MADRID (AP)For Atletico Madrid, the World Cup break can’t come soon enough.
Atletico’s struggles continued Wednesday with a 1-0 loss at Mallorca in the Spanish league, extending the team’s winless streak to five matches in all competitions.
The latest setback dropped Diego Simeone’s team to sixth place going into the World Cup stoppage. Its last match before the break will be in the first round of the Copa del Rey on Saturday.
”It’s clear that the break will give us more tranquility to keep working,” Simeone said. ”Hopefully after the World Cup we can return with the will to reverse this situation, which obviously is a difficult one.”
Vedat Muriqi scored Mallorca’s winner from close range in the 16th minute. The Kosovo striker has found the net in his last four league matches.
Atletico came close to equalizing in the 86th but Alvaro’s Morata’s powerful close-range shot was spectacularly saved by Mallorca goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic.
Atletico hasn’t won in its last three league matches. Its last triumph had been against Real Betis in October.
”I don’t think there’s an explanation (for what is happening with the team),” Atletico midfielder Koke Resurreccion said. ”In these last few games we haven’t been at the level that we have to be. We are going through a very bad streak, that’s the reality. More than ever we have to be united to try to start turning things around.”
Atletico was desperately trying to go into the league break on a positive note after being eliminated in the group stage of the Champions League and missing out on qualification for the Europa League playoffs.
It was coming off a 1-1 home draw against Espanyol and a 3-2 loss at relegation-threatened Cadiz in the Spanish league, while in the Champions League it drew with Bayer Leverkusen at home and lost at Porto.
Simeone was under increased pressure after the run of poor results, with fans protesting and booing the squad.
Atletico’s only realistic chance of winning a title this season is at the Copa del Rey, as its distance to Spanish league leader Barcelona is already at 13 points after 14 rounds.
”We have an important Copa match, and we need to do very well in the Copa del Rey, for our fans and for ourselves,” Koke said. ”We deserve it.”
Midtable Mallorca is unbeaten in four consecutive league games. It was coming off a draw against Espanyol and wins at Valencia and at Villarreal.
It has won three straight against Atletico in the Spanish league.
Playing most of the match with nine men, Sevilla lost 2-1 to Real Sociedad to remain winless at home in the league this season.
Sevilla saw Ivan Rakitic sent off in the 28th and Tanguy Nianzou in the 34th, both for hard fouls.
Sociedad had taken the lead through Alexander Sorloth in the 20th.
Sevilla equalized through Rafa Mir in the 44th and Brais Mendez netted the winner for Sociedad, which moved past Basque Country rival Athletic Bilbao into third place.
Villarreal defeated Espanyol 1-0 on the road to give coach Quique Setien his first win since taking over the team.
An own-goal by Benjamin Lecomte in the 66th gave the win for Villarreal, which had been winless in four matches since Setien replaced Unai Emery.
Espanyol’s winless streak reached five matches, and it stayed only one point from the relegation zone.
Eighth-place Villarreal saw Gerard Moreno and Juan Foyth return from injury. Both players are still hopeful of making it to the World Cup – Moreno with Spain and Foyth with Argentina.
In another game Wednesday, 14th-place Almeria defeated 15th-place Getafe 1-0 at home with a first-half goal by Leo Baptistao.
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