Previewing Atlético Madrid vs Athletic Club: LaLiga Matchday 10
It was the best of defenses, it was the worst of scoring. Saturday’s match between Athletic and Atlético Madrid will feature two very similar teams in what will be a pivotal game for both sides. The two clubs boast La Liga’s best defenses, having conceded just 5 goals each so far this season, but have found it extremely difficult to score in attack. Three points will be on the line this weekend and this fixture may be as close as they come.
Until last year it was essentially a given that Atlético would get a positive result against the Lions. Athletic had not beaten the Colchoneros since January of 2013 before finally taking all three points in a 2-0 win at San Mamés in March. In fact, the Basques have played very well against Atlético in recent meetings with Iñaki Williams having scored four goals against Diego Simeone’s side. Athletic may only have 61 victories in 170 total meetings, but there is no fear and total confidence.
Atlético have suffered just one loss this season, but haven’t been in the best form. Losing Antoine Griezmann, Lucas Hernandez, and Diego Godin has been difficult to overcome with the team currently going through something of a transition. While the defense has still been reliably excellent under Simeone, scoring goals has been a serious issue. In addition, Atlético haven’t won a league game at home since early September which certainly bodes well for Athletic.
To make things even more difficult, Simeone will also have to contend with two major absences as João Félix and José Giménez will both miss Saturday’s match due to injury. Félix will be the biggest loss considering how much the Colchoneros have struggled to create chances, but the leadership of Giménez in the backline cannot be overstated either. Regardless, Atlético still boast a very strong squad with several options to replace their missing stars.
After a brilliant start to the season, Athletic’s performances have taken a significant dip over the past month. The Lions have gone four straight games without a victory, have yet to win away from home, and are in danger of dropping out of the European race if they fail to turn things around this weekend. The trip to the Wanda Metropolitano will be extremely challenging, but also presents the Lions with an opportunity to secure a massive and needed victory.
Unlike Atlético, Athletic will have the entire squad available for Saturday’s trip to Madrid. Yuri Berchiche and Ibai Gómez both returned to training on Monday and the manager has confirmed that the pair has been cleared to play. With a plethora of options to choose from it will be up to Gaizka Garitano to get the selection right against such a strong opponent.
Recent form suggests that Athletic and Atlético could effectively cancel each other out. Both sides are fantastic defensively but just haven’t been able to find the back of the net enough this season. However, that was also the case last year and a total of seven goals were scored over two matches. The wings are likely to be the most crucial positional battle on the field and the Lions will be hoping that their high press will make their hosts uncomfortable and lead to chances in the final third.
Probable Athletic Club XI: Unai Simón, Ander Capa, Yeray, Iñigo Martinez, Yuri Berchiche, Dani García, Unai López, Oscar De Marcos, Raúl García, Iker Muniain, and Iñaki Williams