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Villarreal CF-Atlético Madrid: Pressure on as Atlético seek first win in four

Cholo’s crew takes on Unai Emery’s charges at La Cerámica.

Atletico Madrid Training Session
This man could really use a clean sheet.
Photo by Stefan Constantin/MB Media/Getty Images

Not since the start of Fernando Torres’ second stint have Atlético Madrid defeated Villarreal on the road — a run Diego Simeone’s wounded troops will try to end on Sunday.

Atlético (17-4-2, 55 points) scored a 1-0 win over Villarreal (8-13-3, 37 points) on April 29, 2015. Since then, this hotly-contested fixture has seen the spoils shared on five occasions, with Villarreal grabbing four wins to Atleti’s two (both in Madrid).

“I imagine Villarreal will have a lot of possession,” Diego Simeone said Saturday. “(They will) search for holes with Moi (Gómez) and Gerard (Moreno), they have speed and depth on the wings, experience with (Raúl) Albiol. Pau (Torres) is having a great season.

“They have great players and a great manager, and they are a very difficult team to play.”

Atletico Madrid v Chelsea FC - UEFA Champions League Round Of 16 Leg One Photo by Cristi Preda/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

The visit to Vila-real ends a complicated month for Atlético, one which has seen coronavirus and injuries decimate the team that had run up a 10-point lead in LaLiga. That lead has now dwindled to two points over Barcelona (though the Catalans have played two games more) and three points over Real Madrid (the reigning champions have played a game more).

Atleti have conceded in eight games running between LaLiga and the Champions League, letting in 11 goals during that time — a streak Simeone is desperate to conclude.

“I have a lot of trust in my team, in the players, in their quality, in the work we do,” Simeone said

Meanwhile, Villarreal booked safe passage to the Europa League’s last 16 on Thursday with a second win in a week over Red Bull Salzburg. But at the rate Emery’s men are going, they face a struggle to return to the competition next season. Villarreal have not won a league game since Jan. 8, drawing five times in six outings since a 4-0 thrashing of Celta Vigo.

Villarreal CF v RB Salzburg - UEFA Europa League Round Of 32 Leg Two Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Emery’s top scorer Moreno won’t be facing Atlético’s full-strength defense — Yannick Carrasco and José Giménez remain sidelined with injuries, though the former is expected back for next week’s Madrid Derby. Kieran Trippier remains ineligible but will be available to face Madrid, as his FA ban for “violating betting regulations” ends March 1. Šime Vrsaljko is expected get the nod here.

Something to watch — Luis Suárez, who has scored on his last three visits to La Cerámica, is on four yellow cards for the season. If he is booked Sunday, he will miss the derby.

Date Feb. 28, 2021

Location Estadio de la Cerámica, Vila-real, Valencia

Kickoff time 9:00 p.m. CET, 8:00 p.m. GMT, 3:00 p.m. EST, 12:00 p.m. PST

SB Nation opposition blog Villarreal USA

Available TV/streaming Movistar LaLiga (Spain), LaLiga TV (United Kingdom), beIN Sports (United States), DIRECTV Sports (Argentina), SuperSport MáXimo 2 (Central African Republic), Migu (China)