Atletico Madrid will be looking to resume their 2019-20 La Liga campaign with a win, when they take on Athletic Bilbao at San Mames on Sunday.

After a three-month hiatus, the 2019-20 La Liga season finally resumed earlier this week. And Atletico Madrid will be hoping to make a winning start to the final phase of the campaign and move into the top four, when they travel to San Mames to take on Athletic Bilbao.

It hasn’t been the best of seasons for Athletic Bilbao. The Basque outfit find themselves in tenth place in the table, with 37 points from 27 games so far. They had won their last two league encounters prior to the season suspension though, which included an impressive 4-1 win over Real Valladolid. And manager Gaizka Garitano will be hoping that his team pick up from they left off in March.

Atletico Madrid have underwhelmed this season in La Liga. Diego Simeone’s side are sixth in the table, a point behind Real Sociedad in fourth. Los Rojiblancos have won just two of their last eight league outings. But their last match before the suspension of football saw them eliminate Liverpool from the Champions League. They will be hoping to draw inspiration from that game and achieve a positive result on Sunday.

The reverse fixture, played at the Wanda Metropolitano in October last year, had seen Atletico beat Athletic Bilbao 2-0, with goals from Saul Niguez and Alvaro Morata. Ahead of their latest meeting, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the teams.

Team News & Tactics

Athletic Bilbao

Can Garitano & his men spring a surprise on Sunday? (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Can Garitano & his men spring a surprise on Sunday? (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Gaizka Garitano has pretty much a full-strength squad to choose from heading into Athletic’s first game after resumption. Unai Nunez and Ander Capa, who missed the last game due to suspension, are back in the reckoning. Oscar De Marcos has recovered from a long-term ankle injury and will be available. Inigo Lekue has also shrugged off an ankle issue and is in contention to feature.

Athletic are expected to line up in Garitano’s preferred 4-2-3-1 setup against Atletico, with Unai Simon lining up between the sticks. He will be shielded by the centre-back pairing of Yeray Alvarez and Inigo Martinez, while the returning Capa and Yuri Berchiche are expected to slot in as the full-backs on the right and left sides respectively.

Mikel Vesga should anchor the midfield for the hosts, with help from Dani Garcia. Unai Lopez is another option that the manager may consider in the two-man midfield pivot.

Former Atletico Madrid man Raul Garcia, who is also Athletic’s top scorer this season with nine goals, could slot in as the No. 10. Captain Iker Muniain and youngster Inigo Cordoba will provide the threat from the wings, with 25-year-old Inaki Williams likely to spearhead the attack for the home team.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Simon; Capa, Alvarez, Martinez, Yuri; Dani Garcia, Vesga; Muniain, Raul Garcia, Cordoba; Williams

Atletico Madrid

Simeone has a few of his regulars missing for the trip to San Mames. Defender Felipe and forward Vitolo are both ruled out with thigh issues, but are expected to be available for Wednesday’s game against Osasuna. Joao Felix will miss out due to suspension, whereas Sime Vrsaljko is out with a knee injury.

Simeone usually sets his team up in a 4-4-2 formation and it is unlikely that he will switch from that shape on Sunday. In goal, the ever-reliable Jan Oblak should feature from kick off. Summer signing Kieran Trippier should line up at right-back, with Renan Lodi starting on the left. With Felipe out, Jose Maria Gimenez and Stefan Savic should pair up at the centre.

Captain Koke should line up on the right side of the four-man midfield, while Saul Niguez should slot in on the opposite wing. Thomas Partey and Marcos Llorente, who scored a brace in the win against Liverpool, should pair up in the centre of the park.

Diego Costa hasn’t had the best of seasons. He will be hoping to make an impact in the final phase of the campaign, starting on Sunday. Partnering him at the top could be Alvaro Morata, who scored in the reverse fixture against Athletic. Yannick Carrasco is an option for Simeone should he decide to switch things up.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Oblak; Trippier, Savic, Gimenez, Lodi; Koke, Thomas, Llorente, Saul; Morata, Costa

Key Stats

  • Atletico Madrid are winless in their three away games against Basque sides in La Liga this season (D1 L2).
  • Athletic Bilbao have only won one of their last 13 La Liga games against Atletico Madrid (D2 L10). They did win their last home game against the Colchoneros in March last year.
  • After winning three league games in a row between December 2019 and January 2020, Atletico Madrid have managed to emerge victorious in just two of their previous eight contests (D4 L2). Both the wins came on their home turf.
  • After failing to win in 10 consecutive league matches (D5 L5), Athletic have bagged two wins in their last two games.
  • Atletico Madrid have won just one of their last 10 La Liga games away from home (D7 L2). That came against Real Betis in December 2019.

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)

Since returning from Chelsea in 2018, the seasoned striker has struggled to live up to expectations at Atletico Madrid. Costa managed just five goals in the entirety of the 2018-19 season and has once again struggled to get going in the ongoing campaign. The 31-year-old has netted just twice in 19 matches across all competitions for Atleti this term.

Goals have been a problem for Diego Simeone’s side this season, having netted just 31 times so far in La Liga. Only their weekend opponents have scored fewer among the top ten teams in the league. So, the visitors will need a fully fit and firing Costa to make an appearance this weekend as they look to move into the top four.

Prediction

Athletic Bilbao 1-1 Atletico Madrid

The two least prolific teams in the top half of the La Liga table will face off against each other on Sunday, so there aren’t likely to be a lot of goals on offer.

The hosts haven’t enjoyed the best of results against Atletico Madrid in the recent past. However, they did beat them in their previous home game last year. In addition, Simeone’s men have been poor travellers in the league, winning just one of their last ten on the road. Hence, we at The Hard Tackle are predicting this one to end in a dour 1-1 draw.

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