Villarreal vs Athletic Club predictions and match preview for Saturday’s LaLiga fixture. Read on for analysis, team news and predicted lineups as two European hopefuls clash.
|Saturday 13th May 2023
Villarreal vs Athletic Club Preview
The Ceramica is the setting for an important game in the race for European positions in LaLiga this weekend. 7 points separate the sides which suggests they aren’t direct rivals but an Athletic win would potentially make things a bit more interesting with the visitors needing a really strong end to the season to have any chance of Europa League rather than Conference League qualification.
A place in next season’s UEFA Europa League is the minimum that Villarreal should be looking at, although they won’t have given up on a top four finish just yet. Finishing 4th rather than 5th may have a big impact on their ability to compete in this summer’s transfer market while holding onto key players in what’s likely to be quite an active transfer window at the Ceramica.
They are 7 points off 4th placed Real Sociedad heading into this weekend though and that gap may have grown to 10 points by the time this one kicks off. Villarreal’s form has been pretty good overall though with 7 wins from their last 11 games in LaLiga. Despite the absence of striker Gerard Moreno, who is now fit, they’ve been scoring freely with 4-2 and 3-1 wins in their most recent home games.
That’s an ominous sign for an Athletic Club defence which is severely hampered by injuries here. Ernesto Valverde could well be without his three main centre-backs here with Dani Vivian suspended and Inigo Martinez injured again. Yeray is also a major doubt so Aitor Paredes looks certain to start and either veteran Mikel Balenziaga or midfielder Dani Garcia may have to fill in as the other centre-back.
There are problems at the other end too with Athletic only managing to score once in their last three league games, also only collecting one point as their European challenge has faded. Damaging 1-0 home defeats against Sevilla and Betis have seen them drop below Girona in the standings but they are still one of the sides best placed to clinch the Conference League place.
Team News & Possible Lineups
|Coquelin, Morales, Albiol
Possible XI: Reina – Pedraza, Torres, Mandi, Foyth – Lo Celso, Parejo, Capoue – Pino, Jackson, Chukwueze (4-3-3)
Coach: Quique Setien
|Morcillo, Inigo Martinez
|Yeray, De Marcos
Possible XI: Simon – Yuri, Balenciaga, Paredes, De Marcos – Dani Garcia, Vesga, – N. Williams, Sancet, I. Williams – Guruzeta (4-2-3-1)
Coach: Ernesto Valverde
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Score Prediction: Villarreal 3-1 Athletic Club
Athletic’s central defensive problems could leave them very vulnerable here to a free-scoring Villarrreal attack. Quique Setien must decide whether to stick with in-form Nicolas Jackson or revert to Gerard Moreno up front, but either way they are capable of causing big problems for the away team and should win this game.
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