Two greats of the Spanish game, Diego Simeone and Unai Emery will lock horns as Atletico Madrid welcome Villarreal at the Wanda Metropolitano this weekend.

Gameweek five of the Spanish La Liga is ready to welcome a thrilling encounter as Villarreal travel to the Spanish capital of Madrid to lock horns with Atletico Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano. Both teams have enjoyed a similar start to life in the Premier division this season, and Saturday’s game could be an important one for the course of the season.

Atletico have played only two games this season after getting a delayed start courtesy of their exploits in the UEFA Champions League last season. And they have been games on the polar ends of the spectrum.

The first game was a 6-1 thrashing of Granada at their home, including a spectacular debut from Luis Suarez as he scored two and set up one. After setting up such a high expectation, Atleti went on to draw the next game 0-0 against a jam-packed Huesca, despite an impressive attacking display from the capital outfit.

Villarreal, on the other hand, experienced one of the best transfer windows in the club’s history, signing some incredible players like Dani Parejo, Pervis Estupinan, Takefusa Kubo among others. There was also a change of coaching at the helm, with Unai Emery coming in to replace Javier Calleja.

After four games, new-look Villarreal sit 4th in the table with seven points, with their only defeat coming at the hands of Barcelona.

Team News & Tactics

Atletico Madrid

Diego Simeone will have the pleasure of having to choose from a nearly fully fit squad, with the only absentees coming in the form of Sime Vrsaljko, who has been sidelined for a long time, and Jose Gimenez. But the Uruguayan is expected to return to action with Atletico Madrid after the international break.

The absence of Gimenez is not going to reflect too much in this team, as Felipe and Stefan Savic will be ready to take responsibility at the heart of the defence for the Colchoneros. Kieran Trippier and Renan Lodi will occupy the right-back and left-back roles respectively. This back four will screen Jan Oblak who starts in the six-yard box.

Angel Correa is expected to return to the starting XI in place of Vitolo and will start in the wide midfield role on the right flank, while Saul Niguez is handed the same duty on the left side. The other half of Simeone’s midfield usually consists of a double pivot, likely to arrive in the form of Koké and Thomas Partey – a man still on the radar of Arsenal.

Finally, in attack, Joao Felix and Marcos Llorente will be in the tussle for the second striker role, but we expect the Portuguese to get the nod, given his spectacular performances in the first two matches of the season. Alongside him, Luis Suarez will be the final piece of the puzzle which completes this lineup.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Oblak; Trippier, Savic, Felipe, Lodi; Correa, Koke, Partey, Saul; Felix, Suarez

Villarreal

Unlike his opponent for Saturday, Unai Emery may not have his pick of the cherry. Francis Coquelin and Alberto Moreno are both sidelined with an injury, while there are few players termed a doubt. Ruben Peña, Pervis Estupinan, and Alfonso Pedraza will have to go through a late fitness test to determine their playing time.

Emery decided to change the structure of his team against Alaves last time out, playing Paco Alcacer as the sole striker in a 4-1-4-1. The fluidity of the team is reason to believe that it will be mirrored this weekend. Alcacer will occupy the central striker role, and will be supplemented by Gerard Moreno from the right and Moi Gomez from the left.

In attacking midfield, we are likely to see Dani Parejo who will often drop to act as the deep-lying playmaker. His likely partner for Saturday – Takefusa Kubo is expected to be rove out wide, shuffling with Moreno, giving the Spaniard opportunity to move centrally at his most dangerous. Vicente Iborra will be the anchor that completes the midfield.

Estupinan picked up an injury last week, but the absence of Alberto Moreno means that he will retain his place in the starting XI. Mario Gaspar will start as the right-back donning the captain’s armband, while Raul Albiol and Pau Torres start as the centre-halves. None other than the brilliant Sergio Asenjo will hold the fort for the Yellow Submarine in the goalpost.

Probable Lineup (4-1-4-1): Asenjo; Gaspar, Albiol, Pau, Estupinan; Iborra; Moreno, Kubo, Parejo, Gomez; Alcacer

Key Stats

  • The last game between Atletico Madrid and Villarreal at the Wanda Metropolitano ended in a 3-1 win for the hosts.
  • Atletico and Villarreal have gone head-to-head on 36 occasions in the past in La Liga. Both teams have won thirteen games each, while ten have ended in a tie.
  • In their last 15 meetings, both Atletico and Villarreal have won five matches each, with the remaining five ending in stalemates.
  • The last time Villarreal won away at Atletico was in April 2017, which means they have not won yet at the Wanda Metropolitano, which has been home to Atleti since August 2017.
  • Diego Simeone has numerical superiority over Unai Emery in their previous meetings. He remains undefeated against the Spanish manager, winning seven and drawing five.

Player to Watch

Luis Suarez

Luis Suarez knows how to break the Villarreal backline. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Luis Suarez knows how to break the Villarreal backline. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Suarez made the ultimate impression on his debut for Atletico, scoring a brace against Granada. He looked at home linking up with the likes of Correa and Felix while assisting Llorente for his goal. The Uruguayan already looks better suited to Simeone’s attacking philosophy than the likes of Costa or Alvaro Morata, who has rejoined Juventus this summer.

He was, however, unable to make a similar impression in the previous game against Huesca’s deep-defensive unit. That said, against Villarreal, Suarez will have more space to exploit in and around the box given the Yellow Submarine’s attacking mentality.

Suarez’s ingenuity in the final third against Villarreal has helped him grab five goals and two assists in ten Liga games against the Villarreal, and Saturday could provide him with the chance to expand this tally.

Prediction

Atletico Madrid 1-0 Villarreal

Unfortunately, we might not witness a goal-fest in this tie, as we have seen from their history of match-ups. Additionally, Villarreal’s attacking unit might force Diego Simeone to sit back and see the game out till the second half before he starts going all guns blazing.

So, it should be a good idea to bet against Unai Emery’s outfit as their opponents might be fresher than them for this game, which will be vital in knicking all three points.


 

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