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Atlético Madrid-Levante UD: Simeone seeks a response

First-place Atlético can consolidate its position before meeting Chelsea in the Champions League.

Levante UD v Atletico Madrid - La Liga Santander
João Félix is likely to start Saturday’s rematch.
Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images

On Wednesday, Atlético Madrid dropped points in a league game for the second time in three outings, but los colchoneros will look to rectify the situation in a Saturday rematch with Levante.

“We are again going to find a team that plays very well,” Diego Simeone said Friday about Levante. “(A team) that plays in different ways — pressing high, going on the counterattack, playing 4-4-2, 4-3-3, a five-man defense.

“We will try to take the game to where we think we can hurt them.”

Levante (6-10-7, 28 points) landed the first blow at the Ciutat de València, where Enis Bardhi’s goal to finish off a counterattack opened the scoring in a 1-1 draw. Atlético (17-4-1, 55 points) will be changed drastically from Wednesday, as Simeone will be without Saúl (suspension), Stefan Savić (suspension), and Yannick Carrasco (post-traumatic muscular injury in the left leg).

“Yannick has a blow from the match against Granada,” Simeone said. “He played through it against Levante, so it was for his protection that he exited the game when he did. But the blow is still there, we’ll see how it develops (in the coming days).”

Levante UD v Atletico Madrid - La Liga Santander Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images

But Cholo is set to welcome back Thomas Lemar, who tested negative for COVID-19 on Friday, and could include Moussa Dembélé in the squad pending his COVID test result. Atlético are 16-0-1 when Lemar plays in LaLiga this season, and Atleti had won the Frenchman’s last eight starts before he tested positive for COVID.

Atlético moved too slowly and sloppily in the second half Wednesday, so Lemar will have options to start upon his return as his creativity and ball circulation offer something different. Renan Lodi will likely be included in the starting 11, and he may hold onto his place if Carrasco is ruled out definitively for Atleti’s Champions League game with Chelsea in Bucharest next week.

There’s no doubt Simeone wants a win above all else, but he’d really like a clean sheet, too — his team hasn’t kept one in five weeks. Atlético have won each of the past 11 home meetings with Levante, scoring 26 goals and conceding seven.

A blast from the past

Date Feb. 20, 2021

Location Estadio Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid

Kickoff time 4:15 p.m. CET, 3:15 p.m. GMT, 10:15 a.m. EST, 7:15 a.m. PST

TV/streaming availability Movistar+ (Spain), LaLiga TV (United Kingdom), beIN Sports (United States), ESPN2 Sur (Uruguay), Guangdong Sports Channel (China)