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Elche CF - Atlético de Madrid: Recharged Rojiblancos begin season’s home stretch

Can an already-relegated home side spring a surprise on Sunday?

Atletico de Madrid v Cadiz CF - LaLiga Santander
Koke has never had a goalless season in LaLiga. Will he find the back of the net Sunday?
Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Atlético Madrid visit relegated Elche on Sunday afternoon, when the Colchoneros will look to extend their three-game winning streak and consolidate second place in LaLiga.

Atlético (21-6-6, 69 points) have leapt ahead of Real Madrid and will maintain this enviable position by doing the double over Elche (3-7-23, 16 points). Los Franjiverdes have been mathematically relegated with five games remaining and will shortly see their three-year run in the top flight come to an end.

Atlético can officially, mathematically, secure Champions League football for next season with a single point from this fixture.

Elche CF v Valencia CF - LaLiga Santander
Lucas Boyé and Elche have had more managers than wins in 2022/23.
Photo by Francisco Macia/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

“We’re still thinking (game-by-game), we’re facing a team that has improved its pace of play in the attacking third, attempts a lot of crosses, and they’ve tried to do more collective work defensively,” Diego Simeone told the media on Saturday. “They play as a unit while defending, they’re compact, and they play well on the ball. We’re not looking at anything other than tomorrow’s game.”

Atleti have had several players in and out of training this week as a long season nears its conclusion. Goalkeeper Jan Oblak continues to deal with a neck injury — reports say it is a sprain that has been present for most of the 2022/23 campaign — while forward Memphis is still recovering from a foot injury that caused him to miss Atleti’s win over Cádiz in the previous round. Marcos Llorente (adductor) and Stefan Savić (broken toe) remain no closer to returning.

Although Mario Hermoso (wear and tear) and Saúl Ñíguez (nasal surgery) also missed multiple sessions this week, they figure to return to the squad Sunday, with Hermoso likely to start alongside José Giménez and Axel Witsel in central defense. In fact, Simeone could repeat the same 11 for the fourth consecutive game, a rarity given the squad’s suscepitibility to physical problems.

“Things (like injuries) have happened naturally since we arrived at the club,” Simeone said. “We looked for what would help us win the most games, and that’s how we’ve continued to act. Sometimes, we’ve changed certain things if we thought it would help the team. Now the team is playing consistently and is in good form.”

Date May 14, 2023

Location Estadio Manuel Martínez Valero, Elche, Alicante, València

Kickoff time 4:15 p.m. CEST, 3:15 p.m. BST, 10:15 a.m. EST, 7:15 a.m. PST

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