Previewing Atlético Madrid vs Athletic Club
Athletic Club have gone ten straight games without a victory and will be looking to change that on Saturday. The Lions will be marching into the Wanda Metropolitano to take on a dangerous Atlético Madrid side which will pose a real problem for the Basques. Eduardo Berizzo’s team will have to be at their best if they want to take something positive back to Bilbao and it certainly won’t be easy.
History is not on Athletic’s side in this matchup. The last time the Lions beat Atlético was back in January of 2013 at the San Mamés, and the last time they won on the road was two years earlier. These two teams have always played intense games over the decades and Saturday should be no different with Diego Simeone’s defensive focus going up against Berizzo’s intense pressing style.
Atlético have been in fine form since losing to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League back in late October. Since then they have won three games and drawn once while only conceding a single goal. Los Colchoneros currently sit fourth in the La Liga table and are four points off of league leaders Barcelona. A win on Saturday could put them in position to make a real run at the top spot coming out of the international break.
It hasn’t been a good year for injuries at Atlético. José Giménez, Koke, Lemar, Lucas Hernández, and Stefan Savic will all miss the game which will be a big blow for Simeone. In the meantime, Diego Godin and Diego Costa have both returned to training and are expected to be in the starting lineup on Saturday. Despite the absences, Atlético will still be a very dangerous opponent that will demand the best from their visitors.
This hasn’t been the season that Athletic expected. After hiring Eduardo Berizzo and making some significant summer signings the Lions were hoping to compete for a place in the top seven. Instead, they find themselves just one point clear of the relegation zone. Having not won a game in their last 10 matches definitely puts added pressure on the players who would love to go into the international break with something positive to build on.
Like their hosts, Athletic will also be without some key players. Dani García will be serving a one game suspension after picking up his fifth yellow card on Monday while Yeray is currently nursing a groin strain. Berizzo has already confirmed that Unai Nuñez will start in place of Yeray. Raúl García was also expected to miss the match as well due to a sprained ankle, but was able to train normally over the last two days and was called up. Whether or not he will start will depends on how he is feeling on Saturday.
No matter how you look at it, this is going to be a difficult game for Athletic to win. Atlético boast the strongest defense in La Liga and the Basques have struggled to score goals this season. As Berizzo stated in his pregame press conference, controlling the middle of the field will be vitally important. Athletic will have to limit their mistakes to ensure that Atlético don’t get the chance to counter attack if they want to get a positive result. Despite the poor performances this season, Athletic have already played great matches against Barcelona and Real Madrid. The Zurigorri are desperate for points and there’s nothing more dangerous than a hungry Lion.
Projected Athletic Club XI: Iago Herrerín, Oscar De Marcos, Unai Nuñez, Iñigo Martinez, Yuri Berchiche, Mikel San José, Beñat, Raúl García, Iker Muniain, Aritz Aduriz, Iñaki Williams