Atletico Madrid will be hoping to strengthen their grip at the top of the La Liga table when they take on SD Huesca this midweek.

As the dust settles on the trainwreck that was the European Super League, footballing action continues at a breakneck speed with the 2020/21 campaign now entering into the business end. And in La Liga, leaders Atletico Madrid will be hoping to consolidate their position at the top when they face off against relegation-battling SD Huesca at the Wanda Metropolitano on Thursday.

Atletico, who were one of the last members to withdraw from the doomed ESL, were able to put behind their recent on-field woes when they thrashed SD Eibar 5-0 at the weekend. That result, coupled with Real Madrid’s goalless draw against Getafe meant Diego Simeone’s men opened up a three-point lead at the top. But with Los Blancos set to play Cadiz on Wednesday, the pressure will be on Atleti to ensure there are no slip-ups.

Huesca, meanwhile, are teetering around the relegation zone as they sit 17th, level on points with 18th-placed Real Valladolid, who have a game in hand. After a three-game unbeaten run that included wins over Levante and Elche, Pacheta’s side fell to a 1-0 loss to fellow relegation battlers Alaves last time out. They will be hoping to come away with at least a point from the capital as they look to avoid the drop.

The reverse fixture, played in September last year at Estadio El Alcoraz, had ended in a goalless draw. Ahead of their latest meeting on Thursday evening, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

Atletico Madrid

There is some good news for Atletico Madrid heading into the game as star striker and leading goalscorer Luis Suarez is back in training and could play some part against Huesca even if he does not start. However, both Joao Felix and Thomas Lemar are likely to miss out due to injuries.

Diego Simeone switched the 4-4-2 formation last time out having largely utilised the 3-5-2 setup this term. After having seen the result against Eibar, he will be encouraged to continue with two banks of four in front of goalkeeper Jan Oblak again on Thursday night.

Kieran Trippier and Renan Lodi will be the full-backs who will look to push forward and supply crosses into the box while Stefan Savic and Jose Maria Gimenez line up as the centre-backs.

Hector Herrera will look to provide the security to the centre-back pairing in midfield, in conjunction with captain Koke, who will look to dictate the tempo from the middle of the park. Saul Niguez, who looked good in the last game, ought to continue out on the right from where he will look to move centrally and link up with the forwards. Yannick Carrasco, who has now scored in each of the last two games, continues on the left.

Upfront, despite Suarez’s return, it will be the duo of Marcos Llorente and Angel Correa that feature, with the Uruguayan unlikely to be risked ahead of the tough encounter against Athletic Bilbao at the weekend.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Oblak; Trippier, Savic, Gimenez, Lodi; Saul, Herrera, Koke, Carrasco; Llorente, Correa

Huesca

Huesca welcome Gaston Silva back into the squad after a two-month injury layoff. However, Pablo Maffeo, Luisinho and Javier Ontiveros all miss out due to their respective fitness problems.

Pacheta ought to set his team up in a 3-5-2 formation that has worked well in recent games with Andres Fernandez lining up in goal. Jorge Pulido, Pablo Insua and Dimitrios Siovas should form the three-man defensive unit, although Denis Vavro is also an option at the manager’s disposal. Pedro Lopez and Javi Galan ought to be the two wing-backs, who will sit deep during the defensive phases, essentially making it a 5-3-2 setup.

Pedro Mosquera will sit the deepest of the three central midfielders and look to cut out attacks with support coming from David Ferreiro and Jaime Seoane, both of whom will also have the added responsibility of springing forward and supporting the attackers when the visitors are on the ball.

Upfront, Rafa Mir, who is Huesca’s top goalscorer this term and has attracted Barcelona’s interest, is a certain starter against Atletico Madrid. He is likely to be partnered by Sandro Ramirez, although Shinji Okazaki is also an option at Pacheta’s disposal.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Fernandez; Pulido, Insua, Siovas; Lopez, Ferreiro, Mosquera, Seoane, Galan; Mir, Sandro

Key Stats

  • Atletico Madrid are undefeated in 35 of their last 38 La Liga matches.
  • Huesca have failed to win 21 of their last 23 away games in La Liga.
  • Atletico Madrid have kept a clean sheet in their last 3 matches against SD Huesca in all competitions.
  • Huesca have played more La Liga games without scoring against Atletico Madrid (P3 W0 D1 L2) than against any other opponent in the competition.
  • Atletico Madrid are unbeaten in their last 27 home La Liga games against newly promoted sides under Diego Simeone (W25 D2).

Player to Watch

Angel Correa

Back-to-back games in which the 26-year-old has shone bright, Correa was brilliant in Atletico Madrid’s 5-0 thrashing of Eibar last time out, scoring a couple of goals and assisting one as well. It is now about doing that consistently for the Argentine, given as he hasn’t been able to produce such performances on a regular basis week in week out for Atletico Madrid, having managed just six goals in 31 league games this term.

There is no denying that he contributes to the team’s cause with the other aspects of his game such as his pressing of the opposition and his ability to create chances – he has 11 assists in all competitions this term. However, with Luis Suarez just recovering from an injury and Joao Felix struggling, it is important that Correa steps up and continues to score goals if Atletico are to remain at the top and lift the title come the end of the season.

Prediction

Atletico Madrid 2-1 Huesca

Huesca, under, Pacheta have shown signs of improvement and will likely pose a much sterner test to Atletico Madrid than Eibar did last week. However, Diego Simeone can count on the form of Angel Correa, Marcos Llorente and Yannico Carrasco while the availability of Luis Suarez is also a major boost, which is why they should be able to see this one through and pick up another vital win on Thursday.

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