What: Spanish La Liga
Who: Atletico Madrid (8th; 35 points) vs Villarreal (4th; 50 points)
When: Saturday 5th March, 2011, at 21:00 UK Time
Where: Vicente Calderon, Madrid, Spain

Tough Times Ahead

As the league edges closer week after week to its final bow, La Liga’s pattern starts to become more and more fixed, as “the best of the rest” attempt to gather maximum points in order to ensure qualification for next season’s Champions League and Europa League. One such team is Atletico Madrid.

After the team’s European Super Cup win over Internazionale, following on perfectly from the Europa League triumph last season, it appeared that a new era was on the verge of commencement at the Vicente Calderon stadium. Sadly, Los Rojiblancos could not duplicate the form that earned them continental applause at the end of last season though, struggling to keep up a string of decent results, and suffering in the process.

Speaking after the midweek draw with city neighbours Getafe, coach Quique Sanchez Flores stressed the importance of getting back on track against Villarreal. The former Valencia coach knows very well that there is no margin for error for his team and as such, will need to motivate his squad to come up withthe spoils against a tough Yellow Submarine outfit.

On the Right Path

Meanwhile, Villarreal continued their good form with another positive result in midweek La Liga action. The team’s latest victory over Hercules, coupled with Valencia’s loss to Barcelona, meant that Los Amarillos are now just a point away from their city neighbours Valencia, who sit in third.

Things have been going smoothly for the Yellow Submarine of late, the team having surpassed favourites Napoli in the Europa League, and the side have been effective in their domestic tournament, opening up a ten-point gap with fifth-placed Espanyol. The continuation of their efforts would only see them go up from here and claim third place as their own.

As far as Juan Carlos Garrido is concerned, the road to success comes through hard work and team support, as he confessed after his side’s win over Hercules: “The team is fighting hard and to the limit of its possibilities. The win restores confidence. Now comes the key part of the season and it is vital that the team receive [the fans’] support".


Recent form

Atletico Madrid:
Real Zaragoza 0-1 Atletico Madrid (19/02; La Liga)
Atletico Madrid 2-2 Sevilla
(26/02; La Liga)
Getafe 1-1 Atletico Madrid
(02/03; La Liga)

Villarreal 2-1 Napoli
(24/02; Europa League)
Racing Santander 2-2 Villarreal (27/02; La Liga)
Villarreal 1-0 Hercules (02/03; La Liga)

Key absences

Atletico Madrid: Mario Suarez (doubt); Tomas Ujfalusi; Fran Merida; Pulido

Villarreal: Marcos Senna; Angel Lopez

Players to watch

Atletico Madrid – Sergio Aguero: In the wake of Diego Forlan’s abysmal form, Aguero will have to step up and take the leading mantle from his striking partner. Any gaps in Villarreal’s defence will surely be exploited by the lightning-fast Argentine striker.

Villarreal – Giuseppe Rossi: A true football genius on his day, Rossi is capable of wreacking havoc on his opponents should the American-born forward be given license to roam. After having scored the sole goal against Hercules, Rossi will be surely eager to add to his tally.

Match Prediction

Atletico Madrid’s mediocre form certainly won’t do them any favours when the two teams meet. Villarreal are themselves surging ahead, looking solid bets for a Champions League bearth. The Yellow Submarine should have enough to grab the win here. Atletico Madrid 1-2 Villarreal.

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