This La Liga season has not been good for Atlético Madrid, but it has been much worse for Deportivo la Coruña, who sit perched above the bottom three in an increasingly precarious position, especially after a 4-0 hiding they took off Leganes. That defeat cost Depor manager Gaizka Garitano his job, replaced by former Real Betis manager Pepe Mel.
That loss could prove costly for Depor, who have yet to win in the New Year, and are serious relegation candidates. This means that on paper Atleti should be taking all three points from this match, and it should be a straightforward affair. However, given their lowly league position, Depor desperately need a result to pull themselves out of the hole they currently find themselves in.
Depor currently have two games in hand over fellow strugglers Granada and Sporting Gijón, but are most certainly in a relegation battle down the stretch. So for them, three points at home on their new manager’s debut would be crucial for confidence and their future in the Primera.
Atlético Madrid, on the other hand, had shown signs of improvement prior to the Barça match both in La Liga and the Champions League, but seriously hindered any hope of league success after their weekend loss to Barça. On paper, this game is very straightforward, however, luck has not gone Depor’s way recently which is clear to see from their expected goals compared to the opposition they’ve faced this season. It would be very typical of Atleti to lose a game against a struggling side in which they are greatly favored.
With Thomas, Jose Gimenez and Fernando Torres all reported to start against Depor, this will be a very different side to the one-fielded last time out. Thomas adds solidity to midfield, though it may mean Koke is shifted to the wing if Gabi continues in the side. Torres has been in a rich vain of form recently as well, and could add to his recent impressive run Thursday. Having Gimenez back from injury should be a boost for Atleti, and he could secure a starting position if he performs well, given the poor play of Savic.
Atleti should, and likely will, win this match, however it should be hard-fought, with Depor again finding themselves fighting for their lives. The Atleti side fielded will provide chances for players on the fringes of the starting 11. A top four position is all Atleti have to play for at this point, but that mustn’t interfere with their attitude towards this game, and Diego Simeone will know the importance of consolidating Atleti’s position at this point in the season. With a win in the bag, Atleti could keep pace with those above them, and create breathing room between themselves and Real Sociedad.