Atlético make their second trip north into Basque country to face Real Sociedad, one of the three newly promoted teams to la Liga this season. La Real are currently residing in the top half of the league table, and fully deserve to be there.
The Txuri-urdin play opportunistic football and have made their home stadium a fortress. This season, only Real Madrid were able to snatch a win in Anoeta, though it was in controversial fashion.
The stadium, which has a running track surrounding the pitch, hasn’t been very kind to Atlético in the past. In fact, we are yet to beat Sociedad in San Sebastián since their move to Anoeta in 1993.
Atleti are actually the team to have suffered most defeats in the intimidating stadium, having left La Real’s home ground with ten defeats in twelve matches.
Fortunately, there is some good news. Diego Godín has fully recovered from his appendectomy, while Diego Costa returns after a one-game suspension that forced him to miss last week’s 3-0 win over Osasuna.
Diego Forlán returned to form in that match, scoring his first goals since matchday two of la Liga. But the Uruguayan did travel to South America to play an international friendly midweek, so there’s a chance Quique Sánchez Flores may decide to rest the forward.
Sergio Agüero on the other hand isn’t entirely fit either. The Argentine missed training earlier this week due to a minor muscle contraction but returned to training on Wednesday.
Agüero is one of only two players, the other being Luis Perea, who played for Atlético the last time these two teams met. That match, back in 2007, finished 2-0 with goals by Kovacevic and Sávio. Atleti finished the match with only nine men, because players long forgotten – Fabiano Eller and Peter Luccin – picked up red cards.
Back then we had to make do with Luccin, but now our manager has a problem of luxury with both Mario Suárez and Paulo Assunção available. There has been much debate this past week as to which of the midfielders should start, but most fans seem willing to give Mario a shot after his strong performance last week.
We’re also interested in seeing who Quique will pick in the centre of defence. The coach surprisingly left out Álvaro Domínguez against Osasuna, while Diego Godín returns this week. It’s expected Ujfalusi will be shifted back to his position at right back, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see Luis Perea maintain his position.
This match will be extra special for one player. Fran Mérida played on loan at Real Sociedad in the 2007/08 season.
Predicted XI: De Gea; Ujfalusi, Godín, Domínguez, Filipe; Reyes, Mario, Tiago, Simão; Forlán and Agüero.
Goalkeepers: De Gea, Joel
Defenders: Valera, López, Filipe, Godín, Ujfalusi, Domínguez, Perea
Midfielders: Mario, Tiago, Raúl García, Fran Mérida, Assunção, Reyes, Simão
Forwards: Forlán, Agüero and Diego Costa.
Coach Martín Lasarte has all of his starting players available, as midfielder David Zurutuza returns from injury.
La Real hasn’t only been excellent at the back, conceding only two goals at home this season, but have three dangerous forwards in Xabi Prieto, Antoine Griezmann and Joseba Llorente.
Predicted XI: Bravo; Carlos Martínez, Ansotegi, Mikel González, De la Bella; Zurutaza, Diego Rivas, Elustondo; Xabi Prieto, Llorente and Griezmann.
Real Sociedad match selection:
Bravo, Zubikarai, Carlos Martínez, Labaka, Ansotegi, Mikel González, De la Bella, Xabi Prieto, Sarpong, Zurutuza, Aranburu, Markel, Rivas, Elustondo, Griezmann, Tamudo, Llorente and Viguera.
Now head over to the AtléticoFans Prediction League and let us know what you think the score will be!