Atletico Madrid will be hoping to close down the gap to the top of the La Liga table when they lock horns against Athletic Bilbao at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Atletico Madrid will be looking to get back to winning ways in the 2019-20 La Liga, when they host Gaizka Garitano’s Athletic Bilbao at the Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday night.

Atletico Madrid are without a win in their last three league matches, drawing in a row against Real Madrid, Real Valladolid and most recently Valencia. In between this run, Diego Simeone’s men have won their European fixtures against Lokomotiv Moscow and Bayer Leverkusen and will be keen on notching up a victory in the league as well.

Atletico are currently fifth in the La Liga table, three points adrift of leaders Barcelona. With the Catalans not playing this weekend, it gives Los Rojiblancos the perfect opportunity to close down the gap to the reigning champions. But, Athletic Bilbao, who have already beaten Barcelona this term, will not make things easy for the capital club.

Sitting eighth in the table, Athletic are in a difficult moment, having not registered a win in their last four matches, while winning just one of their previous six (D3 L2). Their most recent fixture against Real Valladolid ended in a 1-1 draw. Los Leones, despite their recent winless streak, are a hard team to break down and will back themselves to get at least a point from the Wanda Metropolitano.

Ahead of this exciting encounter between Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bibao, we at The Hard Tackle take a closer look at both the teams.

Team News & Tactics

Atletico Madrid

Ballon d'Or nominee Joao Felix is a doubt for Atletico Madrid (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

Ballon d’Or nominee Joao Felix is a doubt for Atletico Madrid (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

Simeone will have to make do without the services of defensive mainstay Jose Maria Gimenez, who picked up a muscle injury during the week against Bayer Leverkusen. He joins fellow defenders Stefan Savic and Sime Vrsaljko on the treatment table, while Portuguese sensation Joao Felix is also a doubt, after injuring his ankle against Valencia last weekend.

There will be a few changes to the side that started the midweek clash, starting in defence where Mario Hermoso is expected to pair up with Felipe in the absence of Gimenez. The rest of the backline should remain intact, with Kieran Trippier and Renan Lodi continuing as the full-backs, while Jan Oblak mans the goal.

Saul Niguez and Thomas Partey are definite starters in the middle of the park, with the former providing the forward drive, while the latter will sit back and break up play. Captain Koke should once again feature on the right flank for Atletico Madrid, while Thomas Lemar could get a rare start on the left side.

Diego Costa is a guaranteed starter in the two-pronged attack for Atletico. He should be partnered by Alvaro Morata, who came on from the bench to score the only goal of the game against Leverkusen earlier this week.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Oblak; Trippier, Felipe, Hermoso, Lodi; Koke, Thomas, Saul, Lemar; Morata, Costa

Athletic Bilbao

Yuri Berchiche and Ibai Gomez are back in training, having recovered from their injuries and should be in contention for selection against Atletico Madrid. Manager Garitan is unlikely to make a whole lot of changes to the side that drew against Valladolid last time out.

Unai Simon is the first-choice custodian for the Basque outfit and should start against Atletico on Saturday. Yuri’s return to full fitness means, he should reclaim his left-back spot in the starting XI from Mikel Balenziaga. The rest of the backline remains intact with Ander Capa at right-back and Yeray Alvarez partnering Inigo Martinez at the centre.

Dani Garcia has been an ever-present in the double midfield pivot for Athletic and that is unlikely to change at the Wanda Metropolitano. But, the manager might opt to select a more defensive-minded Benat Etxebarria ahead of Unai Lopez for the second slot.

Former Atletico Madrid superstar Raul Garcia, who is the top scorer for Athletic this term with 4 goals, should continue in the No.10 slot on Saturday. Club captain Iker Muniain should slot in on the left flank, while Oscar de Marcos is likely to get the nod on the right to provide extra protection against Atletico’s full-back. Inaki Williams spearhead the attack for the visitors.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Simon; Capa, Alvarez, Martinez, Berchiche; Etxebarria, Dani Garcia; de Marcos, Raul Garcia, Muniain; Williams

Key Stats

  • Atletico Madrid could record their 50th win at home against Athletic Bilbao in La Liga (W49 D14 L19). Only against Espanyol (53) have they won more home matches in the competition.
  • Athletic Bilbao have won just one of their last 15 La Liga away games against sides from Madrid (W1 D6 L8), drawing 1-1 in their two such matches of this season wit Raul Garcia scoring in both games.
  • Under Diego Simeone, Atletico Madrid are unbeaten in their eight La Liga home games against Athletic (W7 D1 L0), winning the last four.
  • Athletic Bilbao striker Inaki Williamas has scored four goals in nine appearances against Atletico Madrid in La Liga, more than against any other opponent in the competition. He is the only opposing player to score a brace at the Wanda Metropolitano in La Liga.
  • Atletico Madrid have drawn their last three La Liga home games – the last time they drew four in a row in their own backyard in the competition was way back in 2006, under Carlos Bianchi.

Player to Watch

Diego Costa

Time for Diego Costa to step up (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

Time for Diego Costa to step up (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

It has been a slow start to the 2019-20 campaign for the mercurial Diego Costa, who has found the back of the net on just two occasions in ten matches across all competitions so far. The 31-year-old did score the only goal of the game for Atletico Madrid in the 1-1 draw against Valencia last weekend.

Costa has a decent record against Athletic Bilbao, having scored five goals in ten matches, with three of those coming in his last five appearances. Given that he is the senior striker in the squad, the Spanish international needs to do more and pull his weight in the team, if Atletico are to return to winning ways in La Liga.

Prediction

Atletico Madrid 1-1 Athletic Bilbao

Both Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao have seen their league form dip over the past few weeks. Diego Simeone’s team have not won their last three La Liga games, while Gaizka Garitan’s men are on a four-game winless streak. With both teams extra motivated to get one in the win column, the match-up at the Wanda Metropolitano will be keenly contested.

The two teams on show boast the best defensive record in the La Liga this season, having each conceded just five goals in nine games so far, meaning there aren’t likely to be a lot of goals in this one. And as a result, we at The Hard Tackle are predicting this one to end in another stalemate.

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