Athletic Will Decide Their European Fate Against A Weakened Atletico Team
Athletic Club was not able to officially book their place in next year’s Europa League when they drew 1-1 with Leganes on Sunday. The Lions still have control of sixth place over Real Sociedad, due to a head-to-head tiebreaker, meaning they will have the chance to decide their own destiny on the last day of the season. However, Ernesto Valverde’s side will conclude their campaign against Atletico Madrid in the final game ever at the Vicente Calderon which is a tall task.
Luckily for Athletic, next weekend’s match will not see Atletico at their strongest. Due to injuries and suspensions, Diego Simeone will be without five key defensive players which will make things a lot more difficult for them. Felipe Luis, Diego Godin, Sime Vrsaljko, Juanfran, and Jose Gimenez will all miss out on the final match ever at the Vicente Calderon.
This definitely gives Athletic a bit of help in a match that was already being looked at as a daunting task. Without their starting fullbacks, Atletico Madrid may have problems dealing with the pace and creativity of Inaki Williams and Iker Muniain. However, Simeone should still be able to field Lucas Hernandez and Stefan Savic in the center of the defense to provide some form of stability. It will be very interesting to see how the team is set up, but keep in mind that Atletico has made their name with defensive play over the last few years so they may have some tricks up their sleeve.
Another point of good news for Athletic is the fact that Aymeric Laporte, who missed last game due to suspension, will be back in the squad. Ernesto Valverde will have all of his top players available and will be able to field his strongest lineup. The Lions only need to finish with the same points as Real Sociedad to officially qualify for the Europa League, but a win would be the simplest way to decide their fate. Real Sociedad will also be on the road against a Celta Vigo team that has a lot to prove after being eliminated from the Europa League last week by Manchester United.