Atletico Madrid will be hoping to increase their lead at the top of the La Liga table when they lock horns with SD Eibar in Matchday 33 this weekend.

As we enter the business end of the season, the 2020/21 La Liga race looks set to go down to the wire. And, league leaders Atletico Madrid will be aiming to put further distance between themselves and their challengers when they play hosts to SD Eibar on Sunday afternoon.

Having been the pace-setters for most part of the season, Atletico Madrid have allowed the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona close down the gap to them with some inconsistent displays. Indeed, heading into the game, Los Rojiblancos are just a point above Real Madrid in second and have a two-point lead over third-placed Barcelona.

Atletico Madrid have won just one of their last five games in all competitions (D2 L2), failing to win each of their previous two in the league as they were beaten by Sevilla before being held to a 1-1 draw by Real Betis last time out. Diego Simeone & co. will be aiming to turn things around at the earliest, with just eight games left to be played in the season.

Eibar, meanwhile, find themselves at the opposite end of the table, sitting rock bottom after 30 games in the season. They are without a win in their last 14 games across all competitions, most recently falling to a 1-0 defeat to Levante. But with just a four-point gap between them and 16th-placed Huesca, Jose Luis Mendilibar’s men still have a chance of pulling off a recovery in the final stages of the season.

The reverse fixture, played in January earlier this year, saw Atletico Madrid come back from a goal down to defeat Eibar 2-1 courtesy of a Luis Suarez brace. Ahead of their latest meeting this Sunday afternoon, The Hard Tackle now takes a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

Atletico Madrid

Heading into the game, Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone will be without the services of star striker Luis Suarez. Apart from the veteran Uruguayan, the hosts are expected to have a full-strength squad with Kieran Trippier expected to recover from a slight back issue and make himself available for selection.

Atletico Madrid will set up in a 3-5-2 formation on Sunday afternoon in front of goalkeeper Jan Oblak. Stefan Savic, Jose Maria Gimenez, who has recently been linked with Real Madrid and Mario Hermoso, ought to form the three-man backline although the latter will play as a left-back at times and look to push forward.

Kieran Trippier and Yannick Carrasco ought to be the two wing-backs for the home team with the duo in charge of providing the width when they attack the Eibar defence. Koke will hold the fort in the middle of the park flanked by the duo of Saul Niguez and Thomas Lemar, who will be in charge of providing the forward thrust from the centre.

Up top, Angel Correa, who was one of the positives for Atletico Madrid against Real Betis, will be a threat with his movement and energy. Partnering him should be the returning Marcos Llorente, who is back after serving out his suspension. Joao Felix will be an option from the bench if Simeone needs to change things up.

Probable Lineup (3-1-4-2): Oblak; Savic, Gimenez, Hermoso; Koke; Trippier, Saul, Lemar, Carrasco; Llorente, Correa

Eibar

Eibar will be without the services of Pape Diop who is suspended for the game while the likes of Yoshinori Muto, Pedro Bigas, Rober Correa, Edu Exposito and Bryan Gil, who has been linked with the likes of Chelsea, are out injured. In some positive news, Recio is back to fitness and has been named in the travelling squad by manager Jose Luis Mendilibar.

The visitors will line up in a 4-4-2 formation in front of goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic, who will have two banks of four sitting deep and shielding him from Atletico’s attacks. Paulo Oliveira and Anaitz Arbilla ought to be the two centre-halves for Los Armeros who will be flanked by the duo of Alejandro Pozo and Cote, who will likely stay tight with the central defenders and refrain from charging forward regularly.

Sergio Alvarez and Aleix Garcia will be the two central midfielders for Eibar. Both are likely to sit behind the ball and offer protection to the defence, although the latter will also have the added responsibility of pushing forward when his side do attack.

The threat from wide areas will come from Takashi Inui and Kevin Rodrigues. They will be key to creating the chances for the two strikers, who ought to be Kike Garcia and Sergi Enrich.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Dmitrovic; Pozo, Oliveira, Arbilla, Cote; Inui, Aleix Garcia, Alvarez, Rodrigues; Kike Garcia, Enrich

Key Stats

  • Atletico Madrid are undefeated in 16 of their last 17 matches against Eibar in all competitions.
  • Eibar have failed to win their last 13 matches in La Liga (D4 L9) – their worst winless run in the top-flight.
  • Atletico Madrid have won just four of their last 11 games in La Liga after having come out on top in each of their previous eight between December 2020 and January 2021.
  • Eibar have collected just 23 points from 30 games this season. It is their worst-ever tally at this stage of a campaign in their seven seasons in the top-flight.
  • Luis Suarez, who will miss this match due to injury, has won more points with his goals than any other player in La Liga this season. Atletico Madrid have earned 17 of their 67 points thanks to the veteran striker’s 19 goals.

Player to Watch

Marcos Llorente

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The return of the 26-year-old after serving out his suspension will be a major boost for Atletico Madrid, especially in the absence of Luis Suarez. Indeed, between the two of them, Suarez (19) and Llorente (9) have scored 54% of their goals in La Liga this season (28 out of 52). And with the Uruguayan out injured, the goalscoring onus will fall on the shoulders of Llorente.

In addition to goals, the ex-Real Madrid has also shown that he can create chances in equal measure, having contributed with eight assists in La Liga this season – the most by any Atletico Madrid player. His all-round ability, coupled with his work-rate, will be critical for the league leaders as they aim to bounce back to winning ways on Sunday.

Prediction

Atletico Madrid 1-0 Eibar

Atletico Madrid have overseen a steep decline of form in recent weeks that has allowed the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona to catch up with them. However, on Sunday, they will face an Eibar team that has been struggling to get results for quite some time now, having not picked up a win in their last 13 league games.

The faltering form of their opposition, coupled with the return of Marcos Llorente should offer Atleti some hope on Sunday afternoon. It may not be easy, it may not be pretty but Diego Simeone & co. should be able to pick up a crucial win this weekend to keep their noses ahead in the La Liga title race.

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