Villarreal v Atletico Madrid – El Madrigal at 19:45 live on Sky Sports 2
It’s been a peculiar campaign for Villarreal this season. The Yellow Submarine shrugging off the departure of manager Marcelinho on the dawn of the season to stride into fourth place before the end of October.
Now under the watch of Fran Escriba, Villarreal were in the midst of a piercing injury crisis when exiting the Champions League qualification phase to an impressive Monaco outfit back in August but survived their opening nine La Liga fixtures unbeaten (W5-D4-L0).
However, the Yellow Submarine’s performances have fallen off a cliff since. Eibar squeezed out a 2-1 success on the eve of November and since then Monday night’s hosts have collected a solitary league success, when Real Betis pitched up at El Madrigal during the dying embers of Gus Poyet’s ill-fated reign.
Villarreal have scored just three goals in their last five La Liga outings (W1-D1-L3) with Leganes, Alaves and Athletic Bilbao also taking points off Escriba’s boys in the process. And on Thursday night, the Yellow Submarine scraped through to the Last 32 of the Europa League with a 2-1 victory at home to Steaua Bucharest.
Escriba hopes the delightful chip from Manu Trigueros that sealed progression on Thursday night will boost confidence in the camp but they’ll have to make-do without injured Samu Castillejo whilst there’s a major doubt hanging over Mateo Musacchio’s availability.
Jonathan Dos Santos and Denis Cheryshev are capable replacements for the right-hand of midfield but Musacchio’s exclusion would be considered a blow for the hosts. Alvaro Gonzalez is on standby to start in his centre-half place.
Yellow Submarine’s solid backbone
Nevertheless, it’s not all doom and gloom around El Madrigal. The hosts have continued to make their home base a fortress this season (W5-D1-L1) and their record in front of their home supporters since the start of 2015/16 is a quite outstanding W17-D5-L4.
The Yellow Submarine have shipped only 10 goals in their 14 matches under Escriba – a La Liga best – and 13 (50%) of their last 26 visitors have left without managing a goal here. Fifteen (58%) of those encounters saw fewer than three goals.
If we drill down further, we can see Villarreal have W4-D2-L1 when entertaining top-six sides and although only three of those seven showdowns produced Under 2.5 Goals winners, it’s an angle that’s proven profitable in each of their last seven meetings against Atletico Madrid.
The betting angles
In fact, six of those seven contests featured no more than a solitary strike and only one of Atleti’s last 12 away days at top-six clubs has broken the two-goal barrier. Another low-scoring appeals so take the 2.02 available on Under 2 Goals.
We’ll also have an interest in the 2.02 that’s on offer for Villarreal +0.50 in the Asian Handicap betting market. The hosts are a possession-based team and whilst they won’t sit back and transfer initiative to Atletico, they possess the tools and knowhow to frustrate Diego Simeone’s side on Monday night.
The capital club were held to a goalless draw by a well-drilled Espanyol side last weekend before losing at Bayern Munich in midweek. The Champions League loss mattered little with the Mattress Makers already securing top spot although Simeone did declare himself pleased with the performance.
But Atletico head here with Antoine Griezmann goalless in his last seven La Liga games, Filipe Luis sidelined through injury and with two road defeats in three league excursions. The guests have also claimed just two triumphs in six duels with the Yellow Submarine.
Simeone’s men adore playing counter-attacking football and often find the going tough when opponents pack out the midfield. I don’t expect Villarreal to present such a defensive-first approach but they are well capable of prolonging this period of frustrating for Atletico.
The visitors have taken one point from a possible 12 against the current top-six and since 2012/13 under Simeone’s watch, the Mattress Makers have won 9/23 (39%) at the same standard of opposition. More than enough reason to oppose odds-on quotes on an away victory.
Asian Handicap Recommendations: Villarreal +0.50 at 2.02 & Under 2 Goals at 2.02
Prices correct at time of writing.
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