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Atlético Madrid-Villarreal CF: An early-season test

Simeone’s men welcome top-four hopefuls to the Cívitas Metropolitano.

Getafe v Atletico Madrid - La Liga Santander
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Antoine Griezmann’s future was a topic of discussion at Saturday’s press conference.
Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Atlético Madrid welcome Villarreal to the Metropolitano on Sunday night for the latest installment of an entertaining rivalry.

Both meetings between Atlético and Villarreal last season ended in 2-2 draws, as the home team in each encounter dominated the match but needed to hang on to the result at the end. The previous meeting at the Metropolitano was particularly crazy, as Atleti needed a 95th-minute Aïssa Mandi own goal to scrape a draw in matchday three last August.

The Rojiblancos have not lost any of the past eight matchups with Villarreal in LaLiga, but five of those games have ended with the points shared.

“They’ve started strong, they played a lot of friendlies and (they’re) in the (UEFA Europa) Conference League,” Diego Simeone told the media on Saturday. “I really like Emery’s disposition as a coach, and their players have a lot of quality.

“These are always (challenging) games, tough and entertaining. To get the victory, we will have to take the game to where we want.”

Villarreal’s squad may yet change before the end of the window, as FC Barcelona seem intent on signing its starting right-back Juan Foyth while Premier League clubs are eyeing young winger Yeremy Pino. But Unai Emery’s team is clearly good enough to fight for a Champions League place after reaching the competition’s semifinal stage last year.

Villarreal v Atletico Madrid - La Liga Santander
Simeone and Emery instruct their players during the last meeting between Atlético and Villarreal, a 2-2 draw in January.
Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Simeone also seems concerned English riches or promises of more playing time abroad could come for his players before the transfer window shuts on Sept. 1.

The best thing for coaches would be for the market to close when the season starts. Waiting, while it remains open, complicates the (coaches’) work,” he said. “Until the market closes, players will be restless. Another chapter will begin when the window shuts and we’ll see who will play or not.”

Cholo is no stranger to seeing late business conducted in the Atlético offices. Two years ago, the coach lost Thomas Partey to Arsenal on the last day of the window, while the club brought Antoine Griezmann back from Barcelona in the final seconds last August.

“I’ve talked a lot about (Griezmann) lately. He’s a very complete player and he knows what we want,” he said. “I think he’s adaptable in terms of his position, because he sees the game so well. I hope he stays with us. I really appreciate him and he is very valuable for the club.”

Griezmann is expected to begin the Villarreal game on the bench, as Simeone has tried out a lineup similar to the one that eased past Getafe on Monday. The only change could be Yannick Carrasco replacing Saúl Ñíguez at left wing-back.

State of the squad All 22 first-team players are available.

Date Aug. 21, 2022

Location Estadio Cívitas Metropolitano, Madrid

Kickoff time 7:30 p.m. CEST, 6:30 p.m. BST, 1:30 p.m. EST, 10:30 a.m. PST

SB Nation opposition site Villarreal USA

Available TV/streaming ESPN+ (United States), DAZN (Spain), LaLiga TV (United Kingdom)