Atlético Madrid can consolidate third place with six weeks to go, as Asier Garitano’s stout Alavés team visits the Spanish capital.
Despite a couple dreadful showings since LaLiga returned earlier this month, Alavés are set to secure a fifth consecutive season of top-flight football. The Basque side are 15th but nine points clear of the drop thanks to an organized defense and various Lucas Pérez heroics. The former Arsenal forward has contributed 16 of his team’s 31 goals this season — one of which came against Atlético in October.
Los Colchoneros enter this match on the back of three straight wins — the last two of the nerve-wracking variety against teams in the bottom half of the table. Thanks to another Sevilla draw on Friday, Atleti can move four points clear of the fourth-place Andalusians with a fourth straight victory on Saturday night.
Diego Simeone will tinker once more with his starting 11. The coach welcomed Felipe Monteiro back to training this week and may hand Álvaro Morata a start after the Spain international received only a seven-minute cameo in Valéncia on Tuesday.
Possible XI Oblak; Trippier, Giménez, Felipe, Lodi; Thomas, Saúl, Koke, Lemar; Félix, Morata.
Prediction 1-0 Atlético. That’s right, a third straight 1-0 win. Unocerismo!
Alavés average the fewest shots (8.4) and shots on target (2.8) per game in LaLiga. But Garitano’s men are physical, taking pride in their yellow cards (nearly three per match). They have a good goalkeeper, a tough defense and two dangerous forwards — Pérez is a killer, and no striker in LaLiga is better in the air than Joselu (10.1 headers won per 90 minutes).
So Atlético will have to battle here and be comfortable with 60-plus percent possession. I expect to watch a grimy street fight with few chances either side, with Simeone’s wealth of bench options again deciding a tight contest. I’ll go with Héctor Herrera as the match-winner.
My record on the season 22-20
Date June 27, 2020
Location Estadio Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid, Spain
Kickoff time 10:00 p.m. CET, 9:00 p.m. GMT, 4:00 p.m. EST, 1:00 p.m. PST
Available TV/streaming Movistar LaLiga 1 (Spain), LaLiga TV (United Kingdom), beIN Sports (United States), ESPN2 Sur (Uruguay), Eleven Sports 1 (Portugal), Blue To Go Video Everywhere (Mexico), SuperSport 7 (South Africa), QQ Sports Live (China)