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Villa v Atlante preview


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VillaTalk previews Villa's crunch Group C encounter against Mexican side Atlante FC to see who progresses to the semi-finals.

Opponent : Atlante FC

Venue : La Rosaleda

Date : Wed 29th July

Kick off : 19:30 (20:30 CET)

150px-Aston_Villa.svg.png VERSUS AtlanteLogo.png

First let's take a look at our opponents :

Atlante FC are a Mexican Primera División outfit based in Cancún. They play their football in the 20,000 capacity Estadio Andrés Quintana Roo (pictured below) and are the reigning CONCACAF Champions League champions (effectively the North American equivalent to the Copa Libertadores).

Estadio_SLP.jpg

A brief history :

Atlante were formed in 1916 in Mexico City as 'Sinaloa' and changed their name a few times before deciding upon today's 'Atlante FC'. After jumping through political hoops they were eventually admitted to the Mexican league system in the 30's.

It is only since May 2007 that the team are based in the holiday resort of Cancún having been formed originally in the over-crowded (from a football point of view) Mexico City. Though a mere 5 months after moving to Cancún they won the CONCACAF Champions League off the back of their 3rd Primera División title (or Apertura). This achievement will qualify them to play at the next FIFA Club World Cup in Dubai. So on paper they've certainly got a recent pedigree.

While traditionally not one of the more successful teams in Mexico, they have always been one of the most popular and well followed sides in the country thanks mainly to their working class background.

Honours :

As mentioned, Atlante have 3 Mexican titles (46/47, 92/93 & 2007). They've also been runners up on 4 occasions (45/46, 49/50, 50/51 & 81/82). They have 3 Mexican Cups (41/42, 50/51 & 51/52), a CONCACAF Champions Cup title from 1983 and they are the reigning CONCACAF Champions League holders from the 2008/09 season.

Players of note :

By far the largest goal threat they possess is 27 year old all-time leading Venezuelan goalscorer Giancarlo Maldonado. A small lively striker with great technique and intelligence. He is coming off a poor season by his own standards (he typically averages 1 in 2) but can definitely cause problems if he's in the mood.

Only in the last 2 weeks Atlante have also acquired the closest thing to a well-known player this side of the pond in ex-Internazionale & Réal Madrid Argentinian striker Santiago Solari from Argetinian side San Lorenzo. At 32, Solari arrives on a free transfer and will no doubt be keen to make a mark for his new club.

Finally, keeping goal behind a very strong defence, they have the ever-reliable and eccentric Argentinian Federico Vilar (known as El Jefe (The Chief)) who is also the club captain. Vilar is renowned for his incredible reflexes and played for Boca Juniors from 1993 to 2000. He has also been known to step up and take long-distance free kicks for Atlante and to date has managed to score 4 goals in 5 season at the club.

As alluded to above, Atlante are known more for their defensive solidity than for their goalscoring exploits so, contrary to the preview for the Malaga game, we might expect a more cagey affair this time around with perhaps a slightly less adventurous opponent. Nevertheless, the contrasting styles of English speed & strength against Mexican guile & technique will make this a fascinating contest between teams that would never ordinarily meet in a typical calendar year. That's what makes this tournament so exciting. And think, if things had been different this could have been Celtic we were facing (yawn).

The Match

After our opening defeat to Malaga, our hopes looked in tatters; but thanks to Atlante's impressive 3-1 win against Malaga on Monday night, this game is now almost a winner takes all (with Malaga definitely eliminated). With a semi-final place up for grabs (likely against FC Porto), Villa go into this game knowing that they need to win by a margin of 2 or more goals to progress. Anything less than that would see Atlante into the semis. So our mission is simple and the knowledge of what is required on the night should help focus the team's minds.

On the injury front it is not known yet whether Emile Heskey has recovered sufficiently from his concussion to partner John Carew up front. If he hasn't then it is likely that Albrighton will start. Ideally you would like to see a proper 2 up front but with Agbonlahor & Delfouneso being rested that would only leave Harewood and we need him on the bench to rest Carew in the 2nd half.

It will be interesting to see how O'Neill approaches this game. Ordinarily you would think he would shuffle his starting 11 in his group games but given that this game is now so important to progressing, he might stick to the strong starting line-up that he used against Malaga - though let's hope they put in a better shift than on Saturday!!

One thing that is not in Villa's favour is the early kick off time. Against Malaga we kicked off in 25 degree heat (77f) at 22:30 local time and the pace was predictably slow. The match on Wednesday night will be two hours earlier at 20:30 local time and probably touching 30 centigrade (86f) if not higher. That is something the Mexicans will be more than used to and given our style of play i.e. we tend to run with the ball rather than let the ball work, this could further play into Atlante's hands. If we are to use our physical advantage against Atlante then we will need to be clever with our energy so we're not exhausted when the opportunities present themselves. It also means we may benefit from hitting them early as it is likely that they will last longer into the game. On the other hand, one thing we do have in our favour is the extra 2 days rest which you would think at this stage of the season could be crucial.

All in all, it sets itself up to be a fascinating encounter for a variety of reasons and once again, those of you lucky enough to have Gol TV will be able to see the match in full.

Click here to go to the VillaTalk Peace Cup thread.

Good luck Villa and let's get to those semis !!

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