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“We need to keep this up”: Simeone previews Atlético-Almería

But a midweek friendly in Istanbul has left Atlético a little worse for wear.

Rayo Vallecano v Atletico de Madrid - LaLiga Santander
Axel Witsel is set to be handed a rare start on Sunday.
Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Atlético Madrid on Sunday are out to extend its unbeaten run in LaLiga to 13 games, with relegation-threatened Almería set to visit the Metropolitano for the first time in matchday 29 action.

Third-place Atlético (17-6-5, 57 points) are on a five-game winning streak in LaLiga but will be hoping none of the positive momentum was sapped in a midweek friendly loss to Beşiktaş. The charity match saw skillful midfielder Thomas Lemar suffer a blow that had been expected to rule him out of the contest with Almería (8-6-14, 30 points), but the Frenchman was included in Diego Simeone’s squad.

However, center-back Stefan Savić has been ruled out after experiencing discomfort in his back, putting him in a race against time to be fit for next Sunday’s clash with presumptive league winners FC Barcelona at Camp Nou Spotify.

Besiktas and Atletico Madrid - Club Friendlies Photo by Huseyin Yavuz / dia images via Getty Images

Simeone told the media on Saturday that “these things can happen in friendlies,” but the manager’s focus is on Almería.

“What’s happened in the past is already there, and we’ll be evaluated on what we do tomorrow,” Simeone said. “Almería play well, with a coach who has very defined characteristics and (a team) in a beautiful fight against relegation. They need to play a good game.”

Earlier this season, Almería took points off Atlético for the first time in 12 years, coming back to draw 1-1 at Power Horse Stadium. On the road, though, it’s been a different story for Rubi’s men. Almería are LaLiga’s only winless team away from home this season and have picked up just four points out of 39 possible on their travels.

Rayo Vallecano v UD Almeria - LaLiga Santander
El Bilal Touré (6 goals) is Almería’s top scorer this season. He scored the equalizer when Atlético visited the city on the Mediterranean in January.
Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Atlético have been much stronger at home in recent months. The Rojiblancos last lost at the Metropolitano in January and last shipped a goal there on March 4.

“The boys are competing well, with a lot of commitment, and we need to keep this up,” Simeone said. “We need the fans to be like they were against Betis (two weeks ago), which is very important for us.”

Even with Lemar available, Rodrigo de Paul is expected to keep his place in central midfield. In defense, Axel Witsel is penciled in for his first start in nearly six weeks due to Savić’s injury. Ángel Correa played in the midweek friendly and is available after missing last weekend’s visit to Rayo Vallecano, although Antoine Griezmann and Álvaro Morata will probably be the starting forward pair.

Date April 16, 2023

Location Estadio Cívitas Metropolitano, Madrid

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

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