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Real Sociedad-Atlético Madrid: Previewing the top-three battle in the Basque Country

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Third hosts first on Tuesday night. Here’s everything you need to know about the matchup.

Atletico de Madrid v Elche CF - La Liga Santander Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Atlético Madrid’s full attacking complement will be available away from home for the first time in over two months against a Real Sociedad side welcoming back two of its best players.

Diego Simeone has been unable to field Diego Costa, João Félix, and Luis Suárez together this season. Though he has ruled out doing so from kickoff on Tuesday in San Sebastián, Simeone said pregame that it’s a possibility late in this match, let alone later this season.

“We will have to be patient, and as a coach we have to take advantage of our players’ best moment,” Simeone said. “The important thing is to put them on when they are at their best and that they show what one sees during the week.”

Félix suffered a rib injury during the first half of Saturday’s victory over Elche, but he trained normally Monday and is good to go against La Real. The hosts will reintroduce two key players on Tuesday, both returning after muscular injuries — captain Mikel Oyarzabal and veteran playmaker David Silva.

“La Real continues to grow, with a coach who has very clear ideas,” Simeone said. “He knows what he needs from his players, and they express it in the game...Silva has given them jerarquía (standing) in the center of the park.

“They are an opponent that has been competing at a very good level for years.”

Levante UD v Real Sociedad - La Liga Santander
Alexander Isak scored La Real’s only goal in a 2-1 loss at Levante over the weekend.
Photo by Pablo Morano/BSR Agency/Getty Images

Indeed, Real Sociedad battled to a 1-1 draw at the Wanda Metropolitano in July to secure Europa League football on the season’s final day — and a late goal against Napoli earlier this month sent Imanol Alguacil’s men to that competition’s round of 32. The txuri-urdin got off to a blazing start this season but are winless in the past eight games between LaLiga and the Europa League. Still, La Real are third and have LaLiga’s second-largest goal difference behind first-place Atlético — which has played three games more.

“It’s nice to see them play,” Simeone said. “They’re an intense team.”

Atleti know this from previous meetings at Reale Arena — where Simeone has overseen three losses from the past four visits. However, a win Tuesday would be Simeone’s 300th as Atleti’s coach. Most importantly, it would keep his rojiblancos a step ahead of Real Madrid in what could be seen as a duel for the title with los blancos.

But Cholo isn’t about to entertain that talk. His response when asked if the league was already a two-horse race?

“No.”


The squad

Date Dec. 22, 2020

Location Reale Arena, San Sebastián, Gipuzkoa, Basque Country

Kickoff time 7:45 p.m. CET, 6:45 p.m. GMT, 1:45 p.m. EST, 10:45 a.m. PST

Available TV/streaming Movistar LaLiga 3 (Spain), LaLiga TV (United Kingdom), beIN Sports (United States)