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Athletic Club-Atlético Madrid: Key trio back at San Mamés

League-leading Atlético can push its advantage to five points with another win.

Atletico de Madrid v SD Huesca - La Liga Santander Photo by Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Diego Simeone will have João Félix, Thomas Lemar, and Luis Suárez at his disposal once again when he takes his Atlético Madrid side into San Mamés to face Athletic Club de Bilbao on Sunday night.

Atlético (22-7-3, 73 points) will have the chance to extend its lead atop LaLiga after Real Madrid and Real Betis drew 0-0 on Saturday night. Barcelona will visit Villarreal on Sunday afternoon and can provisionally close to within two points of the leaders, who are beginning a three-game road swing with monumental title implications.

“I’m part of one of the four teams fighting for the title,” Diego Simeone said Saturday. “It would be unfair not to say that we’re favorites, so I won’t say anything.”

Simeone didn’t show his hand when asked about his team selection for Sunday, either, against a sputtering Athletic Club (9-11-11, 38 points) that might just want this season to be over. Los leones lost two Copa del Rey finals in a two-week span earlier this month, and will be without captain Iker Muniain on Sunday, among others. Marcelino’s men have drawn their past five league games and lost the reverse fixture to Atlético last month.

Athletic de Bilbao v FC Barcelona - Spanish Copa del Rey Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images
Atletico de Madrid v SD Huesca - La Liga Santander Photo by Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Cholo has everyone available except for the suspended José Giménez. It will be crucial to see if the coach persists with the 4-4-2/4-3-3 hybrid that worked so well against Eibar and Huesca — or if he returns to the 3-5-2 that Atlético have utilized much of this season now that Lemar (critical to that formational switch) has recovered from tendinitis.

“I have a clear idea as to how to approach the game,” Simeone said. “I only have to put down the names for tomorrow (on the team sheet) when I talk with the boys to see who’s going to start.”

The win in Madrid last month was Simeone’s 16th against Athletic — his Atlético side have not beaten another opponent with such frequency since he took charge in 2011. However, Atleti have won only once at San Mamés since 2016, and Athletic have not lost a league game at home in over three months.

The squad

Date April 25, 2021

Location San Mamés, Bilbao, Biscay, Basque Country

Kickoff time 9:00 p.m. CEST, 8:00 p.m. GMT, 3:00 p.m. EST, 12:00 p.m. PST

Available TV/streaming Movistar LaLiga 1 (Spain), LaLiga TV (United Kingdom), beIN Sports (United States), ESPN (Brazil), QQ Sports Live (China), Blue Sport (Switzerland),