Atlético Madrid have rapidly fallen off the pace in LaLiga — and despite recent improvements in play, the team will drop further without a positive result at Villarreal on Friday.
Sunday’s loss to Barcelona prompted Diego Simeone to pivot, calling 2019/20 a “transitional season.” Atlético bowed out of the title race with that home defeat — the ninth time in the past 12 league games Los Colchoneros failed to win.
Though plenty of time remains, even cracking the top four doesn’t look like it will be a piece of cake. Atleti are sixth entering matchday 16 — and combined with the uncertain nature of Champions League progression, pressure is mounting on Simeone’s men to generate momentum and turn shots into goals.
The mattress makers have been held goalless over the past 210 minutes between LaLiga and the Champions League — despite mustering 32 shots, just four have required a save. Álvaro Morata has not scored in 292 minutes and João Félix’s goal drought is nearly five hours long. Vitolo’s barren run has swelled to 552 minutes, in a more extreme case.
Elsewhere, things aren’t exactly looking up in defense. José Giménez and Stefan Savić are still injured, while Felipe Monteiro is one yellow card from a suspension.
Oblak; Arias, Felipe, Hermoso, Lodi; Herrera, Thomas, Koke, Saúl; Félix, Morata.
1-1. Frankly, this would be a good result. Javi Calleja has serious talent at his disposal. Santi Cazorla’s status notwithstanding, the coach can call upon Gerard Moreno (eight goals), Karl Toko Ekambi (five) and the explosive Samuel Chukwueze out wide — not to mention rising star Pau Torres in defense. The hosts have lost three on the trot but have played reasonably well during this stretch.
Los Rojiblancos have one win from the past six trips to La Cerámica, and one win from the past eight meetings overall with Villarreal. Only Barcelona have scored more goals at home than these guys, and only the top two have scored more in total — great news for a defense which has conceded in seven straight games.
Simeone will probably take the point, if it comes down to that. There are over 20 league matches still to come and beating Lokomotiv Moscow on Wednesday has absolute priority.
My record on the season: 10-10
How to watch
Date: Dec. 6, 2019
Location: La Cerámica, Vila-real, Spain
Kickoff time: 9:00 p.m. CET, 8:00 p.m. GMT, 3:00 p.m. EST, 12:00 p.m. PST
Opposition site: Villarreal USA
Available TV/streaming: Movistar LaLiga (Spain), Premier Sports 2 (United Kingdom), beIN Sports (United States), Match TV Football 1 (Russia), DAZN (Germany), Sportklub 2 (Slovenia), Kayo Sports (Australia), iQiyi (China)