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Atlético Madrid - Villarreal CF: Atlético trying to stay in the title fight

Los Rojiblancos face a Villarreal team that has one win from its past seven in the league.

Atletico Madrid v Celtic FC: Group E - UEFA Champions League 2023/24
Will Rodrigo Riquleme maintain his place in the 11?
Photo by Cristian Trujillo/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Atlético de Madrid host struggling Villarreal on Sunday night in the final game before the November international break, and Los Rojiblancos will hope to extend their 14-game home winning streak in LaLiga.

Atlético Madrid (8-1-2, 25 points) enter this match nine points adrift of shock leaders Girona — but Diego Simeone’s men will play one of their two games in hand here against a Villarreal side (3-3-6, 12 points) that sacked manager Pacheta on Friday.

Sports director Miguel Ángel Tena has been named caretaker while Villarreal sort out former coach Marcelino’s return to the bench over the international games.

“Villarreal’s coach has just left, it’ll be a complex game,” Simeone told the media on Saturday. “We don’t know how the opponent will start. I imagine several things that that team has always had, and I imagine those will not change. We’ll have to take the game to where we can hurt them.”

Villarreal’s forward pair of Gerard Moreno (seven goals in LaLiga) and Alexander Sørloth (six league goals) both have a history of scoring clutch goals against Atlético. Los Colchoneros have yet to keep a clean sheet at home in league play this season (how surprising is that?) — and in 42 league meetings between these two sides, each has won 14, drawn 14, and lost 14. Atleti have scored 57 goals in those 42 games, and Villarreal have scored 56.

“I imagine Villarreal want to reverse their situation. I think about the characteristics of their top players, and they’re all very good,” Simeone said. “We always look at the players, and from there, we imagine how the match could take shape.”

Villarreal CF v Athletic Club - LaLiga EA Sports
Alexander Sørloth has scored three goals in five career games against Atleti.
Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images

Simeone’s probable 11 has taken shape in recent days, and the coach could start both Samuel Lino and Rodrigo Riquelme if he’s unable to choose one from the in-form pair. Lino returned from injury on Tuesday to score and provide two assists against Celtic, while Riquelme earned his first Spain call-up on Friday thanks in part to his performances while Lino was out with a knee injury.

“They can play together, in any system, they are both doing well and competing very well with each other,” Simeone said. “Riquelme has already played as an interior, and Lino seeks more combinations with his teammates. The important thing is that the team is balanced.”

Elsewhere in the team, Rodrigo de Paul is expected to start on Koke’s right after serving a suspension during the Celtic game. The central defense trio in Friday’s training session will likely be the trio taking the pitch Sunday: José Giménez, Axel Witsel, and Mario Hermoso. Antoine Griezmann (11 goals in all competitions) and Álvaro Morata (12 goals all comps) will start up top.

Date Nov. 12, 2023

Location Estadio Cívitas Metropolitano, Madrid

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)