Villarreal finished fifth last season, but a slow start to the 2018/19 campaign saw them languishing eleven places below in 16th place before a ball was kicked.
Not the start to the season the Yellow submarine would’ve wanted, with just two victories, two draws and four defeats from their opening eight games in La Liga; and despite their impressive defensive record of just seven goals conceded, had scored just six. An area they are clearly lacking in.
Despite a comprehensive 0-3 win over Athletic Bilbao, what followed came two straight league defeats against Real Valladolid and Espanyol, generating one goal and conceding four.
Therefore, coming into this one at the Estadio de la Cerámica Javier Calleja’s side needed at least a point if they were going to make up the six-point gap between themselves and a Europa League place. Those spots are currently occupied by a struggling Real Madrid and in-form Espanyol.
Considering Villarreal are somewhat of a bogey team for Diego Simeone, who before the game were unbeaten in their previous six games against Atletico Madrid in La Liga, the optimism was high.
Atleti’s campaign has been steady and as you would expect, solid at the back.
Coming into this one, Atletico Madrid were on a run of five full games without conceding a goal and were hoping to continue this during their trip to Castellón.
Atleti have the strongest defence in La Liga with just four goals conceded all season, but only nine goals scored. They have lacked form in front of goal at times this season.
Atletico were in fourth place, level on points with Barcelona, and just one point above Real Madrid with 15 points and looking to leapfrog them to either keep tabs on or take over Deportivo Alaves.
The game was a slow burner, a cagey first period which somewhat burst into life in the second half.
Despite Villarreal’s bright start to the second half, Atletico opened the scoring after 51-minutes when Griezmann’s delivery was flicked onto the bar from Ramiro Funes Mori and Filipe Luís was quickest to the loose ball to put Atleti in front.
From that moment, the game sprung into life a little, and despite Atletico’s defensive solidity, shortly after the hour mark Carlos Bacca made an impact straight after coming off the bench. His ball across the box caused a major scramble before it fell to Mario Gaspar, whose outside of the boot strike beat Jan Oblak who couldn’t adjust his body to get down to prevent the equaliser.
There were opportunities carved out for both sides to steal all three points, Thomas Lemar’s free header came close and Bacca, who seemingly rounded Oblak, was denied when the ball was clawed away from his feet just as he was about to roll the ball into the net.
As the game ended all square, Villarreal continue their impressive run against Atleti with seven games without defeat in La Liga against Simeone’s men.
But that is now a worrying six consecutive games in La Liga without victory for Villarreal despite jumping two places in the table.
Meanwhile, Atleti temporarily moved above Barca, who had a kick-off later in the day against high flying Sevilla. However, Barça won 4-2 at Camp Nou and reclaimed their spot at the top of the table.
Next up for the Yellow submarine is a trip to the Mendizorrotza to face La Liga’s surprise package Alaves.