It’s been raining goals lately for Villarreal in La Liga, but as we saw against Sporting during the midweek, that may be on hiatus at least until AFCON is over. Meanwhile, defending champions Atletico Madrid come rolling into town and we need to figure out how to make due without at least two players who would likely be starting were it not for the African international tournament this month.
We were so, dang, close to beating these guys in the Wanda last time. Aissa Mandi, 90+5 OG in a situation where he and Rulli were not on the same page with a headed back pass. Since then, Atleti have not had the season they would have hoped for, including recently losing four times in a row in the league for the first time under Diego Simeone. A big part of the problem, shockingly, has been Jan Oblak. The legendary keeper usually has one of the very best sets of shotstopping metrics in all of Europe and this year he’s not only been bad by his standards but by any standards.
Atleti has lost their last three La Liga matches on the road so if we can find some goals this will be as good a time as any to break our seven match winless streak against them.
Who will start up top beside Gerard? That’s the biggest question of the day and I think the answer is going to be Yeremy Pino unless we get a surprise return from one of our injured forwards. Atletico scored three of their five goals in the midweek in the Copa off turnovers in their opponent’s half so it will be absolutely imperative that we do not try to play out from the back in this one. We simply are not good at it anymore and frankly many of our players have talents and skills that suggest the exact opposite approach.
Look for Rulli targeting Pino on long balls over the top. We’ve scored off that a couple times this year, one of them being Danjuma’s goal against Atletico last time when Yeremy received from Gero and then gave an assist.
As I said on the podcast for our Atleti sister site, I think this one is a 1-1 draw.