Atlético de Madrid head north for the Basque Country and a potentially high-octane showdown with Athletic Club de Bilbao on Saturday afternoon.
Atlético Madrid (11-1-3, 34 points) are hoping to secure a signature away win at San Mamés in order to keep its title push on track. All three of Atlético’s defeats this season have come away from the Cívitas Metropolitano, and Los Rojiblancos have won just once from their past five trips to Bilbao.
“We’re going to meet a rival that we know very well and always competes with high intensity,” head coach Diego Simeone told the media on Friday. “They’re very strong at home. We have to take the game to where we believe we can hurt them.”
Athletic (8-5-3, 29 points) bring a six-game unbeaten run into this matchup with Atlético — and with a win, Los Leones would close to within two points of the final Champions League place. Captain Iker Muniain will not play Saturday due to illness, but there’s plenty of firepower in coach Ernesto Valverde’s lineup without him. Iñaki Williams (eight goals) is on pace to set a new personal best in goal contributions, while little brother Nico is one of the best wingers in Spain. Midfielder Oihan Sancet is also in great form, with four assists across the past five games.
“We need to generate a little more of everything, as we do at home,” Simeone said. “We did well in the Champions League (in midweek), and I can’t imagine any other situation than that away from home.”
¡Estos son los futbolistas que componen la expedición rojiblanca a Bilbao! pic.twitter.com/1BHx9lSPVm— Atlético de Madrid (@Atleti) December 15, 2023
Antoine Griezmann, expected to start next to Álvaro Morata up top, has scored more goals against Athletic than any other opponent, with 14 in a combined 30 appearances for three clubs. Griezmann’s first Atlético hat trick took place at San Mamés, four days before Christmas 2014. If he were to grab, say, another hat trick on Saturday, Griezmann would become Atleti’s all-time top scorer less than a decade later.
“Griezmann’s position depends on the match and the characteristics of the opponent,” Simeone said. “He’s a complete player. He can lead the line, play as a second striker, and play on the wing. He occupies all different areas, which allows us to have more options to occupy more offensive positions.”
Date Dec. 16, 2023
Location Nuevo San Mamés, Bilbao, Basque Country
Kickoff time 4:15 p.m. CET, 3:15 p.m. GMT, 10:15 a.m. ET, 7:15 a.m. PT