Villarreal welcome Atletico Madrid to El Madrigal in a crucial clash for the top four in the second La Liga round of 2022. The defending champions started the new year with a 2-0 win over Rayo Vallecano, while Unai Emery’s men are on a four-game winning streak and back in contention for a Champions League spot.
Where and when: El Madrigal – 9 January, kick-off 20:00
Where you can see Villarreal vs Atletico Madrid: La Liga TV
Last time: Villarreal took the lead twice thanks to Manu Trigeiros and Arnaut Groeneveld, but Luis Suarez and a last-minute Aissa Mandi own goal eventually earned Atletico a 2-2 draw at Stadio Wanda Metropolitano back in August.
Villarreal v Atletico Madrid Predictions and Preview
Putting aside Real Madrid’s ridiculous run of form, Villarreal have arguably been the best side in La Liga since the start of December. The Yellow Submarine won four games in a row and have climbed to eight place, trailing by only five points behind their next opponent Atletico Madrid.
Unai Emery’s men started 2022 with a 5-0 thrashing of Getafe in what was an extremely dominant performance. Villarreal’s early-season struggles in front of goal seem to be forgotten, as the Yellow Submarine ended 2021 with a 5-2 triumph over Alaves.
Gerard Moreno has been the difference-maker for Emery’s side, as the Spanish forward scored seven goals in his last four appearances. This means that Villarreal now have the third-best attack in La Liga and confidence will be high before their clash against the defending champions this weekend.
Paco Alcacer, Francis Coquelin and Ruben Pena are the only absentees for the hosts, while the visitors were hit by Covid-19, as Koke and Hector Herrera all tested positive for coronavirus. Diego Simeone will also have to do without the injured Antoine Griezmann, Stefan Savic and Marcos Llorente, so Angel Correa and Luis Suarez should start in attack.
The champions started 2022 with a crucial 2-0 win over fifth-placed Rayo Valecano, but they are now faced with another arguably tougher clash in the race for the top four. Atletico ended a horrific four-game losing streak by beating Rayo, with three of those four defeats suffered in away fixtures.
The hosts are 7/4 to get three points in this Villarreal vs Atletico Madrid preview and while playing against Simeone’s side is always tricky, the momentum is definitely in Villarreal’s favour. The draw is priced at 11/5, while a second consecutive victory for Atleti can be backed at 8/5.
One to watch for Villarreal: Gerard Moreno’s early season struggles are finally behind his back, as the Spanish international scored seven times in his last four appearances, taking his overall tally in La Liga to eight goals. Moreno’s sensational form makes the 29-year-old one of the main favourites in the first scorer market, so watch out for him at 11/2.
One to watch for Atletico Madrid: Luis Suarez’s future at Atletico Madrid beyond this season remains in serious doubt, but the Uruguayan is still capable of making the difference for the defending champions. The ex-Barcelona forward has seven La Liga goals to his name this term and is a 5/1 favourite to break the deadlock against Villarreal.
Long shot: Atletico Madrid have lost their last two away games 2-1. A repeat of that score in Villarreal’s favour is available at 11/1, while the odds rise to 77/1 if you add Gerard Moreno as the first scorer.