Sports Mole previews Sunday’s La Liga clash between Atletico Madrid and Villarreal, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Atletico Madrid take on Villarreal in La Liga on Sunday.
Both sides got their league campaigns up and running with impressive 3-0 away wins last weekend.
After losing their La Liga crown to city rivals Real Madrid last season, Atlético will be determined to challenge for the title this time around.
Diego Simeonewho is the longest-serving coach at any club in Europe’s top five leagues having been in charge of Colchoneros since 2011, has led something a golden era, delivering two La Liga’s, two Europa League’s, one Copa Del Rey as well as painfully falling short in two Champions League finals against Real.
It has been a quieter summer than most in recent times for Atleti, with only Axel Witsel, Nahuel Molina and Samuel Lino brought in, and Luis Suarez, Hector Herrera, Daniel Wass and My Vrsaljko departing.
The club’s wage bill may have grown exponentially throughout Simeone’s reign, but they are still some distance short of the spending Real and Barcelona can pull off, making the former Argentina midfielder’s achievements all the more remarkable.
On the evidence of last weekend’s 3-0 win away to Madrid-based Getafe, it would be foolish to write them off from challenging again, with Alvaro Morata scoring twice upon his return from a two-year loan spell with Juventus before Antoine Griezmann wrapped up the victory with 15 minutes to go.
Still, Villarreal will clearly provide a much sterner test this weekend, with both league meetings between the two sides finishing 2-2 last season.
Like his upcoming counterpart, Unai Emery has brought great success to Villarreal, albeit in a much shorter timeframe having joined the Yellow Submarines in 2020 after a disappointing spell with Arsenal.
Having won the Europa League three seasons running with Sevilla between 2014 and 2016, the former Real Sociedad midfielder guided Villarreal to a penalty shoot-out win against Manchester United in the 2021 final, before taking them to the Champions League semi-final for only the second time in the club’s history last season.
Despite losing the first leg 2-0 to Liverpool at Anfield, Emery’s side knocked the Reds onto the ropes by leading 2-0 at half-time of the return leg. However, Jurgen Klopp‘s side proved too strong in the end, with Villarreal’s heroic European efforts perhaps contributing to a disappointing seventh-placed La Liga finish in the end.
As such, there will be no Champions League or Europa League exploits for Emery and his team this season, but they did manage to beat Hajduk Split 4-2 in the first leg of their Europa Conference League qualifying play-off on Thursday, after impressively dispatching newly-promoted Real Valladolid 3-0 away from home on the opening weekend of La Liga.
There could be concerns of fatigue affecting his side ahead of the weekend’s trip to Madrid, then, but Emery and Villarreal are both well-accustomed when it comes to defying the odds on multiple fronts.
Atletico Madrid La Liga form:
Villarreal La Liga form:
Villarreal form (all competitions):
Jose Maria Gimenez missed last week’s derby due to suffering from tonsillitis, and the defender may not be risked against Villarreal as he looks to make a full recovery.
Otherwise, Simeone appears to have a clean bill of health to choose from, with his main dilemma likely to be whether to start Griezmann after he made a goalscoring impact from the bench.
The French forward could displace Joao Felix from the start in order to provide more industriousness alongside Morata, who surprised many by scoring a brace last time out.
With Simeone generally preferring a 3-5-2 formation these days, Witsel is likely to anchor the defense once again having impressed in that position on his debut.
Villarreal, meanwhile, will travel without Alberto Moreno and Manu Trigueros as the duo continued their rehabilitation from serious ligament injuries.
Emery made eight changes for the midweek triumph against Hajduk Split, so he is likely to restore the same XI which comfortably defeated Valladolid in La Liga, with Gerard Moreno, Alfonso Pedraza and Francis Coquelin the only three ever-presents.
Arnaut Danjuma is yet to feature this season due to a muscle strain and it seems unlikely Emery will risk his key forward at this early stage in the season.
Atletico Madrid possible starting lineup:
Oblak; Savic, Witsel, Reinildo; Molina, Llorente, Koke, Lemar, Saul; Griezmann, Morata
Villarreal possible starting lineup:
Roller; Foyth, Albiol, Torres, Pedraza; Pino, Capoue, Parejo, Coquelin; Moreno, Jackson
We say: Atletico Madrid 2-1 Villarreal
Despite both meetings ending as 2-2 draws last season, we expect Atlético to record a victory this time around.
The hosts should be fresher after Villarreal played in midweek, and we expect this to pay dividends, particularly later in the match with Simeone having so many excellent attacking options to call upon from the bench.
For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.
Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting under 2.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 2.5: date