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Atlético de Madrid - RCD Mallorca: A bermellón banana peel?

Atlético are back from the international break with practically its full complement of players.

Atletico Madrid v Villarreal - LaLiga EA Sports
Álvaro Morata scored four goals in three previous meetings with Mallorca.
Photo by David S.Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Atlético de Madrid face struggling Mallorca at the Metropolitano on Saturday night, hoping to secure a 10th league win of the season before traveling to the Netherlands for a crucial Champions League contest.

Atlético Madrid (9-1-2, 28 points) were fortunate to avoid major injuries over the final FIFA break of 2023 while Real Madrid (Vinícius Jr.) and FC Barcelona (Gavi) both lost key players for several months. Atlético on Thursday trained with every first-team player except for Thomas Lemar — and head coach Diego Simeone on Friday confirmed that Memphis Depay would return to the squad at last to beef up the available forward options.

“I’m happy, tomorrow he’ll be with us and I hope he’ll get some minutes during the game,” Simeone told the media. “He’s very important for us.”

As expected, El Cholo named defender Reinildo Mandava in Saturday’s squad in a major boost to the defense. The Mozambican has been training normally throughout November, and he is now ready to return nine months after suffering a torn right ACL in the Madrid Derby.

As for Saturday’s opponents, it has been a disappointing season thus far at Mallorca (1-6-5, 9 points), which finished in the top half last season but are 17th in the table entering this game. Javier Aguirre’s men have not scored a goal since the fifth minute of a 1-1 draw against Valencia on Oct. 7 — that was four rounds ago. In addition, the FIFA virus swooped down and took striker Vedat Muriqi (4 goals scored/2 assisted) away from Los Bermellones; the Kosovo international will not play against Atlético and is not expected to return until 2024 after he picked up a thigh injury during the international qualifiers.

That said, Mallorca have won three of the past four meetings with Atlético — and Simeone will be mindful that Feyenoord are next up for his men on Tuesday night. Another positive result against the Eredivisie winners is vital for Atleti’s chances to progress past the Champions League group stage.

Simeone on Saturday is likely to persist with Antoine Griezmann in midfield behind a forward pair of Álvaro Morata and Ángel Correa. When asked why France boss Didier Deschamps saw fit to play Griezmann for two full games over the international break when Les Bleus had already secured Euro 2024 qualification, Simeone simply said “I understand every manager’s position.”

But given the importance of Tuesday’s match — and seeing as the international break just ended — Saturday’s starting lineup will feature new faces in new places. César Azpilicueta is in line for his first start in over a month, while Marcos Llorente will relieve Nahuel Molina at right wing-back. Samuel Lino and Pablo Barrios are both expected to re-enter the 11, too — the duo came off the bench and combined for a goal against Villarreal in the final game before the break.

Date Nov. 25, 2023

Location Estadio Cívitas Metropolitano, Madrid

Kickoff time 9:00 p.m. CET, 8:00 p.m. GMT, 3:00 p.m. EST, 12:00 p.m. PST

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