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Yannick Carrasco during the Copa del Rey round of 16 match...
Yannick Carrasco made his 200th Atlético appearance on Thursday.
Photo by Alvaro Laguna/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

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Villarreal CF-Atlético Madrid: Stiff challenge at La Cerámica

Atlético will reclaim fourth place with a win.

Atlético Madrid will visit Villarreal on Sunday night in a crucial game for both sides.

Villarreal (7-7-5, 28 points) have won four consecutive games in LaLiga after a slow start to the season had coach Unai Emery under pressure. Talisman Gerard Moreno has returned from injury, but Emery — who has never defeated Diego Simeone in a head-to-head meeting — will be shorthanded entering this match anyway. Samu Chukwueze and Boulaye Dia are off representing their countries at the African Cup of Nations, while Arnaut Danjuma and Yeremy Pino are doubtful to play.

Villarreal CF v Levante UD - La Liga Santander Photo by Aitor Alcalde Colomer/Getty Images

This does not mean Simeone will take Villarreal any less seriously.

“Villarreal are a very competitive team that plays well, attacks well,” Simeone said Saturday. “They are organized and force errors each game, making you push forward so that they generate spaces. I really like how they play.”

Atlético (9-5-5, 32 points) have started 2022 with back-to-back wins, but enter this game with several absences. In addition to the injured Antoine Griezmann, Simeone will not be able to count on the suspended duo of José Giménez and Luis Suárez. Stefan Savić was thought to be on the verge of returning, but he will miss his seventh consecutive game.

Rayo Majadahonda v Atletico Madrid - Spanish Copa del Rey Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

“It worries and concerns me,” Cholo said about the fitness problems in his team. “We will try to find solutions.”

Atleti also remain short at right-back, as the club has not yet found a replacement for Kieran Trippier. Marcos Llorente is likely to receive another start at the position on Sunday.

“The reality of Trippier’s departure is that it opens the possibility of having Marcos as a winger or a wing-back, as he is in the national team with Luis Enrique,” Simeone said. “Obviously a player cannot play in two places, wing-back and midfielder, at the same time. We always try to choose what best balances the team and makes us better.”

Date Jan. 9, 2022

Location La Cerámica, Vila-real, València

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 site Villarreal USA

Available TV/streaming ESPN+ (United States), Movistar LaLiga 1 (Spain), Premier Sports 1 (United Kingdom)

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