Saturday, May 15, 2021

Prediction: Athletic Bilbao vs Atletico Madrid

Verdict: Away win

Best odds: 19/20

Bookmaker: Betfair

La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid will travel to the Basque Country to face Athletic in Bilbao at San Mames on Sunday as they strive to stay ahead of the nearest rivals – Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Athletic Bilbao

April 2021 hasn’t been too kind to Athletic Bilbao. As strange as it may seem to you if you haven’t been following football in Spain over the last 12 months, they lost two Copa del Rey finals, both this month. withing two weeks they were beaten by Real Sociedad in the delayed 2019-20 final, and got steamrolled by Barcelona in the one from this season.

Interestingly enough, looking at their recent league form, they were beaten 2-1 in the reverse fixture, by Atletico in Madrid. Then they played a goalless draw away to Celta Vigo, 1-1 at home against Eibar and away to Sociedad, followed by two more without goals – at home against Alaves and against Real Betis in Seville. All in all, no wins, five draws, one defeat in their last six matches.

Nonetheless, Marcelino’s team are in a relatively comfortable position, sitting in 10th place with 38 points and with a game in hand on most of the league. They haven’t secured survival mathematically yet, but they don’t have far to go to get there now.

Team News

Midfielders Peru Nolaskoain and Iker Muniain, as well as defenders Yeray Alvarez and Yuri Berchiche, remain unavailable for selection due to injury, but right-back Ander Capa is back after serving a one-match suspension. Forwards Raul Garcia and Inaki Williams started the last match on the bench and should be back in the lineup now, as should midfielder Unai Lopez.

Atletico Madrid

With 32 rounds gone, Atletico still top the table ahead of the two giants 73 points, three more than Real and four more than Barcelona, though the Catalans have a game in hand. The race it obviously wide open at this point, even though it seemed for a long time that Atletico would go on to win the title comfortably. They simply cannot afford any more slip-ups.

Atletico’s recent league form hasn’t been too bad and that will likely give them some much needed confidence ahead of this game. Their last-six record consists of three wins (1-0 against Alaves, 5-0 against Eibar and 2-0 against Huesca), all at home, two draws (0-0 away to Getafe and 1-1 away to Betis), and a solitary defeat (1-0 away to Sevilla).

Atletico’s Champions League campaign ended in the round of 16 this term, where they were thoroughly outplayed and beaten over two legs by Chelsea.

Team News

Simeone won’t be able to count on Jose Gimenez at the back. The centre-back is suspended and his place is likely to be filled by Felipe. Striker Luis Suarez and Joao Felix are almost ready to return following respective injuries, but neither is likely to start. Angel Correa is the likeliest man to lead the line upfront in their absence.

Conclusion

Atletico obviously have a much bigger motive, but with motivation comes pressure too, at least in this particular situation. It will be interesting to see how Diego Simeone’s players cope with it, though quality is undoubtedly on their side.

Whatever happens in terms of outcome, it’s likely that there won’t be too many goals.

Verdict: Away win

Best odds: 19/20

Bookmaker: Betfair

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Veselin Trajkovic


Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.

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