Villarreal named an unchanged XI from the side that beat Deportivo Alaves 3-1 in midweek, lining up -in a 433 formation. Gerard Moreno took up a right-wing role, with Samuel Chukwueze dropped to the bench, and Vincente Iborra played as the holding midfielder as Francis Coquelin continues to remain absent with injury.
Luis Suarez and Joao Felix started upfront for the hosts, in their usual defensive minded 442 that Diego Simeone has successfully implemented over the years.
The story of the game
As is often the case with Atlético Madrid, the game was a tight affair, and for a while neither side looked like scoring. Villarreal came close a few times in the first half, most notably from a powerful volley by Mario Gaspar, which was saved impressively by Jan Oblak. Villarreal were impressive in their playing out the back, and created some half chances in the second half, but ultimately could not find the breakthrough.
The statistics do not quite paint the full picture of the game; even though Atlético edged out Villarreal on XG (0.61 vs 0.20), Villarreal created more scoring opportunities, but these were low scoring chances; Mario’s well struck volley only had an XG value of 0.01. Atlético had slightly more possession (54%-46%), but only managed 1 shot on target compared to Villarreal’s 2. It was a match where both teams defended well, as well as neither attack managing to create a big chance.
Unai Emery continued his new 433 formation which proved effective in midweek, and today there were promising signs. The midfield was able to link with the attack more effectively in this shape compared to the 442 used at the start of the season. Parejo and Trigueros in the middle both had strong performances, and this stability in midfield also helped the back 4, shown by the success in limiting Atlético’s chances significantly. It was clear the emphasis was on defence and beating the press in the middle, which Villarreal did effectively. When Atlético attacked, Villarreal would flood their own box, limiting the space in which Suarez and Felix could operate, therefore reducing their chances to blocked shots.
This was Atlético’s only shot on target, and this phase of play had 8 Villarreal players in their own box. The back 4, Pau Torres in particular, all had accomplished performances away at a tough team.
Man of the Match
Whilst Thomas Partey looked excellent in the middle, the player that stood out ahead of everyone else was Gerard Moreno, yet again. Despite playing most of the match on the right wing, rather than his preferred central role, his linkup play, and high work rate, meant that most of the promising attacking play came through him, and his defensive work also meant that Mario Gaspar could push further up the pitch, and the right-back ended up having 2 shots on goal.
Following the upcoming 2 week international break, Villarreal have a local derby against rivals Valencia up next. Pau Torres and Gerard Moreno are both in the Spain squad for their upcoming Nations League games against Switzerland and Ukraine. Emery will probably keep a similar formation and XI as has been used in these last two matches, and the squad will be boosted with the impressive addition of Juan Foyth, as the defender joins from Tottenh