Previewing Villarreal vs Athletic Club: LaLiga Matchday 12

Inigo Martinez Yeray Real Sociedad

Athletic’s defense must be at their very best to stop Villarreal’s forwards (MD)

Athletic desperately needed Wendesday’s win over Espanyol. The 3-0 victory at San Mamés ended the team’s streak of five straight games without a win but there wasn’t much time for celebrations. The Lions had to immediately start preparing for Sunday’s trip to Villarreal where they hope to build on the momentum and move back into the European zone of the La Liga table.

Throughout the years matches between Athletic and Villarreal have been very tight. Surprisingly, the two sides have met just 44 times with Athletic winning 15 to Villarreal’s 17. There hasn’t been much to separate them recently either with both clubs winning twice in the last six fixtures. As Athletic make the trip it’s also important to note that the Lions haven’t lost at Estadio de la Cerámica in their last two visits, but Villarreal will certainly want to change that.

Villarreal have been one of La Liga’s most dynamic attacking sides this season, especially at home. The Yellow Submarine have scored 17 goals in 5 matches at Estadio de la Cerámica where they haven’t lost a single game. Gerard Moreno leads the team with 8 goals while Karl Took Ekambi, Santi Cazorla, Samuel Chukwueze, and Moi Gómez have all contributed heavily as well.

Despite the electric attack, manager Javier Calleja hasn’t been able to find a solution to Villarreal’s struggling defense. The team has conceded 7 goals in their last 5 matches but have been able to manage positive results for the most part. Villarreal will be hoping to respond well following Thursday’s 2-1 loss to Eibar and will have that opportunity at home against Athletic.

Likewise, the Basques are also in need of a big result. After putting an end to their five game winless streak on earlier this week, the Lions know that they have to build on the momentum or risk falling back down in the table. This match will be interesting from a tactical point of view as Athletic’s impressive defense will be tasked with silencing Villarreal’s stunning attack.

Iker Muniain Celebrate Espanyol

Can the Lions build on Wednesday’s massive win over Espanyol? (EC)

Gaizka Garitano will have a few important decisions to make in terms of the lineup. Both Beñat and Unai López have been ruled out due to injuries meaning there will be a massive hole in the midfield. Mikel San José is expected to start alongside Dani García, though Mikel Vesga has also been called up. The rest of the team could remain unchanged in order to keep the rhythm from the win over Espanyol, however it’s possible that Garitano could make some alterations in attack.

Sunday’s fixture will be one of the biggest and most difficult games of the season. While there will be several tactical battles to watch closely, this match will likely be won by whichever side can control the wings. Ander Capa and Yuri Berchiche will play key roles in the outcome of the game and, if they are at their best, could be instrumental in leading the Zurigorri to three points. Two very different styles of football will be on display and Athletic are determined to return to Bilbao with another crucial victory.

Projected Athletic Club XI: Unai Simón, Ander Capa, Yeray, Iñigo Martinez, Yuri Berchiche, Dani García, Mikel San José, Oscar De Marcos Raúl García, Iker Muniain, Iñaki Williams

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