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Preview: Villarreal vs. Atletico Madrid - prediction, team news, lineups

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

Atletico Madrid will be looking to make it back-to-back wins in La Liga when they travel to Estadio de la Ceramica on Sunday evening to take on an in-form Villarreal side.

The reigning Spanish champions are currently fourth in the table, 14 points behind leaders Real Madrid, while Villarreal occupy eighth spot, four points off their opponents this weekend.

Match preview

Villarreal were knocked out of the Copa del Rey on Thursday courtesy of a 2-1 defeat at Sporting Gijon, but the Yellow Submarine are still fighting on two fronts this season, having qualified for the last-16 stage of the Champions League, with Juventus waiting for them in the first knockout round.

Unai Emery's side have had their problems in La Liga this term but have been victorious in their last four games in Spain's top flight, overcoming Rayo Vallecano, Real Sociedad, Alaves and Levante.

Villarreal have scored 10 times in their last two league matches against Alaves and Levante, and their recent run of form has allowed them to move up to eighth position in the table, just four points behind fourth-placed Atletico, while they are only five points behind Real Betis in third.

Emery's team will be looking to fight for a top-four finish in the second half of the season but will have to improve their away form in order to challenge for a Champions League spot, having managed just one victory on their travels in the league this term, but they boast the fourth-best home record.

The Yellow Submarine have not beaten Atletico in the league since March 2018, but the two teams played out a 2-2 draw in the reverse match at Wanda Metropolitano earlier this season.

Atletico, meanwhile, will enter this game off the back of a 5-0 victory over Rayo Majadahonda in the Copa del Rey on Thursday, which saw them advance to the last-16 stage of the competition.

Diego Simeone's side also managed to end a four-game losing run in La Liga last weekend by recording a 2-0 victory over high-flying Rayo Vallecano at Wanda Metropolitano.

Atletico, who will face Manchester United in the last-16 stage of the Champions League, have a busy few weeks, facing Athletic Bilbao in the semi-finals of the Spanish Super Cup on January 13 before tackling Real Sociedad in the Copa del Rey on January 18.

As a result, this is the capital side's last league match until January 22, when they host Valencia, so it is vital that the reigning Spanish champions put three points on the board.

Atletico are not in a title race this season, sitting 14 points behind division leaders Real Madrid, but a top-four finish is the minimum requirement in the league, and the Red and Whites are now only one point clear of fifth-placed Barcelona, who are starting to put together a run of positive results in Spain's top flight.

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

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

Atletico Madrid La Liga form:
  • W
  • L
  • L
  • L
  • L
  • W

Atletico Madrid form (all competitions):
  • W
  • L
  • L
  • L
  • W
  • W

Team News

Villarreal will be missing a number of first-team players for this weekend's contest, with Francis Coquelin, Ruben Pena and Paco Alcacer out through injury, while Arnaut Danjuma remains a fitness doubt.

The Yellow Submarine will also be without Aissa Mandi, Boulaye Dia, Samuel Chukwueze and Serge Aurier, as all four players are with their respective countries at the Africa Cup of Nations.

There will be changes from the side that started in the Copa del Rey on Thursday, with Gerard Moreno, Juan Foyth and Dani Parejo in line to return, while Moi Gomez and Alberto Moreno are battling for a spot in attack.

As for Atletico, a number of players are available following COVID-19 positive tests, but Stefan Savic is still out with a thigh problem, while Marcos Llorente remains a doubt due to a muscular issue.

Luis Suarez and Jose Gimenez are also both suspended, so Antoine Griezmann and Mario Hermoso are in line for starts, while Angel Correa, Koke and Sime Vrsaljko should come into the side.

Yannick Carrasco and Thomas Lemar could play in the wide areas for the Red and Whites, with Rodrigo de Paul joining Koke in the middle, while there will be no Kieran Trippier, as the England international has completed a move to Newcastle United.

Villarreal possible starting lineup:
Rulli; Foyth, Albiol, Torres, Pedraza; Parejo, Trigueros, Capoue; Gomez, G Moreno, Pino

Atletico Madrid possible starting lineup:
Oblak; Vrsaljko, Felipe, Hermoso, Lodi; Lemar, De Paul, Koke, Carrasco; Correa, Griezmann

We say: Villarreal 1-1 Atletico Madrid

Back-to-back wins will certainly have boosted Atletico's confidence following a difficult run of form, but Villarreal's recent results in La Liga have been excellent. Both teams will also be missing some key players for this contest, so it would not be a surprise to see a close match finish all square.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 1.5 goals 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.Over 1.5:data

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14Celta Vigo206592223-123
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