Atlético and Villarreal meet at the Calderón late Saturday evening in what promises to be a cracker. An average of over four goals per match has been scored the last seven times the teams have squared off.
Los Rojibilancos have let several points slip at home in the last three matches, having last won at the Calderon way back on 17 January when we hosted Mallorca.
On a positive note, Atleti haven’t lost in three games and have shown a bit of a fighting spirit in their last two matches, coming back three times against Sevilla and Getafe to salvage two measly but crucial points.
The Colchonero faithful will find it hard to get confident ahead of this clash though, as our record against the top clubs in la Liga this season has been abysmal.
In 11 matches against the six teams ahead of us in the table, we have only managed to take five points. That’s five points out of a possible 33. But manager Quique Sanchez Flores doesn’t feel we are much worse than those we trail.
“Every time we have encountered those at the top, we have stood up to them,” the Rojiblanco boss told the club’s official site. “We did it against Valencia and Sevilla. There isn’t such a big difference in points.”
The coach then got defensive about his squad, often mocked in the press as a wildly unpredictable club.
“All football fans like to watch Atlético’s games,” he said. “We have to have something. We can’t suck that badly. We’re not such a disastrous team, but we have to check up on our mental state, which is so important in the world of football.”
Quique and his staff will want to pay particular attention to the mental state of strikers Sergio Aguero and Diego Forlan, whose 15 league goals between them are the lowest the pair have totaled at this point in a season.
Forlan’s countryman Diego Godín explained about ‘La Rubia’s’ situation that “a goal-scorer lives off of goals. So far this season he hasn’t had that scoring streak that boosts your confidence. He looks for the goal, but hasn’t been lucky. ”
Godin then dismissed rumours that had surfaced earlier this week about friction between Forlan and his teammates.
“There’s no bad relationship between him and the rest of the squad,” he said. “If anything, it’s the opposite. He hasn’t fought with any of his teammates.”
Despite moving to Atletico from Villarreal over the summer, the central defender couldn’t shed any more light on a squad he claims will not be surprising anyone.
“We know that they’re a good side that’s tough to beat,” he said. “ I know them well, but you don’t need to know them. We’ve all seen Villarreal and we know how they play. It’s going to be an extremely tough match.”
Quique will not be issuing his match selection until the conclusion of a Saturday morning training session before the game.
We do know that Luis Perea will be unavailable through a one-match ban and that Tiago is the only doubt after suffering a muscle injury against Getafe.
Tomas Ujfalusi is back at full strength, and despite experiencing muscle soreness in training, Sergio Aguero is expected to be available.
Juan Carlos Garrido’s men are making their way out of their own rough patch after taking care of Hércules at the Madrigal on Wednesday by a minimal 1-0 margin.
Prior to that midweek triumph, the Yellow Submarine hadn’t won a league game in four successive tries. The slump allowed Valencia to snatch the third spot away from them, a position Villarreal can reclaim with a victory at the Calderon coupled with a Valencia loss or draw at Mallorca.
The Valencian side have had our number recently, having beaten us the last three times we have faced off; most recently, a controversial 2-0 defeat at the Madrigal.
Update: Atlético’s match selection
Goalkeepers: De Gea, Joel
Defence: Valera, López, Filipe, Godín, Ujfalusi, Domínguez
Midfield: Mario Suárez, Tiago, Raúl García, Elias, Fran Mérida, Paulo Assunção, Reyes, Juanfran, Koke
Attack: Forlán and Agüero.
Referee: Eduardo Jesús Iturralde González
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