Match preview: Athletic vs. Atlético

Rojiblancos begin their Basque Country triple header with a visit to San Mamés

Raúl García will have a big part to play against his former club

Raúl García will have a big part to play against his former club

Atlético Madrid make the first of three trips to the Basque Country this week on Sunday, ending the first half of the La Liga season at San Mamés against Athletic Bilbao.

The colchoneros come into the game on a good run of form having won 6 of their last 7 matches, but will be in for a tough test against one of Spain’s most intense and physical teams.

Kick-off in Bilbao is set for 16:15 CET.

Earlier in the week, Atleti took a huge step towards the Copa del Rey semi-finals with a 3-0 win at home to Eibar, and will hope to pick up where they left off against Athletic.

Simeone and the team will be back on Basque territory on Wednesday for the second leg, and then again three days later to take on Alavés in La Liga.

However, the Argentine boss as usual will be insisting that his team looks no further than the next game, partido a partido, one of the first rules of Cholismo and part of the reason for our recent up turn in form.

San Mamés is always up there as one of the most difficult away grounds for visiting teams, although Atleti do have a good record at the new stadium since it opened in 2013, winning all 4 of their visits.

Last season, Fernando Torres scored the only goal in 1-0 triumph for Atleti at La Catedral in April, with Griezmann scoring a hat-trick in the corresponding fixture in 2014/15.

The reverse fixture in May will be the last ever league match played at the Vicente Calderón, that is if the Madrilenian red and whites can resolve all of the issues surrounding the stadium move in time.

According to reports, Kevin Gameiro could come back into the team to partner compatriot Antoine Griezmann in attack, having finally broken his two month scoring drought in midweek.

Nico Gaitán is also set to keep his place after a couple of impressive performances. Elsewhere, Sime Vrsaljko is likely to replace Juanfran at right-back, with Diego Godín and Gabi returning to the XI.

Atleti have Lucas Hernández available after he received the medical all clear following a muscle injury, but Jan Oblak, Tiago and Augusto are still sidelined.

Switching focus to our opponents, Athletic are enjoying another solid season in the Primera División, and can go level on points with Villarreal in the final Europa League position with a win on Sunday.

They will be without two of their key players though, veteran striker Aritz Aduriz and playmaker Beñat both serving suspenions after picking up their fifth yellow cards of the season in last week’s 0-0 draw away at Leganés.

Los Leones main attacking threat will come from former Atleti favourite Raúl García, but they also have Iker Muniain back fit and in form as well as the pacey Iñaki Williams up front.

Having not played in the cup in midweek they will probably be the fresher of the two sides, which could have an impact given the combative and energetic nature of both sides style of play.

Atlético match selection
Goalkeepers
: Moyá, Moreira
Defenders: Godín, Filipe, Savic, Vrsaljko, Lucas, Juanfran, Giménez
Midfielders: Koke, Saúl, Carrasco, Gabi, Gaitán
Forwards: Griezmann, Torres, Correa, Gameiro


  • Usavicente Calderon

    This is a scary game to me. Why? I think this game will set the tone for the rest of the season.
    Also, I hate when we play Raul Garcia. It is always weird to play him since he was long time player of Atletico.

  • Kris

    Love love Raul Garcia. One of my favorite players of all time.

  • Ahmad Musa

    For me this will be my line up.
    Moya
    Vrsaljko—-Godin——Gimenez——Felipe Luis.
    Carrasco—–Gabi——Koke——-Gaitan.
    Gameiro——Griezmann.
    I just hope Simeone is watching AFCON, Thomas is the best player so far in the tournament taking home the man of the match last night he got all we missing in midfield. Strong good at passing, break opponent attack,creative, defence please give this guy a chance he is better than Saul.

  • Vagabond Messi

    Thomas is playing as Defensive midfielder in AFCOn?

  • iamfaried

    I wouldn’t go as far as saying best player of the tournament, but he has had a good game last night.

  • iamfaried

    More of a box to box role.

  • iamfaried

    This game needs a solid midfield. The aerial abilities, robust physiques, pacey wingers and Rulo dictate that.

    I don’t rule out a Josema Gabi Koke Saul midfield, though this way we might suffer upfront against a solid defense.

    Cholo could start the match with Carrasco and Gaitan to steal an early goal then revert back to a more defensive approach.

  • Los Indianos fans ??

    If we loose this match then i suggest Simeone should go for christ sake goddamn it, how can’t he just see that Gaitan is beter than Saul. Selecting him consistently above Gaitan for just his reputation in him. Damn it
    I hope we play well and win. Aupa Atleti!

  • nandes

    Athletic have strong aerial power so that’s probably why Saúl is needed in this game. Lack of aerial power is also probably why we won’t see Gaitan-Griezmann-Gameiro starting together often

  • Hannu

    At least Carrasco is in. 😉

  • Los Indianos fans ??

    I hope that is the case . But no matter how the game goes we must play our cards right & win. This game will be the turning point for the season we can not afford to drop a point here.

  • KO CESARO

    saul bring nothing to the table and once again he is on the fucking line up WTF

  • Hannu

    Saul this and Saul that. Maybe just stfu..

  • KO CESARO

    ohh it’s look like saul fanboy is pissed off