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Elche CF-Atlético Madrid: The final push begins

Atlético have five finals left — the first, a Saturday afternoon showdown in Alicante.

Athletic Club v Atletico de Madrid - La Liga Santander
Luis Suárez scored a brace the last time these two teams met.
Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Atlético Madrid have not played Elche away from home in LaLiga since December 2014, and Diego Simeone’s table-toppers will return to the Martínez Valero seeking a win Saturday.

“(We must) think more than ever about the next game,” Diego Simeone said Friday when asked about the importance of being in first place with five games to go. “With four teams so close together, I can only think about the next game.”

Atlético (22-7-4, 73 points) certainly won’t want to remember the last game — a late 2-1 loss at Athletic Club that might have derailed the colchoneros’ title challenge...if Granada hadn’t shocked Barcelona on Thursday night. The visitors’ 2-1 win could prove pivotal, and for now, it ensures Atleti will enter the final month as league leaders.

“I saw the end of the game,” Simeone said when asked about Thursday’s result at Camp Nou. “(It was) a competitive game. But I was thinking about the only thing that matters to us, which is Elche. (It is) a team that has changed and has competed very well since Escribá’s arrival. They have been strong at home.”

Athletic Club v Atletico de Madrid - La Liga Santander Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images
SD Huesca v Elche CF - La Liga Santander Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images

Elche (6-12-15, 30 points) have won only three times from 12 games under new coach Fran Escribá. Yet, last year’s promotion playoff winners still hope to secure safety after a lengthy barren run knocked the team into the relegation zone. The franjiverdes sit 18th at the moment, but a point could be enough to lift them out of the drop zone for the time being.

Elche have not lost at home since Escribá’s appointment in February, while Sevilla, Real Betis and Real Madrid are among the teams to have left the Martínez Valero without a win this season. So Atlético will need to bring its A-game to kick off this five-game title run-in — a loss could see the rojiblancos fall all the way to third.

Simeone has won seven of his 10 all-time meetings with former Atlético assistant Escribá, and Cholo is expected to start this one with Ángel Correa and Luis Suárez as his forward pair — which will leave João Félix on the bench once again. Mario Hermoso is expected to return to the starting 11 after playing just 15 minutes in the past week, while Koke is slated to make his 350th league appearance for Atleti.

State of the squad Simeone has his entire team available — except for Renan Lodi, who picked up a muscular injury Thursday and has been left out. He hasn’t yet been ruled out for next week’s trip to Camp Nou, though.

Date May 1, 2021

Location Estadio Manuel Martínez Valero, Elche, Alicante, Valencian Community

Kickoff time 4:15 CEST, 3:15 GMT, 10:15 a.m. EST, 7:15 a.m. PST

Available TV/streaming Movistar LaLiga 1 (Spain), LaLiga TV (United Kingdom), beIN Sports (United States)