The wobbly, beat-up Atlético Madrid train rolls into the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán on Saturday night for a battle with LaLiga title hopefuls Sevilla.
Reigning champions Atlético (8-5-3, 29 points) saw its hopes of retaining LaLiga more-or-less dashed entirely after losing the Madrid Derby last Sunday. Sevilla (10-4-2, 34 points) are Real Madrid’s nearest challengers, and Julen Lopetegui’s men will dare to dream about a first league crown since 1946 if they can pull one over on Atlético this weekend. The Andalusian side will not have Champions League football to worry about either, following relegation to the Europa League earlier this month.
“The game against Madrid had many good things, but in the second half we made mistakes,” Diego Simeone told the media on Friday. “We are now facing a tough and very strong opponent, with a great, hard-working coach and one of the most balanced squads in LaLiga.”
Simeone will have to make do without Antoine Griezmann, who exited the Santiago Bernabéu with a Dani Carvajal-inflicted injury and will miss at least a couple games. The situation at the back also remains dire, with José Giménez and Stefan Savić expected to miss out again — which will require central midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia to step into central defense for the third consecutive fixture.
Cholo is likely to deploy a compact 5-4-1 formation to keep possession-dominant Sevilla at bay, meaning wide midfield roles for Ángel Correa and Thomas Lemar if they start. Luis Suárez — who has 11 career goals against Sevilla — seems the favorite to start as the lone center-forward, keeping João Félix on the bench for a third straight match.
“The most important thing is the team, where João is an important piece,” Simeone said. “He has to repeat performances like the one at the Bernabéu, where he showed all the talent he has, because that is the footballer we need.”
Lopetegui’s side also will have to find solutions with several key players out until 2022. Captain and influential playmaker Jesús Navas is unavailable with a muscle problem, while Suso (ankle injury) and key summer signing Érik Lamela (shoulder) are out, too. Midfielder Fernando is suspended due to yellow card accumulation.
Date Dec. 18, 2021
Location Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán, Seville, Andalucía
Kickoff time 9:00 p.m. CET, 8:00 p.m. GMT, 3:00 p.m. EST, 12:00 p.m. PST