Los Colchoneros can make themselves more difficult to catch if things go according to plan against Mallorca on Friday night.
“We cannot look back or too far ahead,” Diego Simeone said Thursday afternoon. “We are in a transition year, as we’ve said. Many were surprised, but we’re still looking to achieve the club’s objective.
“Hopefully we can keep it up and finish as high as possible.”
The Atlético Madrid coach’s optimism has been reinforced by his side’s strong showing since LaLiga resumed last month. The mattress makers have picked up 14 of a possible 18 points to move into third place and distance themselves from the Europa League places. The team has also rung up a 13-game unbeaten streak since a loss to Real Madrid on Feb. 1.
But Simeone knows the job is not done yet. Mallorca’s arrival kicks off a stretch of three straight games against teams placed 13th or lower in the table. Vicente Moreno’s side pounded Celta Vigo 5-1 earlier this week but are still five points adrift of safety with five games left — and even a draw at A Stadium Called Wanda might not be good enough to prevent a drop back down to Segunda.
Los Bermellones have not beaten Atlético in the capital since 2006, but have picked up points on six of their last visits. The hosts will be strengthened by Koke’s return from suspension, and Simeone will make a few more changes to the 11 which drew at Barcelona on Tuesday.
Possible XI Oblak; Trippier, Savić, Felipe, Lodi; Thomas, Saúl, Koke, Carrasco; Félix, Morata.
Prediction 2-0 Atlético. The visitors are missing important players for a game in which they have to take something. Moreno will be without top scorer Ante Budimir and ever-present center back Martin Valjent after they picked up their 10th and fifth yellow cards, respectively. He will be able to count on teenage pearl Takefusa Kubo to provide danger across midfield, and he could win his battle with Renan Lodi. But in-form Atlético should get good chances against LaLiga’s worst defense, ride out comfortable winners here and almost certainly condemn Mallorca to relegation.
My record on the season 23-21
Date July 3, 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), beIN Sports 1 (Indonesia), Eleven Sports 1 (Belgium), ESPN (Brazil), SL4G (Ghana), DAZN (Japan), QQ Sports Live (China)