Reigning champions Atletico Madrid will be aiming to return to winning ways when they face off against Sevilla in La Liga this weekend.

Atletico Madrid’s La Liga title defence has been off to a stuttering start. Diego Simeone & co. find themselves in fourth place heading into Matchday 18, already 13 points below league leaders and arch-rivals Real Madrid. Following back-to-back defeats to RCD Mallorca and Los Blancos in the league, the champions hope to get back on track when they take on Sevilla at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.

However, that will be easier said than done for Atleti as their hosts are performing quite well in the league and have put themselves in contention for the title. Indeed, Los Nervionenses are currently second in the table, eight points shy of Real Madrid at the top and will look to close that gap down with a win on Saturday while heaping further misery on the current title-holders.

Sevilla head into the game on the back of consecutive wins in La Liga against Villarreal and Athletic Bilbao, while they defeated lower league side Andratx on penalties in the Copa del Rey earlier this week. Atletico Madrid, as iterated earlier, have lost their last two league outings, although they did manage to beat FC Porto in the Champions League in between those two defeats.

The corresponding fixtures last season, played in April earlier this year, had ended in a 1-0 win for Sevilla, courtesy of a second-half strike from Marcos Acuna. Ahead of their latest meeting at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium, which will be their penultimate game in 2021, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

Sevilla

Sevilla have been handed an injury boost as Lucas Ocampos, Marcos Acuna and Youssef En-Nesyri all trained with the rest of the team on the eve of the game. En-Nesyri seems the biggest doubt for the game among the trio, though, given his lengthy absence from action. Erik Lamela, Suso and Jesus Navas remain unavailable while Fernando is suspended for the tie.

Julen Lopetegui will ring in the changes to the team that started in the midweek cup clash. Bono should be reinstated in goal for Los Nervionenses while the regular centre-back pairing of Jules Kounde and Diego Carlos should also make their way back to the starting XI against Atletico Madrid. Gonzalo Montiel should get the nod at right-back, while Ludwig Augustinsson retains his spot on the left side.

Ivan Rakitic, who missed the last league game due to suspension, ought to start on Saturday night. He will have to act as the conduit between the defence and attack for the home team. With Fernando ruled out, Thomas Delaney, who scored the only goal in the win against Athletic Bilbao, will take over the defensive midfield duties while Joan Jordan provides the legs in the engine room.

Moving into the attacking third, Ocampos’ availability will be a big boost for Sevilla. The winger should slot in on the left flank while Alejandro Gomez gets the nod on the right. The duo will be in charge of creating the goalscoring opportunities for star striker Rafa Mir.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Bono; Montiel, Kounde, Carlos, Augustinsson; Rakitic, Delaney, Jordan; Gomez, Mir, Ocampos

Atletico Madrid

Antoine Griezmann will miss out for Atletico Madrid after picking up an injury against Real Madrid. He joins Sime Vrsaljko and Stefan Savic out on the sidelines for the visitors, while Jose Maria Gimenez is also likely to miss out. Kieran Trippier is back fit but is unlikely to be risked by Diego Simeone, who could make minimal changes to the team that started last weekend.

Jan Oblak is a permanent fixture in goal where he will be shielded by the three-man backline of Felipe, Geoffrey Kondogbia and Mario Hermoso, all of whom will need to up their games after sub-par showings last time out. Marcos Llorente should again take over the wing-back duties on the right flank while Yannick Carrasco slots in on the left side.

Captain Koke, who endured one of his worst performances of the season in the derby, will be hoping to redeem himself with a strong showing at the base of the Atleti midfield. While he will look to sit deep and dictate the tempo, the onus of providing the drive from the centre of the park will fall on the shoulders of Rodrigo De Paul and Thomas Lemar.

Joao Felix made a solid impression after coming on as a substitute against Real Madrid. However, the Portuguese international is likely to be overlooked again by the manager. Luis Suarez is in line for a return to the starting XI, though, alongside Angel Correa, who could be preferred over Matheus Cunha because of the work rate and industry that he offers.

Probable Lineup (3-1-4-2): Oblak; Felipe, Kondogbia, Hermoso; Koke; Llorente, De Paul, Lemar, Carrasco; Correa, Suarez

Key Stats

  • Atletico Madrid are winless in their last three away games against Sevilla in La Liga (D2 L1).
  • Sevilla have won one of their last nine La Liga meetings against Atletico Madrid (D4 L4). However, that victory came in their most recent encounter in April earlier this year.
  • Atletico Madrid have lost only one of their last eight away La Liga fixtures in Andalusia (W4 D3).
  • Sevilla have conceded just 11 goals in La Liga this season – the lowest by any team. They have kept a total of nine clean sheets so far, the joint-highest along with Real Sociedad.
  • Atletico Madrid have lost their last two league games, as many as they had in their previous 23 outings. They have never lost three matches in a row in the competition under Diego Simeone.

Player to Watch

Luis Suarez

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After having helped Atletico Madrid to the La Liga title in his debut season with the club, Luis Suarez has endured a dip in form in the current season. While a tally of seven goals and two assists from 16 La Liga matches is pretty decent, more is expected of the 34-year-old veteran goalscorer, who remains a key part of Diego Simeone’s side.

Indeed, Suarez has found the back of the net just once in his last seven league outings and is yet to score in December. His recent record against Sevilla also does not inspire confidence as Suarez has failed to be involved in a goal in his last three league games against the Andalusian outfit. Simeone & co. will hope that the Uruguayan ends that run this weekend and fires them to a much-needed win.

Prediction

Sevilla 1-1 Atletico Madrid

Atletico Madrid may have lost last time out against Real Madrid but had shown moments of quality during the game, and a failure to make the most of their chances came back to haunt them. In Sevilla, they will be facing yet another difficult team that boasts a highly-impressive defensive record this season and will not make things easy.

And with Luis Suarez going through a lean patch, Antoine Griezmann unavailable, and Joao Felix unlikely to start, Atletico might not be capable of producing the goods in front of the goal again. However, the hosts will be dealing with fatigue after their midweek exertions in the Copa del Rey, which could play a role in the outcome of the game. As a result, The Hard Tackle predicts this one to end in a 1-1 draw.

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