Atletico Madrid will kickstart their 2020/21 La Liga campaign this weekend when they play hosts to Granada at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Matchday three of the 2020/21 La Liga is underway this weekend, but some teams are still waiting to play their first game of the season. Among those are Atletico Madrid, who will begin their campaign on Sunday afternoon with a home game against current league leaders Granada.
Los Rojiblancos finished third in La Liga last time out, 17 points behind champions Real Madrid. With their neighbours not strengthening the squadas of yet and Barcelona’s current tumult, Atleti can be turn out to be real darkhorses in the race for the title this season.
Having not played since their UEFA Champions League quarter-final exit against RB Leipzig last month, Diego Simeone will be hoping that his side are quick off the blocks and begin the season on a winning note on Sunday. However, their task will not be made easy by a Granada side that has enjoyed a dream start to the season.
Indeed, Diego Martinez’s side are currently top of the pile in Spain, after having beaten Athletic Bilbao 2-0 in their opening game and following it up with a 2-1 triumph over Deportivo Alaves last time out. They will be aiming to continue this run this weekend and pick up an upset win over Atletico.
The corresponding fixture last season had ended in a 1-0 win for the Colchoneros courtesy an early goal from Angel Correa. And ahead of their latest meeting at the Wanda Metropolitano this Sunday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the teams.
Team News & Tactics
Key defender Jose Maria Gimenez was tested positive for coronavirus earlier this week and is set to miss out. Apart from him, there are no other injury/suspension issues for Simeone, who will welcome new signing Luis Suarez into the squad for Sunday’s game.
In goal, there is no looking past the brilliant Jan Oblak for Atletico. The rest of the team should be set up in Simeone’s preferred 4-4-2 formation against Granada. Kieran Trippier and Renan Lodi ought to be the two full-backs, while Stefan Savic partners up with Felipe at the heart of the defence.
Thomas Partey is a key member of the team, but with uncertainty over his future amid Arsenal interest, Simeone might decide not to play him this weekend. Instead, Marcos Llorente is in line to partner Saul Niguez in the centre of the park for the hosts. The duo will be flanked by captain Koke and Yannick Carrasco, whose transfer has been made permanent.
With Alvaro Morata leaving the club and Diego Costa recently recovering from the coronavirus, Suarez is likely to be thrust into action right away for his new club. The Uruguayan international will have Portuguese sensation Joao Felix as his partner in the two-pronged strikeforce.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Oblak; Trippier, Savic, Felipe, Lodi; Koke, Llorente, Niguez, Carrasco; Felix, Suarez
Neyder Lozano and Quini are the two players that will be unavailable for selection for Martinez this weekend. Granada beat Locomotive Tbilisi 2-0 in a UEFA Europa League qualifying fixture on Thursday and are unlikely to make a whole lot of changes to the side that prevailed in midweek.
Martinez is expected to set his team up in a 4-2-3-1 formation against Atletico with Rui Silva manning the goal. He will be shielded by a backline comprising of Dimitri Foulquier and Carlos Neva as the full-backs with Jesus Vallejo and Domingos Duarte at the centre, although German Sanchez is also an option for the manager.
No changes are expected in the centre of the park with Luis Milla and Maxime Gonalons likely to take up the pivot positions, while Angel Montoro will slot in as the No. 10 and look to influence the proceedings in the attacking third of the pitch.
Darwin Machis has looked in good touch in front of goal of late and should be retained on the left flank, while Antonio Puertas is likely to replace Kenedy on the right. The duo will look to create opportunities for Roberto Soldado, who will operate as the lone striker for the leaders.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Silva; Foulquier, Vallejo, Duarte, Neva; Milla, Gonalons; Puertas, Montoro, Machis; Soldado
- Atletico Madrid are unbeaten in their opening La Liga game in the last ten seasons (W4 D6), but have only won only three of their eight season openers under Diego Simeone.
- Granada have only won one of their 24 away games against Atletico in La Liga (D3 L20). That win came way back in October 1959. They have lost each of their last eight such fixtures.
- Atletico Madrid have kept a clean sheet in 11 of their last 14 matches against Granada in all competitions.
- Granada have scored at least 2 goals in 7 of their last 8 matches in La Liga.
- Los Rojiblancos are unbeaten in their last 16 La Liga outings (W9 D7). It is their longest undefeated run since January 2019 (18).
Player to Watch
All eyes will inevitably be on the Uruguayan superstar, after he completed a shock transfer from Barcelona to Atletico Madrid this week. At 33, Suarez may be entering the final phase of his career, but he still has plenty left to offer as was seen in the last season, when he managed to finish with 21 goals even though he spent a considerable time out on the sidelines, injured.
🤩 ¡El fondo de pantalla que merece tu móvil! 🤩
😎 @LuisSuarez9 🇺🇾
— Atlético de Madrid (@Atleti) September 26, 2020
With Morata gone and Felix not enjoying the best of the debut seasons in Spain, Simeone will look to Suarez to deliver the goods in front of goal this season. Plus, the possibility of seeing Suarez paired up with Diego Costa surely ought to excite fans, while make opposition defenders nervous.
Atletico Madrid 2-1 Granada
Granada have won all four of their matches across all competitions in the new season and are in confident mood heading into the weekend game. The fact that Atletico will be playing their first game of the campaign will act as an advantage for the visitors.
However, Diego Simeone’s side have plenty of quality in their ranks and boast an impressive head-to-head record against Granada. Plus, a motivated Luis Suarez with a point to prove, should sway the balance slightly in their favour. The Hard Tackle predicts a narrow win for Los Colchoneros after a tightly-contested clash on Sunday.