ATLÉTICO MADRID

Luis Suarez hands Simeone a dilemma ahead of Real Madrid

Luis Suarez is a yellow card away from being banned for the derby against Real Madrid, a must-win game with the Liga title race suddenly wide open.

Luis Suarez hands Simeone a dilemma ahead of Real Madrid
SUSANA VERA REUTERS

Atlético Madrid are by Diego Simeone’s own admission in a “difficult moment” in the 2020-21 Liga season as the leaders have seen their healthy advantage at the top of the table slashed to just three points after a run of poor results. Saturday’s loss to Levante followed a draw against the same opposition, which was preceded by another at Celta. Over the course of the last three games Luis Suárez, Atlético’s most decisive player and an on-field leader cast from the same iron as Simeone himself, has failed to find the net, drawing blanks against Levante and Granada.

Suárez firing Atlético to the top

Stll, the Uruguayan remains the top scorer in the division and Atlético’s most potent attacking weapon as the league title race opens up. So far in 2021 Suárez has scored twice in a single game against Celta, Eibar and Cádiz as well as the winner against Alavés. Were it not for the former Barcelona striker, Atlético’s league position would be very different.

All of which leaves Simeone with a delicate balancing act over the next couple of games. Atlético travel to Villarreal next weekend with Suárez one caution away from a ban. The Uruguayan did not find his way into the referee’s book against Levante and will carry the prospect of a ban into the game at the Cerámica with Atleti’s next fixture being the derby against Real Madrid at the Metropolitano on 7 March.

Zinedine Zidane’s side are just three points adrift of Atlético after the weekend’s results and before Saturday were alone in having beaten Simeone’s team this season, a 2-0 win at the Alfredo Di Stéfano last December.

Llorente and Félix Simeone's other options

João Félix in action against Levante.

If either side claims victory in the return fixture it will be a huge boost to their title credentials and Simeone will be eager to have Suárez available. Villarreal are not to be taken lightly in the interim though and the Atlético manager will have to make a decision as to whether to risk Suárez next Sunday ahead of the derby or hand the responsibility to Marcos Llorente and João Félix, who both have nine goals in the league this season. Beyond that, Atlético’s next-highest scorer is Ángel Correa with four.