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Atlético Madrid-Athletic Club: Unbeaten run on the line at the Cívitas Metropolitano

Simeone is on the verge of another record as he renews acquaintances with Ernesto Valverde and Athletic.

RC Celta v Atletico de Madrid - LaLiga Santander
Reinildo starred in the reverse fixture at San Mamés, where Atlético beat Athletic 1-0.
Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Atlético Madrid host Athletic Club on Sunday evening, with both sides trying to stake their claim for European football next season.

This is the 210th all-time meeting between Atlético (11-5-5, 38 points) and one-time parent club Athletic (9-5-7, 32 points), and the 172nd in LaLiga since 1929. Atlético are hoping to extend its current unbeaten run in LaLiga to six games and consolidate fourth place ahead of multiple challengers — including seventh-place Athletic, just six points off the pace.

Atleti snapped up a key win at Athletic’s San Mamés back in October and will seek to do the double over the Basque side for the first time since 2018.

“It’s always difficult (to play Athletic),” Diego Simeone told the media on Saturday. “They have great players who press cohesively and a block (of important players) that has been there for many years, with a coach they know from previous spells and one who, after his time at Barcelona, has added more to his coaching style.”

RC Celta v Athletic Club - LaLiga Santander
Ernesto Valverde signed a contract extension to 2024 with Athletic earlier this week.
Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images

At Atlético’s invitation, the visitors are expected to wear their home shirts for Sunday’s game as they celebrate their 125th anniversary. Maybe that’s a good thing for the hosts. Atleti have struggled mightily at the Cívitas Metropolitano this season, failing to win six of 10 home games in LaLiga. That trend will have to be reversed if the Colchoneros are to stay in the top-four fight.

“Anything other than being with and supporting the team, we all lose,” Simeone said. “We have to convey enthusiasm so that the crowd pushes us on, and that people can understand that we are stronger when we’re together.”

Simeone — who on Sunday will tie Miguel Muñoz’s LaLiga record for consecutive games coached at one club with 424 — welcomed Memphis Depay back to training on Friday after the Dutchman missed multiple sessions recovering from a knock. He figures to play a prominent role Sunday after scoring the winner against Celta Vigo last weekend, while Thomas Lemar is expected to miss out with knee pain.

Elsewhere, El Cholo is expected to select José Giménez to start at center-back in place of the Suspended Stefan Savić (trademark), while three other Colchoneros — Reinildo, Geoffrey Kondogbia, and Nahuel Molina — are one yellow card away from missing the derby against Real Madrid on Feb. 25.

While Antoine Griezmann has scored only one goal since the start of November, he might just find the back of the net against his favorite victim on Sunday. The Frenchman notched the winning goal in October’s 1-0 victory over Athletic, and he’s scored 13 goals in 29 lifetime appearances against Los Leones while turning out for Real Sociedad and FC Barcelona in addition to Atlético de Madrid.

Date Feb. 19, 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)