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Atlético de Madrid-Real Valladolid: Rojiblanco attack must pick up patchwork defense

The appetizer to next week’s Copa del Rey entrée.

Real Valladolid v Atletico Madrid - La Liga Santander
In the previous meeting with Valladolid, Ángel Correa scored a memorable goal to ignite Atleti’s title-winning comeback.
Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Atlético Madrid host Real Valladolid on Saturday night, and the Rojiblancos will be hoping to return to the UEFA Champions League places as the league season nears its halfway mark.

Atlético (8-4-5, 28 points) have won just two of the past eight in the league but boast an excellent record against Valladolid (5-2-10, 17 points). Atleti have won 10 of the past 11 meetings with the Ronaldo Nazário-owned club — including a dramatic comeback victory on the final day of the 2020/21 season to clinch the league title.

Atleti are coming off a tense Copa del Rey win at Levante and will try to launch a winning streak entering next week’s cup quarterfinal against Real Madrid.

“For us, let’s get closer to what we showed in the second half of the last game,” Diego Simeone told the media on Friday. “When the players give of themselves, and give the maximum, they can produce great performances. With the strength of our fans, we can play a great game (on Saturday).”

Real Valladolid v Real Madrid - La Liga Santander
Veteran Sergio León is Valladolid’s top scorer this season with five goals.
Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Like Almería (Atlético’s opponent last weekend), Valladolid have returned to LaLiga after suffering relegation. Pacheta’s men were able to bounce right back up to the top flight but are now fighting for safety once more — they enter this match on a four-game losing skid. They haven’t scored a league goal since a 2-1 win over Elche at the start of November.

“Valladolid are a team whose results haven’t accompanied the game they play,” Simeone said. “They have a very defined style with many offensive players, but the results haven’t followed.”

Atlético announced the acquisition of a new offensive player on Friday, as Memphis arrived from FC Barcelona on a two-and-a-half year contract. Simeone did not say whether Memphis would feature on Saturday, but the Dutch international has been included in the squad and the coach did discuss where he sees the 28-year-old fitting in his team.

Atletico Madrid v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander
Memphis Depay of FC Barcelona during the La Liga Santander match between Atletico Madrid v FC Barcelona at the Estadio Civitas Metropolitano on January 8, 2023 in Madrid.
Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

“An enthusiastic player arrives, with desire to recover his best form,” El Cholo said. “We’ll work to find the player he was at Lyon, where he showed his strengths. We will take him to his best form.

“Memphis can play as a main or supporting striker. I see him similarly to Diego Costa, who was always a supporting forward but then became the main center forward because of his finishing and explosiveness.”

Yannick Carrasco, who has been linked strongly with a summer move to Barcelona, was back in training Friday and is ready to go for the Valladolid match. But Simeone has more problems in defense, as José Giménez remains absent with back and hamstring problems while Sergio Reguilón and Stefan Savić are serving suspensions.

“We need to have commitment in our play. In the first half (on Wednesday), we didn’t do well because the team didn’t try to play football, trying to turn up and win the game based on reputation,” Simeone said. “But since the World Cup, I see a team that intends to reverse the situation. Tomorrow, I wait for the support from our fans, because the team is tired after playing its third game in a week.”

Date Jan. 21, 2023

Location Estadio Cívitas Metropolitano, Madrid

Kickoff time 6:30 p.m. CET, 5:30 p.m. GMT, 12:30 p.m. EST, 9:30 a.m. PST

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