Villarreal vs Athletic Bilbao
Estadio de la Ceramica forms the backdrop for an exciting La Liga showdown between Villarreal and Athletic Bilbao.
Villarreal almost blew up a three-goal lead on their trip to Granada earlier this week but still walked away with a precious 3-2 victory, steering six points away from the drop zone ahead of this round. More importantly, that result helped ‘El Submarino Amarillo’ put an emphatic stop to a frustrating five-game winless run in La Liga (D3, L2), during which they alternated between drawing and losing. Consistency remains an issue for Pacheta’s side, especially on home turf, where they’ve only won once in five league outings this season (D1, L3). Despite Villarreal’s poor home form, La Ceramica has been a venue of entertainment, with four of their five home league fixtures here featuring 3+ goals and both teams scoring. Speaking of high-scoring themes, Villarreal ran out 5-1 victors in this fixture last term.
While Villarreal thumped lower-league Chiclana 5-0 in midweek Copa del Rey action, Athletic Bilbao squeezed past UE Rubi 2-1, maintaining their patchy seven-match form across all competitions (W3, D2, L2). Like their hosts, form problems have tormented the Basque powerhouse, especially of late, resulting in only a single win in their last five La Liga outings (D2, L2). But despite their dip in form following an impressive six-game league start (W4, D1, L1), Ernesto Valverde’s men begin this round well within European distance. They’d like to keep it that way, but since they’ve failed to win an away H2H against Villarreal since 2018 (D4, L1), it could prove easier said than done, more so, as they did not score more than once in any of those five meetings.