: Villarreal have done very well at home, with an 8-4-3 record, and two shutout wins in a row, though last year was the first time we’ve done the double over Atleti since 2009-10. That can’t happen this time since we drew 1-1 in the Wanda Metropolitano.
Prediction: By all rights, this should be a closely fought, 1-0, 1-1 or 0-0 match, but even with Cholo running the show I am thinking it might be time for something of a breakout. Let’s say a 2-2 draw.