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La Liga: Atleti and Sevilla in Battle for Third Place

Atletico Madrid vs Sevilla

All roads lead to Madrid for the La Liga match of the weekend, where Atletico Madrid welcomes Sevilla for a Saturday afternoon clash at the Wanda Metropolitano.

A win will take Diego Simeone’s team above Sevilla in the race for a top four place in La Liga, but Los Rojiblancos currently sit in fifth, on the wrong side of the line. Surprise package Getafe are in fourth position but will do well to hang on, sandwiched by two heavily resourced clubs with vast experience at the top end of the table.

Real Sociedad are just a point behind Atleti and Valencia aren’t out of the hunt by any means, but Atleti are favourites to finish third, with Sevilla fourth, so this game could easily decide who has the comfier ride in the run in.

Sevilla head coach Julen Lopetegui is doing a decent job of repairing his reputation, after a dreadful stint at Real Madrid, and he’ll hope his side can continue its good run of form.

 

Talking Points

Atleti’s away day strife

Simeone’s men have had a mixed bag of La Liga 2020 results, but the running theme is that they seem far happier at the Wanda Metropolitano than on the road.

A trip to Barcelona to take on Espanyol last week was a frustrating affair for Los Rojiblancos. The Atleti defence is famously hard to breach, so when centre back Stefan Savic put through his own goal he handed a huge and unexpected gift to the hosts. Atleti bossed possession but only had five shots all game, a disastrous figure against the bottom club, and only Saul Niguez’ stunning volley saved their blushes.

Atletico Madrid are only 2 points behind Sevilla in La Liga table
Saul Niguez scores an equaliser during their last match against Espanyol

 
Before that disappointment Simeone’s side was starting to look back its best. Los Rojiblancos put on a master class in their 1-0 Champions League win over Liverpool . After the in-form Niguez had given Atleti an early lead, the Reds rarely threatened to break down their hosts, failing to get a crucial away goal. In fact, Liverpool didn’t have a single shot on target.

SBOTOP La Liga fans will be hoping Atleti can finish the job in the second leg; Jurgen Klopp’s Reds have lost their invincible aura, losing three of the last four.

While no-one doubts Atleti’s solidity, they need to find a cutting edge to guarantee a top four place, and pretty soon. Alvaro Morata is the top scorer with a modest return of seven, while Angel Correa has five goals and five assists. Joao Felix has returned from injury and came off the bench against Espanyol, as did Diego Costa. Simeone has the strikers at his disposal; he just needs to find the right combination.
 
Sevilla looking good for the Champions League

The visitors have been in good shape recently though, admittedly, they failed to beat Espanyol too, drawing 2-2 at home with the bottom club. But Lopetegui’s side put in a clinical display to beat Champions League hopefuls Getafe 0-3, with goals from Fernando, Lucas Ocampos and right back Jules Kounde. And they followed that up with a 3-2 victory over Osasuna to climb into third place.

Ocampos bagged his ninth of the season against Osasuna, while Luuk de Jong is starting to show some promise and has four goals, and will be pushed for a starting place by Youssef En Nesyri, who scored a brace last week.

 
Midfield battle

There could be an interesting tussle in the middle of the park on Saturday. Sevilla’s lynchpin Ever Banega has six assists to his name, while in Niguez, Atleti have a creative attacking midfielder.

Banega was on the bench last week, but will probably make a start after Fernando limped off with a thigh strain, after picking up his tenth yellow card of the season. Atleti’s Thomas Partey can match Fernando, he too has ten yellows and so he’ll be missing on Saturday, which means Vitolo is in the frame to make a start.

 

History

The head to heads have been pretty evenly shared. Atleti have won 17 to Sevilla’s 19 since 1993. They drew 1-1 in Seville in November and last season’s fixture here at the Wanda Metropolitano also ended up 1-1.

Both teams are unbeaten in five, in all competitions, so it looks like we’re set to see another tight game.
 

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