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Injuries have hit Atlético Madrid hard for the first time this season, and a thinner squad will host Athletic Club in LaLiga’s Saturday night contest.
Diego Simeone will be without central defenders José Giménez and Stefan Savić, while João Félix remains on the shelf and Vitolo is only just fit. The Basques may not be able to count on left back Yuri (shoulder malady), but Athletic enter this match in better physical shape.
That said, it’s hard to argue which side is in better playing shape at the moment. Even though Atlético topped Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday night to secure a first home win since Sept. 1, the Rojiblancos have won one of their past six in LaLiga and now sit fifth. Athletic, too, have one win from the last six and have slipped to 10th. Interestingly, these two teams have identical goals for (8) and goals against (5) tallies, and thus the same goal difference (+3).
Atlético were founded in 1903 as an offshoot of Athletic Club, and contests between the two date to several years before LaLiga’s establishment. They have played a Europa League final and three Copa del Rey finals in addition to copious league fixtures — and the last time Athletic won such a match in the capital was Jan. 30, 2011.
Oblak; Trippier, Felipe, Hermoso, Lodi; Saúl, Thomas, Koke, Lemar; Correa, Morata.
2-1 Atlético. Only two sides have conceded fewer shots per match than Gaizka Garitano’s Lions this season. After a merely average 2018/19 in shots allowed terms, Atlético are pretty much elite once more — the team’s nine attempts against is good for sixth in LaLiga. But goals were a-plenty in this fixture last season and certainly can be again.
Iñaki Williams’ pace likely will be a problem for a center back duo which has played 75 minutes together this season. Plus, he burned Atleti for three goals in two games last season. Ibai Gómez and Iker Muniain are solid chance creators, and Raúl García is always a threat to make something happen in midfield.
But If Renán Lodi and Kieran Trippier win their individual battles, they will generate good opportunities for Álvaro Morata — as Lodi did Tuesday — or an onrushing midfielder. Koke and Saúl could both use goals, and I’ll back one of them to score Saturday.