An undermanned Atlético Madrid side travels to Seville this weekend to battle Real Betis in a crucial game for both Champions League aspirants.
Atlético (13-6-7, 45 points) are looking to notch a three-game winning streak in LaLiga for the first time all season, but the challenge will be significant with so many players unavailable through injury or suspension. Koke, Matheus Cunha, Mario Hermoso, Geoffrey Kondogbia, Stefan Savić, and Daniel Wass are the half-dozen Colchoneros unavailable for this key matchup.
“We are facing a very good opponent,” Diego Simeone said in Saturday’s press conference. “Pellegrini is doing an extraordinary job. He has installed his game, his dynamics, his way of playing. And Betis executes it perfectly. I admire him a lot.”
Manuel Pellegrini’s Real Betis (14-4-8, 46 points) are the only Spanish team still playing on three fronts, and the Verdiblancos on Thursday qualified for the Copa del Rey final for the first time since 2005. However, Pellegrini on Sunday night will be without two fundamental players. Midfielder Sergio Canales is suspended, and full-back Álex Moreno is injured.
Simeone called up only 17 players for the Villamarín trip and will try to keep the starting 11 as consistent as possible. Rodrigo De Paul is set to slide in for the absent Kondogbia, while Felipe Monteiro is the only choice to slot beside José Giménez. Renan Lodi will keep his place following sensational displays against Manchester United and Celta Vigo last week, while Luis Suárez will be benched again with Ángel Correa and João Félix set to start up top.
Reporting this week has indicated Suárez is almost certain to leave Atlético after the season, as he has offers around Europe and overseas.
“I’ve been lucky as a coach. I’ve been able to train Fernando Torres, who won everything and always trained (the same) even if he didn’t play,” Simeone said. “I’m living the same thing with Suárez, (who is) committed and always ready for when he has to play.”
Simeone’s Atlético have lost to Betis only once since 2012, winning four of the past five meetings in LaLiga — including a 3-0 pasting at the Wanda Metropolitano on Halloween.
Date March 6, 2022
Location Estadio Benito Villamarín, Sevilla
Kickoff time 9:00 p.m. CET, 8:00 p.m. GMT, 3:00 p.m. EST, 12:00 p.m. PST