La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid head into the high-profile clash with Sevilla high on confidence, hoping to remain one step ahead of El Clasico rivals in the league standings. Meanwhile, los Rojiblancos are on a five-match winning run, so if there ever was a good time to record the first away win in this year’s La Liga, it is now.
With his side having successfully matched free-spending El Clasico rivals for several years now, Diego Simeone has got to be considered one of world’s best coaches. Many believed that title-winning 2013/2014 season would not be repeated any time soon, but 20 games into the new campaign and los Colchoneros again find themselves at the La Liga summit, with Barcelona and Real Madrid trailing in their wake. Granted, the Catalans have a game in hand, but nobody can guarantee that they will win the rearranged game against Sporting Gijon. Atletico Madrid have remained one of the best defensive sides in Europe, having allowed mere eight goals in 20 league matches, and they have now kept four clean sheets in a row on all fronts. A three-match winning run may have come to an end as Atletico were held by Celta Vigo in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarter-finals, but a goalless draw at Balaidos cannot exactly be considered a bad result. Los Colchoneros will now have to keep the rich vein of form if they want to return to winning ways against in-form Sevilla.
Diego Simeone will have Saul Niguez back to the side after he missed the Copa del Rey clash against Celta Vigo, but Fernando Torres and Tiago Mandes continue to miss out.
Oliver Torres and Lucas Hernandez both missed training on Thursday and they face fitness tests ahead of the clash versus Sevilla.
Sevilla have rightly established themselves as one of Spain’s and Europe’s top sides in the 21st century, and they remain one of the best home sides on the Old Continent. However, coach Unai Emery cannot seem to find the cure for his team’s travel sickness, at least when their league campaign is concerned. After 20 matches, los Rojiblancos are one of just two La Liga sides without an away win and they have scored mere 5 goals in 11 matches on the road. And while they do have five wins in last six Copa del Rey games on the travels, the record has no importance now that Sevilla are set to face one of Spain’s best sides. And while los Rojiblancos did well to beat Real Betis at Estadio Benito Villamarin in Copa del Rey, the remaining four wins of said five-match winning streak were achieved at home, so no doubt that the match at Vicente Calderon will be a whole different ball game. Taking into account that Sevilla forwards are misfiring on the road, we wouldn’t be surprised if Atletico were to keep another clean sheet.
Vicente Iborra serves a one-match ban after he was sent off against Malaga, while Ever Banega, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Sergio Rico will be recalled to the side.
Meanwhile, defensive problems continue for los Rojiblancos, with centre-backs Nicolas Pareja and Marco Andreolli not yet ready to return.
Key Factors to Consider
- Atletico conceded just 8 goals in 20 league games this term
- Los Colchoneros kept four clean sheets in a row
- Atletico did not concede in last three matches vs Sevilla (W2 D1)
- Sevilla are winless in nine away games this season
- Los Rojiblancos scored just five away goals this term
Atletico Madrid have proved to be a tough nut to crack even for Europe’s in-form sides, so we cannot expect travel sick Sevilla to damage their near-perfect defensive record. Knowing that los Rojiblancos can be a real danger on the break, the hosts are unlikely to take too many risks, meaning that a low-scoring affair is on the cards.
Verdict: Both teams to score – No
Best Odds: 5/8