Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid will be aiming to close the gap to La Liga leaders Real Madrid when they face Mallorca at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Defending La Liga champions, Atletico Madrid, will aim to get their title defence back on track with a win over Mallorca at the Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday.
Diego Simeone’s side are usually difficult to play against, especially in their own backyard. However, recent home losses to Liverpool and AC Milan have shattered that aura of unbeatability. Real Sociedad, Athletic Bilbao and Villarreal have all come to the Spanish capital and gone away with a share of the spoils.
The lost points have so far proven detrimental in Atletico falling behind arch-rivals Real Madrid in the race for the top. The Colchoneros are currently seven points off the top but have a game in hand. A win against Mallorca will see them claw to within four points of Los Blancos. With most of the season still to be played, there is enough time for Simeone’s men to turn their fortunes around.
However, if they are serious about doing so, they cannot afford to drop any more points on the cheap, especially not at home. In Mallorca, Simeone could have found himself the ideal opponent. The visitors are going through a difficult spell and are winless in their last seven games. This has seen them plummet to the 14th spot in the standings, just four points off the relegation zone.
With both teams keen on a win, it promises to be an interesting game. A win for Mallorca will aid them put further distance between themselves and the drop zone. Atletico, meanwhile, will be keen to get points on the board before their upcoming games against Real Madrid and Sevilla. There is no better time than now for Simeone’s men to find their best form.
With their do or die Champions League tie against FC Porto to come in the midweek, Simeone will be keen to get the job done early before resting his big guns. The Hard Tackle looks at how both sides will line up on the night and what tactics might be employed.
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The defending champions will be without English international wing-back Kieran Trippier, who is injured. Renan Lodi and Joao Felix are also doubtful to feature and could hand Simeone a selection puzzle.
Mallorca might not have won any of their last seven La Liga games, but they lost just two of them. Atletico have shown themselves to lack imagination against defences that have figured them out. Liverpool and AC Milan are certainly a few levels above Mallorca in quality. Still, it remains to be seen if Luis Garcia’s side have been handed a blueprint to beat the Spanish champions.
Simeone looks set to go in with a 3-5-2 system that changes into a 5-3-2 when defending. Jan Oblak is a sure starter in goal while the back three should be made up of Stefan Savic, Jose Gimenez and Mario Hermoso.
Marcos Llorente could deputize for Trippier at right-back with Yannick Carrasco holding down the other flank. Skipper Koke will be entrusted with doing the dirty work in midfield, permitting Thomas Lemar and Rodrigo De Paul to push on forward.
Former Barcelona duo Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann will lead the line and make something happen upfront. The duo is the club’s top two goalscorers and accounts for 50 per cent of Atletico’s strikes this season. The onus to make the difference on the day could once again fall on them.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Oblak; Savic, Gimenez, Hermoso; Llorente, Lemar, Koke, De Paul, Carrasco; Suarez, Griezmann
A run of seven games without a win has somewhat tempered a promising start to the season for the visitors. Despite their inability to win games, Mallorca have shown themselves to be resolute in eking out a point. They could aim to repeat the trick against Atletico on Saturday. They will aim to do so sans Antonio Raillo and Matthew Hoppe. Salva Sevilla, meanwhile, remains a doubt.
Mallorca look set to line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Manolo Reina seems set to start in goal, behind Franco Russo and Martin Valjent. Jaume Costa and Pablo Maffeo will start on the flanks and will be expected to keep Llorente and Carrasco quiet.
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However, Lemar’s presence on the field could help Atletico overpower their opponents on the right-wing. The Frenchman is an adept player out wide and could provide Llorente with support on the night.
This makes the Mallorca double pivot of Iddrisu Baba and Inigo Ruiz de Galarreta crucial. The duo will be tasked with keeping Lemar and De Paul quiet. Starving the front two of service could go a lot way into nullifying Atletico’s goal threat.
The trio of Lee Kang-In, Takefusa Kubo and Dani Rodriguez will be expected to support striker Angel Rodriguez. Despite their recent troubles, Atletico are still a hard team to break down. Simeone’s men offer no quarter and will put up a real fight until the very end. Just what Mallorca have planned to prevent that remains to be seen.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Reina; Costa, Russo, Valjent, Maffeo; Baba, de Galarreta; Kang-In, Kubo, D. Rodriguez; A. Rodriguez
- Atletico Madrid could defeat Mallorca thrice in a row and without conceding a goal for the first time should they prevail with a shutout on Saturday.
- Atletico Madrid are undefeated in their last eight home games against Mallorca.
- Mallorca have failed to win any of their last seven La Liga games.
- Atletico Madrid have scored two or more goals in six of their last seven games.
- Atletico Madrid have not lost any of their previous 14 home games in La Liga.
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The Frenchman is a world-class player who can be a difference-maker on his night. While his spell at Barcelona might not have met expectations, a return to the Wanda Metropolitano has paid dividends. Currently, the Spanish champions’ second top scorer, the 30-year-old, will be pivotal in the games to come.
Not just an excellent technician on the ball, Griezmann is also someone who does the hard running and drops into midfield to fashion chances. This could prove key should Mallorca attempt to crowd the midfield to cut out passing lanes. Griezmann’s ability to run into pockets and create space for his teammates will prove pivotal.
Atletico Madrid 2-0 Mallorca
While Atletico does not go into the game in the best of form, they have enough quality in their ranks to defeat Mallorca. The visitors, despite their grit, lack the same ability on and off the ball that Liverpool and Milan showed.
Simeone will be keen to go into the doubleheader against Real Madrid and Sevilla in the coming weeks. Win all three games, and there is every chance they could go into the new year at the top of the table. Dropping points against Mallorca would once again prove to be a blow for a side that appears to have shed their cloak of invincibility.