Atletico Madrid will be aiming to strengthen their hold at the top of the La Liga standings when they take on Valencia at Wanda Metropolitano this weekend.

Atletico Madrid will be hoping to further extend their lead in the race for the La Liga title when they welcome Valencia to the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium on Matchday 20.

Atletico Madrid have enjoyed a dream start to the season as they sit comfortably at the top of the La Liga standings, with a seven-point gap over second-placed Real Madrid and with a game in hand. Diego Simeone’s men have lost just one of their 17 league games this term and head into Sunday’s outing on the back of consecutive wins against Sevilla (2-0) and Eibar (2-1).

Valencia, meanwhile, are on a bit of a resurgent run after enduring a disastrous start to the campaign. Los Che are unbeaten in their last five games in all competitions, drawing 1-1 with CA Osasuna in their latest fixture. Javi Gracia’s men are currently 14th in the table, but with just a three-point gap between them and Elche in 18th, the visitors need to start racking up more wins.

The reverse fixture, played at the Mestalla back in November last year, saw Atletico Madrid pick up a narrow 1-0 win courtesy a Toni Lato own goal in the second half. Ahead of their latest meeting on Sunday night, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the teams.

Team News & Tactics

Atletico Madrid

Diego Simeone & co. are enjoying a brilliant season (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

Diego Simeone & co. are enjoying a brilliant season (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

Atletico Madrid will welcome back captain Koke after he missed the last game due to suspension. However, Mario Hermoso remains a doubt due to an injury while Hector Herrera is also likely to be unavailable. In addition, Kieran Trippier is suspended for the contest.

Diego Simeone will continue with the three-man defensive system that has worked so well for his team of late. Stefan Savic will line up Jose Maria Gimenez and Felipe as Atleti’s three central defenders in front of goalkeeper Jan Oblak. The trio will need to be alert to Valencia’s swift counters throughout the game.

With no Trippier, Sime Vrsaljko should get the nod on the right flank while Yannick Ferreira Carrasco starts as the left wing-back. They will be the primary source of width for the home team during the attacking phases. The returning Koke will hold the fort down in the middle of the park alongside Marcos Llorente, who will look to stay compact, but push forward when on the ball.

Luis Suarez, who as Atletico’s match-winner against Eibar last time out, ought to lead the line for the home team, with support from the wide areas coming for Joao Felix and Thomas Lemar.

Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Oblak; Savic, Gimenez, Felipe; Vrsaljko, Llorente, Koke, Carrasco; Felix, Suarez, Lemar

Valencia

Javi Gracia will be without just two players for the trip to the Spanish capital as Jasper Cillessen is out injured while Daniel Wass misses out due to suspension. The Valencia boss will set his team up in a 4-4-2 formation, with the visitors looking to defend deep and hit Atletico Madrid on the break.

In Cillessen’s absence, Jaume Domenech will once again guard the Valencia goal, with the centre-back partnership being formed by Mouctar Diakhaby and Gabriel Paulista, who recently penned a new contract with the club, with the duo looking to keep Luis Suarez at bay.

Thierry Correia and Jose Gaya, who has been linked with a move to Barcelona, will be the two full-backs, who will look to stay tight and support the central defenders but spring forward to catch the hosts on the break. Carlos Soler, who has been playing with an injury, will look to provide the forward thrust from the centre while Uros Racic will be tasked with keeping things tight in midfield.

With Wass unavailable, youngster Yunus Musah could get the opportunity to start on the right flank. The teenager will look to cause problems with his direct running while Goncalo Guedes will shoulder the creative burden starting on the opposite wing. Kevin Gameiro and Maxi Gomez ought to be the two centre-forwards for Los Che on Sunday.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Domenech; Correia, Gabriel, Diakhaby, Gaya; Musah, Racic, Soler, Guedes; Gameiro, Gomez

Key Stats

  • Atletico Madrid have not lost any of their last 12 La Liga matches against Valencia (W7 D5).
  • After a six-game run without a win away from home in La Liga (D3 L3), Valencia won their most recent fixture on the road against Real Valladolid 1-0.
  • Atletico Madrid are without unbeaten in their last nine home league games against Valencia (W5 D4), since a 1-0 loss in February 2011. The Rojiblancos have won four of the last five such matches (D1).
  • Valencia manager Javi Gracia has lost all his three away managerial games against Atletico Madrid – one with Osasuna and two more with Malaga.
  • Atletico Madrid have won their last seven La Liga games on their home ground, keeping a clean sheet in six of them.

Player to Watch

Luis Suarez

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Signed on a cut-price deal from arch-rivals Barcelona, Luis Suarez has proven to be a brilliant addition to this Atletico Madrid side. The 33-year-old has plundered 11 goals already in 14 La Liga matches while chipping in with a couple of assists as well. The Uruguayan has scored four times in his last four appearances, including a match-winning brace against SD Eibar.

The 33-year-old is now seated at the top of the goalscoring charts in the Spanish top-flight. Suarez enjoys a fine record against Valencia, having been involved in eight goals in his last 10 league games (7 goals, 1 assist). He will definitely be the one to watch out for when the two teams square off at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Prediction

Atletico Madrid 2-0 Valencia

Valencia have gone five games without a loss in all competitions, winning their last three on the road. However, going up against an Atletico Madrid side that has shown great strength and character to establish themselves as the front-runners in the title race and are on a six-game winning run in La Liga, might be a challenge too big for the visitors.

Luis Suarez, given his recent form and track record against Valencia, is likely to be the difference-maker once again for Diego Simeone’s men on Sunday. The Hard Tackle is predicting a straightforward 2-0 win for the league leaders.

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