Atletico Madrid vs Leganes
A high noon kick-off on a Sunday may not be the ideal time to play a football match but for Atletico Madrid the chance to return to action can’t come soon enough. This La Liga clash will be exactly what Diego Simeone and his players need after their embarrassing Copa del Rey exit in midweek.
Yes, it was a significantly weakened side, but the embarrassment of being eliminated by such lower league opposition will not sit well and puts more pressure on the side to mount an outside title challenge and do well in the Champions League (a last 16 tie against holders Liverpool beckons next month).
While this should be a formality, Los Rojiblancos were expected to win last weekend too and went down to defeat at Eibar.
This is their chance to return to winning ways and create some La Liga highlights and gain local bragging rights.
Yet, given the unpredictability that the Spanish top-flight has thrown up so far this term, no one can say for sure.
And of course, form can go out of the window in derbies as Leganes have proved before.
It’s derby day and here are two sides who need the points for very different reasons.
You would be right to ask, how can Atletico turn on the style one minute – they defeated champions Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup just a few weeks ago – and then have a seven days like they have just encountered.
Following the Copa debacle, a post-mortem has already begun in the media about how, in tough times, the old figureheads of the club like Juanfran, Godin and Gabi would lift the team and push through with sheer fight and determination.
Atletico’s current crop has been accused of being absent of leaders.
You have to go back to before Simeone’s arrival as coach to find a similarly shock defeat, that coming in a Copa del Rey elimination against Albacete, then also a Segunda B side.
That loss came in the same round as this most recent stumble and led to Gregorio Manzano losing his job as coach and Simeone’s appointment.
A repeat is not even on the cards given what the Argentine has achieved for the club but there is no doubt they need to bounce back quickly and may be helped by the return of striker Alvaro Morata who was rested against Cultural Leonesa in the cup.
The striker has also missed games against Eibar and Real Sociedad because of injury, while he missed the Madrid derby earlier in the season through suspension.
It’s clear Leganes, in the relegation zone and four points from safety, could do with someone of Morata’s ilk.
The priority for them is to bring in one or two strikers before the transfer window closes next week, with Cristhian Stuani and Mariano Diaz the favourites.
For now, though, they will just hope for the best and that Atletico’s miserable week continues. Everything does come in threes, after all.
It seems some time since the sides met in the Segunda Division back in the 2001/2 campaign, the season in which Atletico were promoted to the top flight.
More recent meetings between these sides have produced few goals.
Last season, this fixture finished 1-0 to Atletico when Saul Niguez scored the only goal.
It was the same scoreline earlier this season when substitute Vitolo netted.
The year before saw Atletico huff and puff but they weren’t able to break the deadlock in a goalless draw.
Granted, Atletico won the return fixture when the unplayable Antoine Griezmann scored four times without reply.
The previous season also resulted in a 2-0 home win for Atletico, courtesy of a Fernando Torres double.
But again, the match at Leganes ended without a goal.
That is a mighty achievement for this tiny club.
Remember, this a side from cucumber country south of the Spanish capital.
A town of 185,000 where there are streets named after AC/DC and Scorpions and a side which, as recently as 2013, had no training ground and a pitch full of potholes.
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