Villarreal v Athletic Bilbao – Estadio de la Cerámica at 20:00 Live at Sky Sports

Rock-bottom Malaga picked up their first win in 19 matches last weekend as they overcame European-chasing Villarreal on the south coast of Spain. A first-half penalty from Chory Castro was enough to seal the success, just the fourth of the campaign for the relegation-haunted outfit.

The decisive goal in a fully-deserved victory came just minutes after Diego Rolan had blasted an excellent opening over the bar for the hosts. Malaga racked up an Expected Goals output of 2.95 to Villarreal’s 0.73, leaving visiting boss Javier Calleja far from happy with his team’s display.

The Yellow Submarine’s struggles on the road have seen them collect a sole success in six games as guests, whilst five of their seven away defeats have arrived against bottom-half dwellers. Calleja suggested complacency was the basis of their poor performance as Villarreal lost an opportunity to consolidate a fifth spot in the standings.

Villarreal = flat track bullies

Before the international break, Calleja’s charges earned an excellent 2-1 triumph over high-flying Atletico Madrid at the Estadio de la Cerámica, their eight win on home soil in La Liga this season and a return home should aid the Yellow Submarine’s prospects here, particularly against opponents Athletic Bilbao.

Villarreal has W6-D2-L1 when welcoming teams in 10th or below this term and since the Yellow Submarine returned to the Spanish top-flight, they boast a phenomenal record when hosting bottom-half teams (W34-D9-L5). Since the start of last season, their return against the same sample reads W12-D4-L2.

With such consistency throughout the group, backing the hosts to overcome their -0.50 Asian Handicap hurdle on Monday night appeals. Villarreal’s Expected Goals ratio has remained solid around the 54% mark all season and they’re good enough to put an underperforming Athletic outfit to the sword.

Bilbao’s struggles

“I don’t read anything; I retreat into my cell,” Athletic’s under-pressure, soon to be gone manager Cuco Ziganda said after Celta Viga snatched a late but richly-deserved equalizer at San Mames last weekend.

It means Les Leones have now won just twice in 12 (W2-D6-L4) outings since early January and leaves the Basque giants marooned in mid-table heading into Monday’s match. Despite their poor form and ugly performances, Ziganda insists he won’t walk away from the position.

The visitors have managed a paltry 0.85 Expected Goals per-game over their last eight encounters and over the past 24 games, Athletic have returned just 43% on their Expected Goals ratio, a figure that’s bettered by 12 La Liga clubs.

With eight losses in 15 road trips – including six in eight at the top-nine – it’s easy to oppose Bilbao here.

Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Villarreal -0.50 at 1.909

By @MarkOHaire

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