Matchday 36 will see Atlético Madrid host Real Betis in an empty Stadium Called Wanda — and with it, a chance to breathe fully a serious sigh of relief.
Sure, Atlético discovered on Friday its next opponent in this season’s Champions League. But Los Colchoneros had to sweat it out for a place in the 2020/21 edition until a run of 18 points from a possible 24 moved them swiftly up the table. Now, a victory Saturday night will make Atleti uncatchable in the top four — fifth-place Villarreal could only tie the mattress makers on 66 points, and Diego Simeone’s crew has the head-to-head advantage via a 3-1 win in February.
Betis made a managerial change last month, sacking Rubi and replacing him with Alexis Trujillo. The new coach made over 200 appearances in Betis’ midfield during his career, and his side is virtually safe from relegation in what has been a disappointing campaign. A point in Madrid will see the Andalusian club secure a sixth successive season in LaLiga, which means more Joaquín. Who doesn’t love Joaquín?
Possible XI Oblak; Trippier, Savić, Felipe, Lodi; Thomas, Saúl, Correa, Koke; Llorente, Morata.
Prediction One goes out, one comes in. Yannick Carrasco is good to go after a digestive issue forced him out of Tuesday’s draw at Celta Vigo, but José Giménez is doubtful after he came up limping following an ankle knock in Galicia. (Speaking of ankles — João Félix will miss this match, too.)
This is annually one of the biggest games on Cholo’s calendar — the one where Atlético can mathematically secure Champions League football. The papers believe he is going to deploy his best 11 and get this out of the way without further delay, so that all there will be to worry about over the next week is the final positioning and which players to rotate into the lineup.
Stefan Savić scored a (dubious) goal at Betis to clinch third place three years ago — let’s see if he’ll do it again! 2-0 Atlético.
My record on the season 24-22
Date July 11, 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 (Spain), LaLiga TV (United Kingdom), beIN Sports (United States), DAZN (Germany), ESPN (Brazil), Sportklub 2 (Slovenia), ESPN2 Caribbean (Guadeloupe), SuperSport 7 (South Africa), QQ Sports Live (China)