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Villarreal vs Atletico Madrid: La Liga Preview

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Unai Emery’s men face a daunting task against the league leaders.

Getafe CF v Villarreal CF - La Liga Santander Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Here’s some facts that I know. First, Atletico Madrid has not kept a clean sheet since January 12th. Second, Atletico has only been kept scoreless four times in the league this season, but one of them was against us. Third, Atleti is coming off a match midweek where they both conceded a goal and also did not score one of their own.

We are underdogs in this match, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get something out of it.

Our opponents

The entire first half of the year, Atleti was on an absurd tear. They were outscoring their xG by about a dozen and were keeping goals out at a much better rate than their xGA predicted. A lot of this was attributable to the finishing of Luis Suarez and the Slovenian wall named Jan Oblak. In recent weeks though, there’s been a course correction. The reason I like xG and xGA is that eventually everyone’s performance curves back towards these predictives when you get a large enough sample size.

I had planned on citing Fbref’s xG numbers here, but their site was down this morning and I am paying for the fact that I didn’t write this ahead of time. So I went over to understat whose xG model is less sophisticated but still nevertheless shows my point. While they are still beating their xG by 10 and their xGA by 2 for the whole season, in the month of February they’ve scored 5 goals on 5.39 xG and have conceded 4 goals on 4.06 xG. This performance almost exactly to expectation has caused them to drop 7 points this month alone.

Kieran Trippier has been suspended ever since the last time Atleti kept a clean sheet, and we are the last match of his suspension.

Villarreal

We get to play this match and the derby before we are back at it in the Europa League. I’m personally very happy that the match we get to prepare a whole week for is the one with Valencia, because frankly I want to beat them worse than I want to beat Atleti. Los Colchoneros will be preparing on a short week too, and it wouldn’t shock me at all if both managers decided to be super pragmatic.

In fact, I think we might see Emery roll out the exact same XI he did against Salzburg, with the exception being Moi Gomez subbed in for one of the two left backs. In view of Thursdays performances, the LB who should sit ought to be Pedraza, but Emery has trusted him a lot this year and it might be Estupinan instead. That’ll be interesting to see.

Predictions

I expect a match similar to our first one against Atleti. Dry, low on action, not a ton of chances for either team. Either Paco or Gerard gets an insane goal to give us a 1-0 lead only to have Luis Suarez do something in the second half that causes me to kick something and break my toe. 1-1 Final.