Atletico Madrid will make the trip to Villarreal in pursuit of a victory that could see them finish in second place ahead of city-rivals Real Madrid in La Liga table.

Villarreal and Atletico Madrid will square off at the Estadio de la Ceramica in what promises to be one of the most entertaining games on the final matchday of the 2022/23 La Liga campaign.

Quique Setien’s appointment at Villarreal came in difficult circumstances because of Unai Emery’s abrupt departure to Aston Villa. They have now confirmed this week that Setien will be staying beyond this summer. And overall, he can be pretty pleased with how he has turned the tide after a really rocky start in charge.

The hosts come into this one off the back of a 2-1 defeat away to Rayo Vallecano, which ended a six-game unbeaten run (W5 D1). Villarreal’s home form has been crucial to their success this season, and they are on a four-game winning streak in front of their own fans, but they will be welcoming an Atletico side eyeing up the runners-up spot in La Liga.

Atletico are third in the table, just one point adrift of second-placed Real Madrid, who will finish their season at home to European hopefuls Athletic Bilbao. At the start of the year, it was thought that Diego Simeone’s time as manager of Atletico Madrid would come to an end. Los Rojiblancos had been ousted from the UEFA Champions League, and finishing in the top four looked like a tricky task for the first time in a long while.

However, they have made a superb recovery in the last few months of the campaign, despite the odd blip here and there in recent weeks, and head into the final day with a realistic chance of finishing above Real Madrid in the league for the fifth time in the last nine years.

Los Rojiblancos come into this encounter on the back of a 2-1 victory at home to Real Sociedad, who will be joining them in the UEFA Champions League group stages next season. Atleti have well and truly turned their fortunes since the start of 2023, suffering just three defeats from 23 LaLiga clashes, two of which came against Xavi’s Barca, while the other came in a bizarre match against bottom-of-the-table, already relegated, and free-spirited Elche.

With Antoine Griezmann in fine form, Diego Simeone’s men will be looking to finish strong ahead of what could be a highly successful campaign should they keep up this positive momentum into the 2023/24 season. Having run out 2-0 winners in the reverse fixture at Wanda Metropolitano in August, the Yellow Submarine will be looking to do the double over Atletico for the season.

Team News & Tactics


Villarreal will once again have to make do without the services of Francis Coquelin owing to a long-term knee injury. Meanwhile, Raul Albiol (knee) and Jose Luis Morales (knee) are major doubts for the home side. Juan Foyth is sidelined with a shoulder injury, and head coach Quique Setien will also be unable to call upon Alfonso Pedraza, who is suspended due to an accumulation of yellow cards.

Quique Setien’s possession-obsessed philosophy is very evident right from the start of his tenure, with Villarreal shooting into the top three for possession stats. The former Real Betis and Barcelona head coach does have a reputation for being a bit pretentious and perhaps implementing an overly sophisticated when it comes to style of play. But Villarreal have been truly entertaining while still consistently achieving good results.

The hosts are likely to set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation in front of veteran goalkeeper Pepe Reina, who will be ousted from his No. 1 position next season with a transfer move for Croatian World Cup hero Dominik Livakovic in the pipeline.

Aissa Mandi and long-serving academy graduate Pau Torres, who could well be playing the final game in Villarreal colours amid transfer talk of a move away from the Yellow Submarine, ought to form the central defensive pairing tasked with keeping Griezmann and Morata quiet.

With Pedraza suspended, former Liverpool defender Alberto Moreno should therefore start at left-back, whereas Juan Foyth will be a marauding attacking presence on the opposite flank. Etienne Capoue could potentially earn a recall for Villarreal’s final game of the season to slot alongside Dani Pareji in the double midfield pivot.

Up front, Gerard Romero has not had a vintage campaign owing to injuries. In his absence, Nicolas Jackson has really stepped up his end product in recent weeks. Samuel Chukwueze and Yeremy Pino will provide the buzz, speed, creativity, and threat of powerful runs down the flanks, with Alex Baena operating in the No. 10 role behind Jackson.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Reina; Foyth, Mandi, Pau Torres, Alberto Moreno; Parejo, Capoue; Chukwueze, Baena, Pino; Jackson

Atletico Madrid

Atletico Madrid’s medical team has been pretty busy in recent weeks, with the treatment room racking up injured players. Reinildo and Jose Gimenez are both out with knee injuries, and Jan Oblak is unavailable with a neck injury.

Yannick Carrasco and Memphis Depay are significant doubts due to a face and muscle injury, respectively. Meanwhile, World Cup winner Rodrigo de Paul is suspended after picking up too many yellow cards over the course of the season.

Los Colchoneros ought to continue setting up in a 5-3-2 formation in front of goalkeeper Ivo Grbic. Stefan Savic, Axel Witsel, and Mario Hermoso should form the three-man defensive unit, while Nahuel Molina and Sergio Reguilon slot in as the wing-backs on the right and left sides, respectively.

Saul Niguez has rolled back the years with his stellar performances in recent games and will lineup alongside Pablo Barrios and Koke at the centre of the park.

Talisman Antoine Griezmann has been involved in 29 goals in 37 games in La Liga this season (15 goals and 14 assists), overtaking his best tally for goal contributions in a single season in the competition.

Alvaro Morata’s comeback to Atleti has gone about as well as expected, if not better, scoring 13 goals this season. It’s still a solid return, though at times unspectacular. Linked with a summer exit, the Spaniard will look to sign off the season on a high with a goal-scoring performance against Villarreal.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Grbic; Savic, Witsel, Hermoso; Molina, Saul, Barrios, Koke, Reguilon; Griezmann, Morata

Key Stats

  • Villarreal have not won any of their last four home matches against Atletico Madrid in La Liga (D3 L1), their worst home record against the Rojiblancos in the competition.
  • The visitors have recorded just one clean sheet in their last ten league games.
  • Atletico Madrid have lost two of their past four away games in La Liga (W1 D1), as many defeats as in their previous 16 away games in the top-flight (W11 D3).
  • Atletico Madrid are unbeaten in 19 of their last 21 La Liga matches.
  • Villarreal coach Quique Setien has only won one of his eight games head-to-head against Atletico Madrid’s Diego Pablo Simeone in La Liga (D2 L5).

Player to Watch

Nicolas Jackson

Villarreal forward Nicolas Jackson is La Liga’s in-form player at the moment. The Senegalese has eight goals and two assists in his last seven matches, stepping up to the plate in the hunt for European qualification. He had a stellar month in May, racking up five goals and two assists in five matches.

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As a result, he has been awarded La Liga’s Player of the Month award following his excellent performances for the Yellow Submarine. Jackson’s situation is even more incredible when considering the fact that he would not even be at Villarreal right now had he not failed his medical at AFC Bournemouth in January.

Actually, the 21-year-old struggled to make his mark in the first half of the season, and he was very close to joining the Premier League club in January. But an underlying hamstring injury scuppered the move. It has proven to be a blessing in disguise for Villarreal, as Jackson’s exploits have been crucial to their push for European places.

Bournemouth agreed on a fee of €23 million with Villarreal for Jackson in January. But going by Quique Setien’s recent remarks, the Yellow Submarine could be looking for almost €50 million to part company with the 21-year-old this summer now that he has finally come good. Nevertheless, the in-demand Senegalese forward will look to continue his top form in this home clash.


Villarreal 2-3 Atletico Madrid

With one game remaining in the 2022/23 La Liga season, neither Villarreal nor Atletico Madrid have much to play for. Both of these teams will be in the group stages of European competition next season, with Villarreal in the UEFA Europa League and Atletico Madrid getting back into the UEFA Champions League thanks to a really impressive recovery.

Atletico Madrid are set to be without some key players for this encounter, while Villarreal are expected to provide stiff competition for Diego Simeone’s side. With no pressure on players, this could be a high-scoring and entertaining affair, even if we see the visitors win by a slim margin.

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