LaLiga leaders Atlético Madrid hit the road against Alavés to begin 2021, days after the 87th anniversary of teams’ first league meeting at Mendizorroza.
Despite this fixture’s age, Atlético and Alavés have only played 29 times throughout history. But including Sunday afternoon’s contest, thirty percent of those meetings have taken place since 2016. Atleti have won five and drawn three against Alavés since the Basque side’s promotion back to LaLiga, with Diego Simeone matching wits against three different coaches.
This time, Simeone will face off with Pablo Machín, who is overseeing a talented but inconsistent side. Thirteenth-place Alavés (4-6-6, 18 points) ground out a home draw with Barcelona and beat Real Madrid at Mendizorroza in November, but Machín’s side has the somewhat-dubious distinction of being the only team that 20th-place Huesca has beaten this season. They also huffed and puffed to a 1-1 draw at 10-man Osasuna — LaLiga’s 19th-placed side — on Thursday.
Atlético (11-2-1) have won 10 of the past 11 league games and have taken 35 of a possible 42 points this season. Entering the weekend’s action, Los Colchoneros are two points clear of reigning champions Real Madrid with two games in hand. Further, they hold a six-point lead with three games in hand (plus the head-to-head advantage) over third-place Real Sociedad.
Though Luis Suárez is averaging 0.96 goals per 90 minutes this campaign, the club is expected to reinforce its striker corps this month after Diego Costa’s unexpected departure — Atleti have made 11 signings over the past eight winter transfer windows, so the smart money is on Simeone welcoming another forward to his ranks.
(Just don’t tell Kieran Trippier’s friends, lest they place a bet on it.)
Simeone will have to decide between Šime Vrsaljko and Ricard Sánchez in the right wing-back role, and he has two players facing their fifth yellow cards — Koke and Mario Hermoso are one booking from an automatic one-game suspension. Stefan Savić is serving such a suspension on Sunday, meaning José Giménez will start in central defense for the first time since Dec. 1.
Date Jan. 3, 2021
Location Mendizorroza, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Basque Country
Kickoff time 4:15 p.m. CET, 3:15 p.m. GMT, 10:15 EST, 7:15 a.m. PST
Available TV/streaming Movistar LaLiga 1 (Spain), LaLiga TV (United Kingdom), beIN Sports (United States), DStv Now (Zimbabwe)