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Real Sociedad-Atlético Madrid: Only looking forward

Atlético’s season finale has arrived.

Club Atletico de Madrid v Sevilla FC - La Liga Santander
Marcos Llorente, last season’s breakout star, is 90 minutes from finishing the 2021/22 season without a single goal.
Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Atlético Madrid’s substandard 2021/22 season will come to an end Sunday night, when the Colchoneros will face Real Sociedad in San Sebastián.

Atlético (20-8-9, 68 points) could have wrapped up third place against Sevilla last weekend, but a late goal from Youssef En-Nesyri dragged the race into the final matchday. Atleti have not finished outside LaLiga’s top three since the 2011/12 season — Diego Simeone took charge halfway through that campaign.

Finishing below Sevilla would reportedly cost Atleti over €7 million in TV revenue based on top-four positioning.

Club Atletico de Madrid v Sevilla FC - La Liga Santander
Jan Oblak has let in 42 goals in LaLiga this season, and his 62.4 save percentage is the second-worst among goalkeepers with at least 30 appearances.
Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

“The truth is, we had an inconsistent season,” Diego Simeone said on Saturday. “We are not used to conceding so many goals. We’ve lost a lot of games. And even so, despite the difficulties, we entered the Champions League with two games to spare ... we competed very well in the Champions League, in the round of 16 and in the quarterfinals against two big clubs.

“I am left with the fact that (our season) has been difficult, complex, inconsistent, (with) a lot of self-criticism and a lot to learn from.”

Real Sociedad (17-11-9, 62 points) are locked into sixth place and Europa League qualifying no matter what happens around LaLiga in round 38. Real Betis’s draw with Real Madrid on Friday night secured fifth place for the Verdiblancos, who enjoyed a superior head-to-head record over Imanol Alguacil’s men.

“(La Real) are a team that’s growing year after year, like Betis, Sevilla, Athletic Club. They’re getting closer and closer to competing toward the top of the table,” Simeone said. “We want to close out an irregular season the best way possible.”

Villarreal CF v Real Sociedad - La Liga Santander
Alexander Sørloth has scored in both meetings with Atlético this season.
Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images

Since 2005, Atlético have won seven and lost seven at Reale Arena, with all but one encounter taking place in LaLiga. Simeone is expected to turn to Matheus Cunha and former Real Sociedad star Antoine Griezmann as Atleti try to exact a little revenge for January’s humbling Copa del Rey exit.

Thomas Lemar returned to full training on Thursday and might be in contention to make the season’s final squad, and it is unknown if Geoffrey Kondogbia or Javi Serrano will be fit enough to start in midfield — though the former trained normally on Saturday and will see minutes.

“We have an important squad. In almost every position, we have players who can produce what we want,” Simeone said. “We don’t need many new players, but we do need some who can strengthen a team that needs new energy.”

Date May 22, 2022

Location Reale Arena, San Sebastián, Gipuzkoa

Kickoff time 10:00 p.m. CEST, 8:00 p.m. GMT, 4:00 p.m. EST, 1:00 p.m. PST

Available TV/streaming ESPN+ (United States), Movistar LaLiga 1 (Spain), LaLiga TV (United Kingdom)