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Preview: Atalanta BC vs. Villarreal - prediction, team news, lineups
09/12/2021 14:01:49

Atalanta BC and Villarreal will lock horns in the Champions League on Wednesday night, with both teams battling for second position in Group F.

Villarreal are currently second in the section, one point clear of third-placed Atalanta, meaning that the home side will go through to the last-16 stage of the competition with a victory, but a draw or defeat would allow the Spanish outfit to finish second in the section behind Manchester United.

We say: Atalanta BC 2-1 Villarreal

This is a very, very difficult game to call, and a strong case can be made for both sides to triumph on Wednesday. Atalanta's recent form has been very impressive, though, and we are expecting the home team to collect all three points and secure their spot in the last-16 stage of the competition.

Match preview

Atalanta have won one, drawn three and lost one of their five matches in Group F, which has left them in third position in the section on six points, but they would advance to the last-16 stage of the Champions League with a victory over the Yellow Submarine on Wednesday night.

The Italian giants were held to a 2-2 draw by Man United at the start of November before playing out a 3-3 draw with Young Boys towards the end of last month, with Luis Muriel's 88th-minute effort ensuring that the visitors would leave Switzerland with a point to show for their efforts.

Atalanta have been in excellent form in Serie A, winning each of their last five matches, including a 3-2 success over Napoli on Saturday, which has left them in fourth position in the table, four points behind leaders AC Milan.

Gian Piero Gasperini's side have reached the quarter-finals and round of 16 in the last two seasons of the Champions League, meaning that it would be somewhat of a surprise if the Italian team failed to finish in the top two, but they have struggled to show their best form in this season's competition.

A win on Wednesday would be enough to advance to the knockout round, though, and they would certainly be dangerous opponents in the round of 16 due to their quality in the forward areas.

Villarreal, meanwhile, will head to Italy knowing that they only need to avoid defeat to secure the position behind Man United in Group F, which has been a very competitive section.

The Yellow Submarine have won two, drawn one and lost two of their five matches in the group to collect seven points, with back-to-back victories over Young Boys placing them in a strong position in the group.

The 2-0 defeat to Man United on November 23 was a damaging result for Unai Emery's side, though, and they must now pick up a positive result in a very difficult match away to their in-form opponents.

Villarreal will enter the contest off the back of a 1-0 defeat at Sevilla in La Liga on Saturday, which has left them down in 13th position in La Liga, with the team winning just three of their 15 league games this term.

The La Liga club have twice reached the knockout round of the Champions League, making the semi-finals on their debut appearance in 2005-06 before reaching the quarter-finals three years later, but this is their first appearance in the group stage of this competition since 2011-12.

Team News

Atalanta will again be without the services of Robin Gosens and Matteo Lovato through injury, but the home side are otherwise in good shape, with Hans Hateboer recently returning from a foot injury.

Ruslan Malinovskyi was impressive against Napoli on Saturday, and the 28-year-old might have done enough to secure a starting role in attack alongside Duvan Zapata and Mario Pasalic.

The home side will again line up in a 3-4-3 formation, with Marten de Roon being joined by Remo Freuler in midfield, while the likes of Muriel, Josip Ilicic and Matteo Pessina are expected to be on the bench.

As for Villarreal, Yeremi Pino will miss the contest through suspension, while Serge Aurier is ineligible, but the Yellow Submarine could be handed two fitness boosts ahead of the match.

Indeed, both Arnaut Danjuma and Francis Coquelin are expected to overcome knocks to start, with the former potentially featuring alongside Gerard Moreno and Manu Trigueros in attack.

There are not likely to be any surprises for the La Liga side at the back, with Juan Foyth, Raul Albiol, Pau Torres and Pervis Estupinan set to start, while Etienne Capoue and Dani Parejo will feature in midfield.

Atalanta BC possible starting lineup:

Musso; Toloi, Demiral, Palomino; Zappacosta, De Roon, Freuler, Maehle; Pasalic, Zapata, Malinovskyi

Villarreal possible starting lineup:

Rulli; Foyth, Albiol, Torres, Estupinan; Parejo, Capoue, Coquelin; Trigueros, G Moreno, Danjuma

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