Atletico Madrid’s brand new Wanda Metropolitano stadium will host its very first La Liga match against Andalusian side Malaga on Saturday.
After facing Roma in the Champions League, Atletico Madrid face Malaga – a club that has a reputation for being a notoriously tricky outfit even though they have failed to register a win in the Spanish top flight this season. If Malaga lose this one, they will have lost all four of their opening fixtures so far.
After two successive 0-0 draws on the bounce, Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone will be keen to ensure his side’s energy levels are high and that their recent failure to hit the back of the net does not become a long-term problem.
With talisman Antoine Griezmann returning to the side after his two-game domestic ban following a red card against Girona, the goal drought should end on Saturday. Starting with a win in their new stadium is something Atletico will be hoping for, and that seems highly doable against a struggling side like Malaga.
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After featuring for Atletico in midweek in the Champions League, Griezmann will return to domestic duties after completing his two-match ban. Other than that, Simeone has a full squad to choose from, except for right-back Sime Vrsaljko, who sustained a foot injury recently.
This will be a big match for Saul, who has been tied down this summer to a new eight-year deal, since he will get to showcase his importance as the future of Atletico Madrid, against the experienced and well-traveled Malaga midfielder Kuzmanović, who has played for Inter Milan and Fiorentina.
Saul will be looking to break forward at every opportunity, putting his excellent long-range shooting and passing ability to good use as he seizes every opportunity to get Atletico a much-needed win. However, moving into a new stadium is always tough and the big question will be whether Simeone’s men can handle it.
Predicted lineup (4-4-2): Oblak; Juanfran, Savic, Godin, Luis; Koke, Saul, Thomas, Carrasco; Griezmann, Correa.
For Malaga, the away side have a number of injuries to contend with as they look to get points on the board. Midfielder Recio remains a doubt with a hamstring strain, while Watford loanee Adalberto Penaranda is still out with a broken foot.
Pressure is firmly on Malaga boss Michel now following three defeats in as many games as the discord between owner and manager continues to grow. Las Palmas were the latest to take three points from Malaga with a 3-1 victory, making it all the more important for the side to register a win.
The losses will leave them in a bit of a trouble heading into three much tougher matches. They lost all but one of their pre-season games too so confidence must be low in their camp and it’s hard to see them getting anything here or even really testing Atletico’s sturdy defence.
The fact that Malaga managed to score just one goal so far in the season so far is extremely worrisome since that is the same side Atletico dominated 5-1 away from home. Malaga have several issues to iron out. Considering the situation, it seems unlikely for them to register this first against Atletico.
Predicted lineup (5-3-2): Roberto; Rosales, Hernandez, Baysse, Diego, Ricca; Kusmanovic, Rolon, Recio; Mula, Borja.
- Atletico have won the last 3 meetings and 5 of their last 6 home games against Malaga, although they did only keep 1 clean sheet in those matches.
- Atletico have won 7 of their last 8 competitive home games. Including friendlies, Malaga have lost 11 of their last 12 matches.
- They have had 28 head to head encounters so far, and Atletico Madrid took the win in 15 of them.
- During the previous season they won both legs with a combined score of 6 – 2 (at home they won with a score of 4 – 2).
Atletico Madrid 3 – 0 Malaga
Malaga look completely lost at the moment and while Atletico haven’t started brilliantly, the return of Griezmann and the sense of occasion will help them here. With the aforementioned points, there surely can only be one winner on Saturday evening and Diego Simeone’s men simply cannot afford to slip up here.
There is probably only one outcome here as Simeone’s side seek to get back on the scoresheet in all competitions. With Griezmann back playing in La Liga in Atletico’s first home match of the season at their brand new stadium, there will be fireworks on and off the pitch, as well as a more accomplished display.
Meanwhile, it’s also hard to see where the inspiration will come from as the visitors continue to struggle with performances, failing to yield positive results. Ultimately, it is likely to come down to damage limitation for Malaga as they travel to Atletico’s new stadium.