Match preview: Athletic vs. Atlético

Atlético take on struggling Basques in Bilbao without top scorer and captain

Atletico madrid defender Diego Godin against Athletic Bilbao

Diego Godín at San Mamés last season

Atlético Madrid travel to Bilbao on Sunday to take on Athletic Club in round 21 of La Liga.

The match in San Mamés kicks off at 21:00 CET.

The battle between the Rojiblanco brothers sees two teams with different ambitions. The Madrilenians are looking to keep up with Barcelona and stay ahead of Real Madrid, while the home side desperately need three points to steer clear of the relegation zone and avoid a crisis.

Marcelo Bielsa’s men have picked up only a single point from their last four games and have struggled all season to get back to the amazing form they displayed last season in their amazing run to the final of the Europa League.

Of course, Atlético Madrid were the opponents in that all Spanish final in Bucharest, and the Colchoneros took home the trophy after an incredible performance in a 3-0 win, leaving Athletic fans and players in tears.

Los Leones were no match for El Tigre, as Falcao dealt them two stunning blows in the first half.

The Colombian again ravaged Athletic Club at the start of the current campaign, when he scored a hat-trick in a 4-0 drubbing.

Radamel Falcao has scored seven goals in his last three games against Athletic, but in Sunday’s clash the Colchoneros will have to do without their top scorer and superstar. Falcao has stayed behind in Madrid to recover from his hamstring injury.

There’s little reason for the Basque defenders to rest easy though, as they will most likely face the ‘Beast of the Manzanares’ in Diego Costa, who has been in fine form these last weeks and who scored a goal in Sevilla this week to help Atleti advance to the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey.

Also missing for Atlético is captain Gabi, who will sit out a one-game suspension. He’ll be replaced by Tiago and Mario in midfield.

Atleti’s newest signing Emiliano Insúa has not been called up for this game by Diego Simeone, who does have a spot for Atlético B players Óliver Torres and Javi Manquillo. The latter has done an excellent job in replacing Juanfran, but the Spain international is expected to start after returning from injury.

Not called up by Cholo are defenders Jorge Pulido and Domingo Cisma, who get to spend Sunday at home.

The news in Bilbao this week centred around striker and World Champion Fernando Llorente, who finally officially announced his transfer to Juventus. Llorente will see out the remainder of his contract at Athletic though, and will be available for the game.

While San Mamés was known to be a fortress, the Basque football cathedral has been far from a good place for Athletic this season. Only five teams have collected less points at home than the team in red, white and black, which stands in stark contrast to Atleti’s perfect record at the Vicente Calderón.

At least Marcelo Bielsa will have all of his men available on Sunday. Mikel San José returns from suspension, while Carlos Gurpegui and Joan Aurtenetxe seem to have recovered in time to take on the Colchoneros.

Right back Andoni Iraola said how tough it will be for his team to get their first win in five games when they face a strong rival.

“In our previous game we had good spells, but unfortunately we couldn’t win. That makes us want our next victory even more”, said the captain.

He continued:”We’ll need to play a great game tomorrow, because our opponents give away little space and they defend well. And then they hit you on the counter attack.”

“They might let us have the ball and they will retreat a little bit. But then Atleti will try to catch you on the break. We’ll have to be focussed.”

Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Asenjo, Courtois
Defenders: Godín, Filipe, Cata Díaz, Juanfran, Miranda, Manquillo
Midfielders: Mario, Tiago, Koke, Raúl García, Arda Turan, Cristian Rodríguez, Emre, Óliver Torres
Forwards: Adrián and Diego Costa

Do you think Atlético can overcome Athletic even without Gabi and Falcao? Let us know in the comments below or in the AtléticoFans Prediction League!

  • Ty Gambo

    Koke played the last part of the last game as holding midfielder, do you guys think he’ll get some time there again or even start in the absence of Gabi?
    I personally hope so, but I think we’ll see him begin as offensive midfielder with Mario and Tiago behind him.
    Ideal, in my would be seeing some minutes of this:

    Courtois; Manquillo, Miranda, Godin, Filipe; Mario, Koke; Adrian, Oliver, Arda;

    But that’s just me 🙂

  • Arjit

    I do hope to see both oliver and manquillo!

  • norman colchonero

    atletico is about to sign OL midfielder yohan gourcuff …. the deal is almost closed according to antonio ruiz of cadena cope radiostation .. what do you think guys??

  • Arjit

    I think the loan is a good idea, which is what i believe is happening with a buy option.

  • leika

    It would be a great deal. A world class player who has lacked form recently due to injury, but maybe could find his sparkle again. Great playmaker and also scores a lot.

  • Atletico- palestine

    We are playing like shit!!!