Atlético Madrid face a very tough test on Sunday evening as fourth-placed Villarreal make the trip to the Vicente Calderón, in what will be a battle of Spain’s two best defences.
Kick-off in Madrid is set for 20:30 CET.
Just two places behind Atleti, Villarreal have only conceded an impressive 18 goals so far this season in La Liga. This is second only to the defensive accomplishments of Jan Oblak and his merry-men, who have only conceded 11 goals in their 24 league games.
The Yellow Submarine go into the match on an eleven match unbeaten streak in the league, but their last defeat came in Madrid, where they went down 2-0 at the Colisum Alfono Pérez to Getafe, Atleti’s opponents last week.
With Marcelino’s men having kept a clean sheet in five of their last six matches, Atlético will need to rely on their stuttering attack to breach an extremely competent Villarreal defence.
Fernando Torres got his second goal in two games when he scored in the opening minute against Getafe, whilst Antoine Griezmann is still far and away Atlético’s top-scorer this season with 12 goals in the league. It’s anticipated that El Niño will start up top again, instead of Luciano Vietto.
Atlético have got back on track with consecutive wins in the league against Eibar and Getafe, however the fact that they have only kept two clean sheets in their last five matches is a blemish that won’t go unnoticed on Atleti’s defensive record. Real Madrid are still on Atlético’s tail for second place.
Leading Atlético’s defence of course is Diego Godín, the former Villarreal man. The Uruguayan will have to do without his countryman José Giménez for Sunday’s match, as the youngster is suspended.
Yannick Carrasco misses the game after picking up an ankle injury in the game against Getafe. Atletico B winger Samuel Villa has been called up to replace the Belgian.
Summer signing Stefan Savic is expecting to slot into the defence alongside Godín, after some solid performances in his last few matches.
“Villarreal are playing very well,” said Simeone in his pre-match press conference. “They are strong opponents because they are fighting for fourth place, and are many points ahead of fifth.”
“As a unit they are very strong and have a very strong game plan.”
Five of the last six encounters between Atlético and Villarreal have featured a single goal. Atlético will of course be looking for revenge after Villarreal’s 1-0 win at El Madrigal back in September.
Still six points behind Barcelona, who play Las Palmas today. El Cholo has expressed how important it is that the fans get behind his team.
“Hopefully the fans encourage us from the start. We need them.”
Atlético squad to play Villarreal
Goalkeepers: Oblak and Moyá.
Defenders: Godín, Filipe Luis, Savic, Jesús Gámez, Lucas, and Juanfran.
Midfielders: Koke, Kranevitter, Óliver, Gabi, Saúl, and Villa.
Forwards: Griezmann, Torres, Correa and Vietto.