Atlético Madrid are back from the international break and into the season’s business end, with a tough league fixture against Alavés taking place on Saturday night.
When we last saw Atlético (16-6-7, 54 points), Diego Simeone’s side were holding off Rayo Vallecano to extend its league winning streak to five games. This positive run of results has consolidated Atleti’s place in LaLiga’s top four.
Another victory on Saturday could push the Rojiblancos seven points clear of fifth-place Real Betis — and if Barcelona beat Sevilla as well, Atleti would end the weekend in a three-way tie for second place behind Real Madrid.
Meanwhile, José Luis Mendilibar’s Alavés (5-7-17, 22 points) are seeking to complete a sensational double over Atlético, having notched a 1-0 home win over the reigning champions in September. Alavés, sitting 19th in the table as the league’s lowest-scoring team, have not beaten Atlético twice in the same season since 2002/03.
“Our opponent has many needs,” Simeone said on Friday. “We know how they play. They have high intensity, they steal the ball a lot in the defensive third. We will have to be very attentive. It’s a very important match.”
Simeone confirmed Héctor Herrera’s absence through a muscle injury but said João Félix would be available after he was limited in training on Thursday. João is expected to start next to Antoine Griezmann. Cholo also highlighted the importance of having right-backs Šime Vrsaljko and Daniel Wass back in the squad opposite Reinildo Mandava ahead of Tuesday’s trip to Manchester City.
“Šime and Daniel returning gives us more options, and Marcos Llorente can play as a midfielder, which is his best position.
“(Reinildo) arrived as a pure left-back but we noticed in him an intensity and a defensive commitment that could help us improve (at center-back),” Simeone said. “From then on, the team regained what it has always had: an important defensive strength. From there, you can play and take advantage of (attacking) talent.”
¡Estos son nuestros jugadores para el Atleti-Alavés! pic.twitter.com/fc5266SmZK— Atlético de Madrid (@Atleti) April 2, 2022
Date April 2, 2022
Location Estadio Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid
Kickoff time 9:00 p.m. CET, 8:00 p.m. GMT, 3:00 p.m. EST, 12:00 p.m. PST