Atletico Madrid will be hoping to oust Real Madrid for their 11th La Liga title, when they take on Real Valladolid in a must-win game on Saturday.
As we head towards the final matchday, Laliga is one of two top-five leagues in Europe where the winner has not been decided yet. On Saturday, the 2020/21 edition of the Spanish top-flight should come to a conclusion, as Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid vie for the title, with each facing a must-win encounter against Real Valladolid and Villarreal respectively.
Atletico Madrid certainly do have the advantage, as they are leading the table by two points heading into this encounter. It is indeed their title to lose, knowing they must drop points in order for Real Madrid to win the title.
Even a draw would allow Los Blancos to edge ahead with a win over Villarreal, on the account of their better head to head record over their cross-town rivals.
Atleti, on the other hand, could win the title even with a defeat against Valladolid, should Real Madrid drop points in their game. Diego Simeone’s men, though, will be keen on leaving the fate on his hands, especially after securing a dramatic win over CA Osasuna last weekend, with Luis Suarez scoring a late winner.
For Valladolid, though, it is also an important game as they are embroiled in a relegation fight that makes this one must-win encounter. The Albivioletas are currently 19th in the league table, but could potentially overtake Huesca if results do go their way and indeed if they can secure all three points against the league leaders.
Here, at the Hard Tackle, we will take a look at both these sides ahead of this hugely important encounter in the context of the title race as well as the relegation fight in Laliga this weekend.
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— Real Valladolid CF EN (@realvalladolidE) May 21, 2021
Real Valladolid manager Sergio Gonzalez hasn’t had much luck this season but needs to go all out in search of a victory. Unfortunately, he is likely to miss a couple of key attackers in Kenan Kodro and Fabian Orellana.
Summer signing Shon Weissmann hasn’t fired in all cylinders since joining from Austria. The onus, however, will still be on the Israeli international to offer the productivity in the attacking department, using additional support from Oscar Plano and Jota out wide.
Gonzalez, though, could be tempted to try his luck with Marcos Andre too, after the 24-year-old scored in the defeat to Real Sociedad. He is likely to be an option from the bench for the home side, should they require further attacking reinforcements.
In midfield, Valladolid are set to rely on the three-man combination of Roque Mesa, Michel Herrero and Ruben Alcaraz, with the latter operating in the deepest role – hoping to offer protection for the backline.
Speaking of which, Gonzalez might want to ring in the changes out wide, with Saidy Janko and Nacho Martinez replacing Luis Perez and Lucas Olaza. Jawad El Yamiq should come back into the side as well, after serving a suspension. He will renew his defensive partnership with Joaquin Fernandez, as Real Valladolid look to keep an ambitious clean sheet.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Masip; Janko, El Yamiq, Gonzalez, Martinez; Mesa, Alcaraz, Herrero; Plano, Weissmann, Jota
Diego Simeone will miss out on the services of key defender Stefan Savic this weekend, due to yellow card suspension. His absence could significantly reduce Atletico’s threat from a set-piece, although they do have more than a capable replacement in Jose Gimenez, as the Uruguayan renews his central defensive partnership alongside Felipe.
Simeone is likely to persist with the flexible 4-3-3 that can turn into a 3-5-2 in attacking phases, with the left-back Mario Hermoso dropping in at centre-back. Kieran Trippier, in contrast, typically switches between a right-back and a right wingback slot and a vital element in Atleti’s offensive game.
❝It's a final and we will both fight for our lives.❞
Who's ready for tomorrow's LaLiga finale 🆚 Real Valladolid? pic.twitter.com/txfPdyoPvZ
— Atlético de Madrid (@atletienglish) May 21, 2021
In the three-man midfield, Koke should occupy the deepest role, as he looks to dictate the play with his passing and ball circulation. His game-reading ability could also play a key role in neutralising potential counter-attacking opportunities for the opposition.
Saul Niguez and Marcos Llorente are expected to continue in advanced midfield roles, hoping to offer the creative essence and create passing triangles with the wide players, in a joint effort to breach the Valladolid backline.
Moving forward, Yannick Ferreira Carrasco should start as the left-winger, switching between the first and the second line of press when Valladolid enjoy possession. He will hope to provide the supply for Luis Suarez while Angel Correa should get the nod ahead of Joao Felix on the opposite flank.
The options from the bench, though, could be used wisely by Simeone, especially considering the impact they made in the win over Osasuna. Joao Felix, Renan Lodi and Moussa Dembele, in particular, could prove to be very useful, in that regard.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Oblak; Gimenez, Felipe, Hermoso; Trippier, Llorente, Koke, Saul, Carrasco; Correa, Suarez
- Atletico Madrid could claim their 11th Laliga title and their second under Diego Simeone. The Argentine could become the third coach to win two titles in the competition for the club, after Ricardo Zamora (1939/40 and 1940/41) and Helenio Herrera (1949/50 and 1950/51).
- Real Valladolid have lost 10 of their last 11 games against Atletico Madrid in Laliga, failing to score in seven of their last eight league games against the Rojiblancos.
- Atletico Madrid have won four of their last five Laliga away games against Real Valladolid, with the only exception coming in their visit to Jose Zorrilla (0-0 in October 2019). They had not won any of their previous seven such away games against them before this spell.
- Under Diego Simeone, Atletico Madrid have won 89% of their meetings with Valladolid in Laliga (8/9). Only against Elche and Las Palmas (100%) and Osasuna (91%) have they recorded a higher win percentage in the competition under the Argentine coach than against the Pucelanos (minimum five games played).
- Real Valladolid have gone 11 straight games without winning in Laliga, the worst ongoing streak of any team currently in the competition. In addition, they have lost each of their last three games in the competition and could match their longest losing streak under Sergio Gonzalez in the top-flight (four in March 2019).
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Luis Suarez was the star of the show last weekend when the forward netted a late equaliser to put Atletico Madrid in the driver’s seat to seal the title. It was an important goal for him too personally, as it broke the little goal drought that saw him fail to find the back of the net in the previous five matches.
This time around, Suarez will be keen on extending his scoring tally of 20 goals – a tally only bettered by Gerard Moreno, Karim Benzema and his pal Lionel Messi. This might also be the forward’s last game for Atletico Madrid, having been linked with a sensational return to Liverpool this summer, while a special clause in his contract could even allow him to leave Wanda Metropolitano for free.
Therefore, ending the Spanish chapter of his career could be of sheer importance for the Uruguayan veteran, who has netted 164 goals in just 222 games in the Spanish top flight.
Real Valladolid 0-2 Atletico Madrid
Atletico Madrid will head into this game fully prepared, especially in the defensive department knowing they simply cannot afford to concede a goal. Valladolid, too, do not have a strong attacking department, especially if Orellana does indeed miss out once again.
Offensively for Atleti, they might find problems in breaching the Valladolid’s low defensive block, but with technically gifted players like Llorente, Saul and Correa available in their ranks, we expect Los Colchoneros to seal a relatively comfortable 2-0 win this weekend and secure the league title.