Match preview: Atlético vs. Villarreal

Atleti aim to hold top spot without Costa, Arda & Gabi as Villarreal visit

Villa set to lead the attack in Costa's absence (Getty)

Villa set to lead the attack in Costa's absence (Getty)

In a league fixture sandwiched between a Champions League quarter-final match-up with Barcelona, Atlético welcome Villarreal to the Vicente Calderón.

Saturday’s clash against the Yellow Submarine gets underway at 16:00 CET.

Atleti come into this bout winners of five straight La Liga matches and following an impressive, albeit costly, 1-1 draw at the Camp Nou on Tuesday.

That game saw the likes of Diego Costa and Arda come off limping, leaving them unavailable for Villarreal’s visit, and perhaps beyond this weekend.

In addition to that pair of regular starters, los Rojiblancos will be without their skipper Gabi, who saw his 10th yellow card of the season at San Mamés last Saturday and will serve a one-match ban.

Costa’s absence places the spotlight on David Villa, who will share the attack load with Raúl García–both players more than equipped to step in for the ‘Beast’.

The last time ‘El Guaje’ replaced Costa, during our trip to Vigo early last month, he led the charge with a double in our 2-0 win.

Though ‘The Real’ Raúl’s goals-per-start average has dwindled of late, the Pamplona-born man still has 15 goals in 26 appearances in the fold.

Nonetheless, the men in red and white will have to hombre-up if they want to keep the three points in Madrid and retain their place at the top of the mountain.

“This is an important match against tough opponents,” Diego Simeone warned during Friday’s pre-game press conference.

“Positionally, they resemble us and we have a lot of respect for them. They have players in midfield and up with quality, allowing them to put together good combinations.

“It will be a very important match [to win] if we want to continue on the same path.”

Simeone made it clear his squad must focus on La Liga in spite of next week’s second leg match against Barça.

“We cannot divert our attention,” he said. “We need strength to win tomorrow.”

Midfielder Diego enters this game on the back of a strike-heard-round-the-world type of goal against the Blaugrana, and is set to feature as a replacement for Arda.

“He’s been starting quite a few matches and the other night, he put in a very good performance, Simeone said of the Brazilian.

“We need him just like we need all of the other players who have not had many minutes. To continue as a competitive side, those who have played less will become more and more important to us but that depends on them making the most of the minutes the coach gives them.”

The Argentine tactician continued: “I’m really happy with how Diego is progressing. It’s normal that after spending two years away from us, he’s found it hard to reclaim his place. You can’t be a competitive side with eight top class players – you need at least 11 and if we find ourselves in that position now it’s because of the players who are waiting in the background and who have had less opportunities.”

In addition to our trio of absentee stars, Javi Manquillo (victim of assault) and José Giménez (victim of our insanely solid back line), were not included in the match selection.

Cholo called-up Samuel Saíz, who apparently goes by Samu, an Atlético B attacker that arrived at the youth academy from Almería during the past winter transfer window.

According to Vavel, the 23-year-old has struggled as a professional not because of a lack of quality, rather, because of disciplinary issues.

The kid likes to party. He spent the entirety of his youth career — almost a decade — at Real Madrid, before moving on to Sevilla’s reserve side, then Getafe’s, then Almería’s, and now he’s had the luck of finding himself at the best club in the universe according to the football experts at Harvard (not Sir Alex Ferguson).

And there you have it–way too many lines about a player that will almost certainly not take part at all on Saturday.

Another youngster that will watch from the stands is our beloved Óliver Torres. Though he was loaned out to our foes on the last day of January, they chose not to pay the 200,000-euro fee that would allow him to face-off against his favourite club.

Marcelino García Toral’s men currently sit in seventh place in the Primera standings–an impressive position given that this is their first season back from Segunda.

Villarreal have an outside shot of landing the last Champions League qualification spot, and a very decent chance of earning a Europa League berth.

El Submarino Amarillo are the fourth-best travelling side in Spain with seven victories on the road.

The last time they defeated us at the Calderón was back in 2009, when their current goalkeeper, Sergio Asenjo, was minding our goal.

Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Aranzubia, Courtois
Defenders: Juanfran, Miranda, Godín, Filipe, Alderweireld, Insua
Midfielders: Koke, Mario, Diego, The Real Raúl, Tiago, Sosa, Cebolla
Forwards: Villa, Adrián, Samu Sáiz

  • Ali

    C,mon we can do it without costa , arda and gabi! Villa is gonna repay our faith!

  • starvs

    This is gonna be a tough one with all these missing, good thing we are at home.

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    I guess Miranda will be rested too, and Toby will start instead

    if we considered RG8 a starter as he started many games this season, I think Alderweireld is the most important sub. this season,
    he did a very good job in his first season and with missing the whole pre-season
    he will for sure get more minutes next season
    he was a very important signing after spending the last season with Cata and Pulido as our back-up CDs .. thank you very much Demichelis for financing his deal !!

    speaking of the subs, I believe what will decide the fate of La Liga this season are the benches
    the top 3 are all tired after a long season (Barca & Atleti already played 50 games, while Real played 48) and they all are missing key players due to injuries :
    Arda & Costa at Atleti, Valdes, Pique & Puyol at Barca, Ronaldo, Di Mario (for sickness) and Jese at Real Madrid

    The crazy thing is that despite their heavy spending and our “Money-Ball-like” signings, our bench is stronger than theirs .. or at least that what I think
    for Costa we have Villa, the all-time top scorer for La Roja, and the Real Raul, and for Arda we have Diego and Sosa
    while at Real Madrid, for Jese they have Morata, for Di Maria they have Isco who is good but very much less than him, and for Ronaldo they have the most overrated player of all-time, Gareth Bale

    without Ronaldo, Di Maria and Jese and with Diego Lopez, they will suffer a lot at Anoeta
    they could drop points there, and if they did, I believe they will forget about La Liga and focus on their obsession : La Decima .. and they will lose both

    I am so relieved that Oli is not playing against us

  • farhan

    villa will score…..

  • Farzad from Iran

    today we will win certainly

  • abdulrasheed g/dorowa

    I believe villa will score because i have trust him in front of goal keeper and also he has the football skills and he create chances

  • piserakos

    @ahmad… You forgot arbeloa 😛 Real is 3,5 points behind us, they need to win all the games and Atleti drop points at 2 games (e.x. Barca, Valencia) even then they need Barca drop point at 2 games (e.x. Atleti, Villareal) so if the lose points at Anoeta today the forget La Liga… Let me remind you that La Real only lose at Anoeta from Atleti after they returned at La Liga, 5 losses, 3 of them from Atleti..
    Villareal will miss about 7 players from today’s game, 3 of them are defenders, so we will probably are going to score…
    @martin.. Where the hell you found that for Samu? 😛 Hehehe nice info!

  • Atletico9

    line up:

    Juanfran – Miranda – Godin – F Luiz
    Koke – Super Mario
    Real Raul – Diego – Cebolla

  • ursa major

    actual line-up:

    Koke – Super Mario
    Raul – Diego – Cebolla

  • palestine-atletico

    The official line up:

    Juanfran godin alderweiled luis
    Diego mario koke cebolla
    RG8 villa

  • farhan

    yup villa willl score….. opening …..

  • Kris

    Villa, RG8, Diego to all score in my prediction. I think Diego will be instrumental this game. Let’s find out.

  • Dircil

    haha what a stunning female referee!!!

  • farhan

    female….really? 😀

  • kris

    Yup, Raul Garcia. GOOALL!!!!! 1-0. He starts, he scores. Another header. Another assist for Koke.

  • farhan

    garcia ….ariel forward 😀

  • pantic#10

    It’s beautiful the Calderon full of children! Dia del Nino.
    Raul the best.

  • kris

    What’s up with these stupid optimistic crosses?? Way too many crosses we are playing right now.

  • kris

    Raul Garcia is fooking horrible!! LOL but I have to thank him for the defensive job that he does, as well as scoring goals..

  • Ash

    the referee surely knows how to block our passes….xD

  • piserakos

    Cebolla plays?? I haven’t seen him all the game…

  • Jeronamo

    Was gonna wait till the end to comment but here come adrian

  • Jeronamo


  • kris

    No…. not ADRIAN. !!!

  • piserakos

    Simeone did 3 subs from 67’he must read our comments

  • kris

    We are playing so shit….. while Villarreal are playing so beautifully. Please get another goal Atleti!!!

  • Jeronamo

    I honestly don’t get why diego was taken out… I think it would have been wiser to take rg8 out but that’s just me I guess

  • kris


  • Zakaria

    Adrian is showing some brilliance, i just wish he could come back to his amazing form. I miss super 7

  • MR

    Courtois extended his contract with Chelsea and will be loaned out again next year… anybody got proper infos?

  • pantic#10

    and another victory!!
    but awful 2nd half…

  • kris


  • Jeronamo

    On to the next one

  • Silchas

    awful game to watch, but in the end the victory is all that counts, but adrian is really harmless for a striker. Villa at least got one shot on target.

  • kris

    Adrian should be banned from playing football at Atleti. Poses no threat whatsoever at all. Plays with no heart and desire. I don’t get why Simeone still puts him in. I bet you, Samu could have done better than him. Sosa was good when he had the ball. He is a really good substitute, especially when he’s playing with Costa up front because Costa and Sosa complement each other with similar playing styles.

  • Chewie

    Agree about Sosa – he made another clever cross like a couple of games ago, but then someone scored (Raul or Costa probably). And that dribbling when he got to the penalty box was amazing. Unfortunately, we need more quick-minded players to catch up with these kind of play.

    Diego is creative yet is not at his best right now. He draws many fouls and holds the ball but he sucks at defence and doesn’t create real chances.

    Koke is less creative though he is precise as a laser. And he is a tireless defender. I bet it feels good to play alongside Koke – just look at Raul’s goal – he didn’t even have to move, the ball landed exactly on his head!

    Toby was solid and made some smart long crosses, he’s just as good as the starting duo. Filipe and Juanfran good as always. Mario and Tiago were not bad. Raul did some ridiculous things – just remember his attempt to make a pass with his heel =)

    Villa… well, he’s just not Costa. I’m coming to a conclusion that he doesn’t suit our way of playing. We need an explosive striker, someone who can storm past defenders, win the aerial fight and put the ball calmly into the net.

    I don’t agree with those saying that Villareal was playing beatifully – they sucked, really. It was an easy, almost effortless win. We let some of the bench-warmers exercise and won once again.

  • kris

    Villarreal played better than us because we played horrible in the 2nd. We let them do what we should have been doing. Gabi was sorely missed in the middle. He wouldn’t have let us Villarreal’s midfield play us like that.

  • Valinia

    agree with kris, the absence of gabi has a great impact in the midfield but not in a good way, the midfield becomes less aggressive and cannot defend well.
    adrian – he seems like he loses the confidence and cannot get back to his top form anymore. i thought he was gonna get better when he scored in 2 consecutive games, but then he became even worse. im afraid that the club will sell him this summer as long as cebollas staying. i hear tht cebollas determined to leave though.

  • palestine-atletico

    Btw adrian played better than raul garcia. The only thing raul did is the goal. I am not convinced with raul as starter. If costa is not available against barca start with diego, sosa or adrian but not raul garcia.

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    Kris, Simeone gave Adrian a chance because simply he has no one else, Costa & Arda were out, Koke started in Gabi’s place because honestly and obviously it’s just not safe to start with Mario and Tiago in the middle, Diego can’t play a full game yet, and come on, you can’t use an Atleti B player in week 32 while you are playing for the title

    Simeone is the best one to know that Adrian is awful, and that’s why he didn’t even put him in the list of 18 in the last 6 games .. but today he had no choice

    Chewie, what a great analysis, I agree with all you said, especially 2 points :

    1- Toby’s long crosses, in fact I was going to talk about that but you did it first,
    he makes a lot of Alonso-like passes, either from open play or from the free kicks in our half of the pitch
    almost every pass from him reaches one of our players

    2- it’s difficult for the opponents to steal the ball from Diego, but it’s more difficult for Diego to steal the ball from the opponents
    our defense starts from Costa, all our players defend .. and defend well, except for Villa who was the worst player in that role, until Diego took that title from him !

    yet again, Gabi is a player who you hear his name when he is absent more than when he is playing
    when he is on the pitch, many people give the most credit to Costa, Koke & Arda, but when he isn’t there all the people say : “where are you Gabi” !!

  • Chewie

    Ahmad, you’re absolutely right about the defensive duties. I’ve just realilzed that the players who fail to defend seem to fall out of play eventually. Simeone’s system is so much defense-driven that the function a player becomes more important than his personal qualities. Raul hasn’t stopped being a lousy player all of a sudden – it was Simeone who knew exactly what the man is capable of and he didn’t ask anything else from him. Today Raul’s performance was a good example of this approach: Filipe, Koke, Toby and Juanfran made lots of long passes aimed at RG8; he jumped in front of Villareal’s defence and tried to create opportunities but after failing to do so he IMMEDIATELY came back to defend. In fact, he created his own goal – first he won the ball, then he forced a corner and then he scored from that corner. Voila!

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