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Oct 23, 2021 at 8pm UK
Athletic BilbaoAthletic Bilbao
Garcia (14'), Muniain (77' pen.)
FT(HT: 1-1)
Coquelin (32')
Foyth (55'), Moreno (76'), Estupinan (80')

Preview: Athletic Bilbao vs. Villarreal - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Athletic Bilbao vs. Villarreal - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Saturday's La Liga clash between Athletic Bilbao and Villarreal, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

After 22 days without competitive football, Athletic Bilbao are back in La Liga action on Saturday night when they host Europa League holders Villarreal.

The Lions have won two of their last three home matches without conceding, while the visitors are one of three Spanish top-flight sides who are yet to lose on the road so far this season.

Match preview

After a run of three league matches without a win, Athletic Bilbao secured all three points when they beat strugglers Alaves 1-0 on home soil earlier this month.

Thirty-five-year-old Raul Garcia made amends for his ninth minute penalty miss with a close-range header at the back post on the stroke of half time, scoring his first goal of the campaign.

The Lions have moved up to ninth in the table, leapfrogging Saturday's opponents Villarreal in the process, and are just two points off a European qualification spot.

Head coach Marcelino will now be hoping his side can build on their most recent victory and will be confident of another positive result this weekend, having won four and drawn four of their last nine home meetings against the Yellow Submarine.

Marcelino, however, has endured a contrasting run of form as a manager against Villarreal, winning only one of his last 10 encounters against them, a 3-0 win with Valencia in January 2019.

Villarreal were able to bounce back from 2-1 defeats against Manchester United and Osasuna, with a comfortable 4-1 victory away against Young Boys in the Champions League on Wednesday night.

First-half strikes from Yeremi Pino and Gerard Moreno put the visitors two goals to the good in the first 16 minutes, before Meschak Elia pulled one back in the 77th minute to give the hosts hope of a comeback.

However, late strikes from Alberto Moreno and substitute Samuel Chukwueze sealed the first win in Group F for Unai Emery's side, who are just three points behind Man United at the summit.

Villarreal head into Saturday's clash with Bilbao having won only one of their last five league visits to San Mames Barria. Emery himself is also winless as a manager in his last four trips to the Basque outfit, losing on three occasions in the process.

The Yellow Submarine have been labelled as draw specialists so far this campaign, after drawing seven of their opening nine matches across all competitions, including all four of their away games in La Liga.

Only against Espanyol (12) have Villarreal drawn more away matches in their Spanish top-flight history than against Bilbao (7), with five of them ending 1-1. Emery, however, needs to find a way for his side to come away from games with all three points as opposed to just one, if they are to challenge for a top-four place this season.

Athletic Bilbao La Liga form:
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • L
  • D
  • W

Villarreal La Liga form:
  • D
  • D
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • L

Villarreal form (all competitions):
  • W
  • D
  • L
  • W
  • L
  • W

Team News

Athletic will still be without Yuri Berchiche (groin), Peru Nolaskoain (ankle) and Asier Villalibre (hamstring) due to injury.

Marcelino may be tempted to stick with the same starting lineup that beat Alaves, which would see Inigo Lekue, Dani Vivian, Inigo Martinez and Mikel Balenziaga keep their places in the back four, shielding first-choice goalkeeper Unai Simon.

Experienced forward Raul Garcia – who has scored the winning goal in Bilbao's last two league victories on home soil against Villarreal, in November 2016 and March 2020 – is expected to start up front alongside ever-present Inaki Williams, who made his 203rd consecutive league appearance last weekend, setting a new La Liga record.

Villarreal defender Raul Albiol, who was stretchered off in the win against Young Boys after taking a powerful shot to the face, will be assessed ahead of kickoff so is a doubt for this weekend.

Forward Boulaye Dia is also doubtful after missing the last two matches with a knee injury, so Gerard Moreno is expected to lead the line once again.

Emery will likely switch from the 3-5-2 formation used in midweek to a 4-3-3 system, with Alberto Moreno and Manu Trigueros brought into the first XI at the expense of Alfonso Pedraza and Francis Coquelin.

Athletic Bilbao possible starting lineup:
Simon; Lekue, Vivian, Martinez, Balenziaga; Berenguer, Vencedor, D. Garcia, Muniain; Williams, R. Garcia

Villarreal possible starting lineup:
Rulli; Foyth, Mandi, Torres, A. Moreno; Trigueros, Capoue, Parejo; Pino, G. Moreno, Danjuma

We say: Athletic Bilbao 1-1 Villarreal

After over three weeks without a game, Athletic will be fresh and fully prepared for Saturday's encounter against Villarreal, who in stark contrast will have only had a few days rest before they make the trip to San Mames Barria.

Nevertheless, we feel that the Yellow Submarine are strong enough to come away with at least a point, with another score draw potentially on the cards for Emery's men.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting a double chance bet on a home win or an away win in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Home/Away:data

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