Atlético Madrid will look to capitalize on momentum from Sunday’s derby win over Real Madrid and defeat Elche on Wednesday night to clinch Champions League football for next season.
It has been a disappointing and frustrating season for Atlético (19-7-9, 64 points), which entered the campaign attempting to defend the league title but instead fell out of the race before the calendar flipped to 2022.
Now, with one more victory against Elche (10-9-16, 39 points), Atleti will mathematically qualify for the 2022/23 Champions League through domestic position, with options to finish as high as third.
“The league isn’t finished yet, there are three very important games left,” Diego Simeone said when he met the media Tuesday. “We are focused on the game against Elche, a team that has competed very well since their coach’s arrival. It will be a tough, difficult game, which we will have to take to where we think we can do damage.”
Elche appointed manager Francisco at the end of November. The Franjiverdes embarked on a memorable Copa del Rey run in the winter months (losing in extra time to Madrid during the round of 16 stage), and barring a sensational collapse, Elche will enjoy a third consecutive season of top-flight football next year.
However, Elche are not safe yet, and last beat Atlético 20 years ago. Atleti have won the past seven league meetings with Elche, including an anxiety-riddled 1-0 triumph last May that proved critical for los Colchoneros’ title pursuit.
This time around, Simeone is expected to insert Mario Hermoso back into the 11 following Reinildo’s muscular injury (though the Mozambican has been included in the squad), and Rodrigo De Paul might return to the 11 for the suspended Marcos Llorente. Matheus Cunha and Yannick Carrasco will retain their places following excellent displays during Sunday’s derby.
Cholo also had positive news to share on star forward João Félix, who previously had ruled himself out for the season due to injury.
“I just ran into him while on my way to talk to you all. I asked him how he was, and I saw him really wanting to be with the team,” Simeone said. “Hopefully, we can have him against Sevilla (on Sunday).”
Date May 11, 2022
Location Estadio Manuel Martínez Valero, Elche, Alicante
Kickoff time 9:30 p.m. CEST, 7:30 p.m. GMT, 3:30 p.m. EST, 12:30 p.m. PST