Villarreal v Atletico Madrid – Estadio El Madrigal at 19.30 live on Sky Sports 2
It’s easy to forget that Villarreal were a second division side just a few years ago but consecutive sixth-placed finishes under the astute leadership of Marcelinho have returned the Yellow Submarine to European competition and consolidated the club amongst La Liga’s big-hitters.
Although Villarreal were more than good enough to secure Europa League football in 2014/15, they were still well off the pace in terms of reaching the Champions League. Sevilla finished 16 points above them and following the summer sale of their top goalscorer and most budding prodigy in Luciano Vietto plus the expiration of Denis Cheryshev’s loan, Giovanni dos Santos’s departure and Ikechukwu Uche and Gerard Moreno also leaving, many expected the men from within the Valencian community to regress.
But the Yellow Submarine has shown no sign of sinking. Samu Castillejo and Saml Garcia big money captures from Malaga caught the eye, Leo Baptistao has enough quality to realise his much-vaunted potential and Cedric Bakambu’s made an immediate impact after scoring 21 goals in 35 games for Bursaspor.
However, it’s the signing of Roberto Soldado that’s provided supporters with most joy. The former Valencia hitman has picked up where he left off in La Liga to help fire Villarreal to three victories in their first four and the modest club that so often punch above their weight are now dreaming of a top-four finish.
That sounds reasonably premature but they’ll fancy their chances of upsetting the odds against Atletico Madrid on Saturday night. Marcelinho’s charges have W23-D7-L10 at El Madrigal since returning to the top-flight but that record reads W6-D3-L9 when entertaining top-half teams. Last term the Yellow Submarine were sunk in front of their home fans by the top-five as they failed to even net in four of those outings.
Unfussy Atletico have only been stopped by Barcelona as Diego Simeone plots another charge on the Spanish title and assault on Champions League glory. When we exclude Barcelona or Real Madrid from the Mattress Makers’ road trips under the Argentine, Atleti have W11-D8-L7. Last season they managed just W2-D3-L2 against the same standard of opposition.
It’s by no means perfect nor mightily impressive but the capital club are effective operators under Simeone’s watch. They’ll scrap and fight for every ball, are defensively sound and as I’ve mentioned before, now have the tools to play dangerous counter-attacking football once more.
The visitors have already won away in Sevilla and can repeat the trick at Villarreal and are worth siding with at 2.25 off a -0.25 start on the Asian Handicap line.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Atletico Madrid -0.25 at 2.25
Prices correct at time of writing.
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