Villarreal vs Atletico Madrid

Estadio de la Ceramica sets the stage for a high-stakes La Liga encounter between resurgent Villarreal and out-of-sorts Atletico Madrid.

The timing of March’s international break couldn’t have been any worse from Villarreal’s perspective, as they hauled four straight league victories en route to taking their unbeaten streak in La Liga to nine games (W5, D4). That impressive run accounts for 50% of their top-flight points this season and has immensely helped Villarreal’s bid to secure a European finish, lifting them within an eight-point distance of the top six. Taking as many points available at home as possible could be crucial, with El Submarino Amarillo taking the field amidst a seven-game unbeaten run at La Ceramica (W4, D3), including three wins on the spin. Atletico Madrid’s visit should pose no threat to that record, considering Marcelino’s men have only suffered one defeat in the last eight H2Hs they hosted (W3, D4).

On the other hand, Atletico Madrid entered the international break off the back of a 3-0 home thumping at the hands of Barcelona, succumbing to their eighth La Liga defeat this term. With a mouth-watering Champions League quarter-final tie against Borussia Dortmund waiting in the wings, Diego Simeone’s men must set their priorities straight as they start this round outside the top four after losing back-to-back league matches. Simeone’s foremost assignment is to galvanize Los Rojiblancos’ away form after overseeing six consecutive road trips without a win (D2, L4). Ominously for the traveling faithful, the visitors failed to find the net in all four losses in that sequence. But six league triumphs on the trot in Monday-held fixtures (European time) should inspire confidence around Simeone’s camp.

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