Atletico Madrid will be hoping to retain their lead at the top of La Liga table when they play Sevilla at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on Sunday.

Atletico Madrid are heading into the final stretch of this campaign with a mere four-point advantage at the top. It certainly is not a pleasing sight for Diego Simeone, whose side once had a 10-point lead over the chasing pack in FC Barcelona and Real Madrid.

And on Saturday, Atletico’s bid to retain their four-point lead could be dealt with a stern test as they travel to the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium to face Sevilla. It is a must-win game for Los Colchoneros, knowing a draw or a defeat could allow Barcelona to potentially bridge the gap to one or two points, with Real Madrid, too, not far behind.

Sevilla themselves are considered one of the strongest teams in La Liga, as they are currently fourth in the league table with 55 points on the board. They have a sizable lead over fifth-placed Real Sociedad (10 points), meaning the UEFA Champions League qualification remains a safe proposition for Julen Lopetegui’s men as of now.

However, with ten games still left to play, Sevilla still cannot afford to slip up as they look to not only retain their advantage over Sociedad but also maintain pressure on third-placed Real Madrid. As such, this is a high-stakes encounter, with Barcelona and Real Madrid keeping a close eye. And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over the two teams ahead of this crucial match-up at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan this weekend.

Team News & Tactics

Sevilla

A team that primarily operates with a 4-3-3, it will be interesting to see whether Julen Lopetegui opts to shift to a three-man backline in light of Atletico Madrid’s changed setup under Diego Simeone. The former Real Madrid boss, though, does not like to change things much in regards to his formation and will mostly rely on a changed style of play that could emphasise the high-risk build-up play.

In Jules Kounde, Sevilla already have a talented ball-carrying centre-back, who can break through Atleti’s first line of press, with the Frenchman likely to be partnered by Diego Carlos, as well as the two fullbacks in Jesus Navas and Marcos Acuna.

The Andalusian outfit could also rely heavily on the three-man midfield setup, consisting of Ivan Rakitic, Joan Jordan and Fernando that is set to play a crucial role in possession. Rakitic, in particular, will be in charge of offering the creative essence in the final third, especially with his ability to offer excellent balls into the box.

The Croat’s presence in the side should also negate the need for a proficient set-piece taker like Oscar Rodriquez, with Sevilla mainly expected to operate with two wingers in Suso and Lucas Ocampos, hoping to offer supply to Youssef En-Nesyri.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Bounou; Navas, Kounde, Carlos, Acuna; Jordan, Fernando, Rakitic; Suso, En-Nesyri, Ocampos

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Atletico Madrid

Atletico Madrid are missing a few key players heading into this game including Joao Felix and Yannick Ferreira Carrasco, who serves a suspension. Carrasco’s absence should pave the way for Saul Niguez to feature in the left wing-back slot, while Kieran Trippier should retain his role on the right flank.

Elsewhere, Thomas Lemar could be rewarded with another start due to his recent surge of good performances. The Frenchman should operate on the left-hand side of the midfield, featuring alongside Koke and Marcos Llorente in Atletico’s second line of press.

While skipper Koke is likely to operate in a deeper role, as he looks to dictate the tempo of the game using his positional sense and technical quality, Llorente and Lemar will both have the license to march forward. Speaking of the attack, Luis Suarez remains a guaranteed starter for Los Rojiblancos, seeking to renew his offensive partnership alongside Angel Correa, in the absence of Felix.

Defensively, Simeone has no reasons to deviate from the tried and tested three-man backline that has done wonders for him this season. It has offered more balance in the build-up as well as the numerical superiority in the middle of the park and versatility as the left-sided centre-back in Mario Hermoso can effortlessly shift out wide and operate as a left-back.

The former Real Madrid centre-back should be partnered by Stefan Savic and Jose Gimenez, with the defensive trifecta providing cover for Jan Oblak in goal.

Probable Lineup (3-5-3): Oblak; Savic, Gimenez, Hermoso; Trippier, Llorente, Koke, Lemar, Saul; Correa, Suarez

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Key Stats

  • Sevilla have failed to win in their last eight La Liga games against Atletico Madrid, since a 1-0 win at home in October 2016 under Jorge Sampaoli.
  • Under Diego Simeone, Atletico Madrid have lost only one of their nine away league games against Sevilla. Prior to this period, the Madrilean side had lost four of their previous five.
  • Atletico Madrid are unbeaten in their last five away league games against Andalusian sides, winning the last three while they last won four in a row in January 2014.
  • Sevilla have collected 55 points after 28 games in La Liga this season, their joint second-highest tally at this stage in a season in top-flight, after the 2016/17 (57) and 2014/15 (also 55) campaigns.
  • Atletico Madrid have won 66 points in 28 games in La Liga this term; in the previous five seasons in the competition when a team had won as many as 66 points at this stage, they went on to win the title.

Player to Watch

Marcos Llorente

SAN SEBASTIAN, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 14: Marcos Llorente of Atletico de Madrid looks on prior to the warm up during the Liga match between Real Sociedad and Club Atletico de Madrid at Estadio Reale Arena on September 14, 2019 in San Sebastian, Spain. (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

Marcos Llorente is hoping to inspire his team to another key victory this weekend. (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

Marcos Llorente has been the undisputed star of the Atletico Madrid side this season, becoming a revelation in the new attacking midfield role that has seen him greatly influence the club’s approach play.

Llorente’s relentless energy, aggression coupled with his quality going forward have also further solidified Atleti’s first line of press. The Spaniard is not only capable of orchestrating the game in midfield but can effortlessly drift into an attacking position and even spearhead the club’s attack alongside Suarez.

It has been reflected in the player’s numbers this season, with the former Real Madrid star scoring nine goals and registering eight assists in just 28 matches. His performance, therefore, could go a long way in dictating Atletico Madrid’s fate in this important encounter against Sevilla.

Prediction

Sevilla 1-1 Atletico Madrid

Atletico Madrid often tend to stutter when the pressure is high and the pressure will surely be high when they take on Sevilla on Sunday. Los Colchoneros do have enough quality to get the better of Julen Lopetegui’s men but without Joao Felix and Yannick Carrasco, it will be difficult to break through the lines of one of the most solid defensive units in Europe, led by Diego Carlos and Jules Kounde.

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