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Atlético Madrid-SD Huesca: Back to reality

Atlético have been preparing for another final amid the Super League chaos.

Atletico de Madrid v SD Eibar - La Liga Santander
Renan Lodi played well as the starting left back against Eibar — a position he’s expected to hold once more versus Huesca.
Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

The European Super League has lived and died since Atlético Madrid last played, but the team’s title challenge remains intact as Huesca come to visit on Thursday night.

The doomed Super League venture overshadowed a big win for Atlético (21-7-3, 70 points) on Sunday, as the colchoneros opened up a three-point advantage atop LaLiga after a 5-0 win over Eibar. (Real Madrid have since pulled level after beating Cádiz on Wednesday.) The win featured a doblete apiece from Ángel Correa and Marcos Llorente, a forward duo expected to retain its place in Diego Simeone’s 11 on Thursday.

“Luis (Suárez) won’t be available for this game, we hope to have him with us in Bilbao (on Sunday),” Diego Simeone said Wednesday. “João Félix is making an effort to be there tomorrow and we’ll see if he can join us.”

Atletico Madrid v Eibar - La Liga Santander Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Simeone is anticipated to repeat the starting lineup that performed so well against Eibar, while 17th-place Huesca (5-12-14, 27 points) will hope to spring an upset its fellow relegation candidates could not. Led by forward Rafa Mir (who has a dozen goals in his first top-flight season and recently linked with a move to Atlético), Pacheta’s Huesca have fought its way out of the bottom three for the time being while losing only once in the past four. Last weekend, Rodrigo Battaglia scored an absolute thunderbolt to nudge Alavés to victory over the Aragonese side.

“Since Pacheta’s arrival, Huesca have done very well, with a very defined style in each game,” Simeone said. “They are responding very well and always have a chance to win in every game.

“They are going to fight until the end.”

Of course, Simeone also was asked about the failed Super League during Wednesday’s press conference. Atlético pulled out of the project earlier Wednesday, and Cholo believes the club made the right choice.

“We understand that this situation is best for everyone,” he said.

Meanwhile, Koke issued a statement on the squad’s behalf, explaining that the players are happy with the club’s Super League departure, and reaffirming that the real fight is helping Atlético to grow through effort and sporting merit. According to the captain, Atleti’s identity can be most strongly reflected through this fight — and transferred to the fans.

State of the squad Suárez is back in training but won’t play, Thomas Lemar is out, and João Félix has been left out despite Simeone’s pregame optimism about the forward’s recovery from another ankle injury. Atlético have had to make last-minute squad changes in each of the past three games, so we’ll see what happens as we close in on kickoff Thursday night.

Date April 22, 2021

Location Estadio Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid, Spain

Kickoff time 7:00 p.m. CET, 6:00 p.m. GMT, 1:00 p.m. EST, 10:00 a.m. PST

Available TV/streaming Movistar LaLiga (Spain), LaLiga TV (United Kingdom), beIN Sports (United States), Migu (China), DIRECTV Sports (Argentina), GUIGO (Brazil), SuperSport LaLiga (Central African Republic), beIN Sports 1 (France)