If Atlético Madrid only had limited chances in this match, it would be understandable given fixture congestion. However, in terms of shots, Atlético Madrid dominated this match, and Villarreal did not have a single shot on target until deep into the second half. Villarreal had a difficult time getting the ball into the final third of the pitch, while Atleti were often in and around Villarreal’s box. Because of Villarreal’s struggles to get out of their own half, much of the match revolved around lots of fouls for both clubs.
Much of Atlético Madrid’s play flowed through the usual suspects, Felipe Luis, Gabi and Koke were involved in much of what Atlético does when going forward, as well as defending. However, despite Atlético’s dominance, Villarreal pounced on a defensive mistake, and Cedric Bakambu squared it for Roberto Soriano who scored with just their second shot on target in the match. Villarreal took advantage of the counter attack against Atleti’s back line, which has happened at times this season.
At times, Atlético were sloppy with their play, which led to the first goal, losing possession, which led to opportunities for Villarreal. Jose Maria Gimenez was again deployed at right back, and had a solid match, but when Vrsaljko comes back; there will be an added attacking element to the right side of the pitch, which Atlético have missed.
Diego Simeone opted to rotate some of his team, bringing in Nico Gaitan and Ángel Correa for Yannick Carrasco and Fernando Torres. Carrasco came on and went off for Torres and Kevin Gameiro did come on as substitutes as Atleti continued to push for a goal. Carrasco seemed to have problems with his shoulder, and was taken off.
Nico Gaitan has failed to impress for any extended period of time this season, and again was unimpressive against Villarreal. It is concerning that one of his best performances was against Guijuelo in the Copa del Rey, and given Simeone’s history, it seems that Nico will be set for another move this summer, unless Atleti’s transfer ban means they must keep him.
One of the more interesting moments of the match, in what was overall quite a strange game, Roberto Soldado was shown a yellow card while warming up on the sideline, needless to say, tensions were high for this one. Villarreal are still very much in a race for a Europa League place next season, with very little chance of catching either Sevilla or Atlético.
Atlético’s loss means if Sevilla win at home against Celta Vigo, they will go level on points with Atleti, but still behind on head-to-head. The loss was frustrating because Atleti had so many opportunities, though this loss won’t derail Atleti’s season, if it is a blip and not an indication of the start of a period of bad form. Because of their good shot numbers and overall good play in this match, it seems like this was a particularly unfortunate match for Atleti. Facing Las Palmas at the Canary Islands will be very difficult, and lots of rotation ahead of the Champions League could be expected, unless Simeone prioritizes this match. Las Palmas have been good at home, so it could be another difficult Liga match for Atleti.