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Real Betis Balompié - Atlético de Madrid: Los Colchoneros head for Seville without Koke, Correa

The season’s first leaders head for the Villamarín.

Atletico de Madrid v Granada CF - La Liga EA Sports
Can Marcos Llorente make it back-to-back weeks with a goal?
Photo by Oscar J. Barroso/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Atlético Madrid will hope to make it two wins from two to begin the 2023/24 LaLiga EA Sports season when Diego Simeone’s Colchoneros travel south to face Real Betis on Sunday night.

Atlético opened the season with a 3-1 home win over newly-promoted Granada on Monday, while Betis knocked off Villarreal at La Cerámica after Willian José scored a 95th-minute goal. But both sides will have a different look in matchday two, with several players set to miss out due to injury or an inability to register them (in the cases of Marc Bartra and Héctor Bellerín).

Simeone will be without his captain Koke, who suffered a muscle pull minutes into the first game and will be unavailable for around a month. Ángel Correa turned his ankle during the Granada game and is not expected to play, either. First-choice right-back Nahuel Molina is in Sunday’s squad, but he is still recovering from a foot injury he picked up last month. Defenders José Giménez (leg injury) and Reinildo Mandava (knee injury) are still a ways away from returning to action.

Even with the injuries, Simeone is pleased with his squad, although he used his press conference Saturday to ask once again for the signing of another central midfielder.

Atletico Madrid v Granada CF - LaLiga EA Sports Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

“Beyond the episode with Koke, we’ve always said Pablo Barrios is an option, he’s recovered (from a minor training injury) and will be in the squad tomorrow, and that there is the possibility of a plan B if there is no possibility that a midfielder arrives,” El Cholo told the media on Saturday. “It’s clear that if we reinforce ourselves in this position, we would be more balanced, as we are a little unprotected.”

The signing of this player — a “5” that would sit at the base of Simeone’s 3-5-2 — has dragged on for weeks. And each day that passes with João Félix (the player whose departure would help facilitate another midfielder’s arrival) still contracted to Atlético is another day without this crucial reinforcement.

Atletico Madrid v Granada - LaLiga EA Sports
João Félix was jeered and insulted while warming up prior to Monday’s match.
Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

“João is part of the squad and we have been training with him since the preseason began. He didn’t participate in any of the friendlies because he had an injury that took him out of the first two, and he didn't start in the other two because we understood that he needed a week of training. He had a good week and was called up for the first game,” Simeone said. “Now he has some discomfort, and that's why he won’t be in Seville. I can only comment on what matters to me, which is the group and what we are working toward.”

Atlético Madrid on Sunday will work toward another three points with an unchanged defense from the Granada game and a likely start for Axel Witsel, who was suspended for the season’s opening game and would play in his favored position at the base of midfield. Antoine Griezmann and Álvaro Morata have been training as the starting forward pair — Griezmann scored twice in Atleti’s 2-1 win at Betis last October, and Los Rojiblancos have not lost any of the past eight encounters with Los Verdiblancos (winning seven).

Date Aug. 20, 2023

Location Estadio Benito Villamarín, Sevilla, Andalucía

Kickoff time 9:30 p.m. CEST, 8:30 p.m. BST, 3:30 p.m. EDT, 12:30 p.m. PDT

Available TV/streaming ESPN+ (United States), DAZN (Spain), Viaplay Sports 1 (United Kingdom)