When the La Liga season started, Villarreal and Athletic Bilbao were expected to be in similar positions at the end. Villarreal's loss of Santi Cazorla and Athletic's hiring of Marcelo Bielsa were supposed to put the teams on equal footing with the likes of Sevilla or Atletico Madrid, on the fringes of the top four.
At the end of February, Athletic are arguably the favorite to finish in fourth place while Villarreal is in a relegation scrap. Injuries and abysmal road form have the Yellow Submarine just one spot above the drop zone. After last week's 4-0 drubbing at the hands of mediocre Mallorca, Villarreal need to right the ship quickly.
If they had to play Athletic at San Mames right now, they probably wouldn't have a prayer. But they have lost only once this season at El Madrigal. Between that and the fact that Bilbao are coming off of a hard-fought Europa League match against Lokomotiv Moscow on Thursday, Marcelo Bielsa probably won't be too upset with a draw.
Athletic also have some injury and suspension issues to deal with. Ander Herrera and Iker Muniain are suspended, while Fernando Amorebieta might not be fit to start.
Game Date/Time: Sunday, February 26, 6:00 a.m. ET, 12:00 p.m. local
Venue: El Madrigal, Villarreal, Spain