Match Preview: Athletic Club Bilbao vs. Atletico

Antoine Griezmann took Angel Correa’s pass and struck the ball into the back of the net on Saturday giving the rojiblancos a 1-0 lead in the 61st minute. Jan Oblak kept his third consecutive clean sheet in all competitions, and Atletico held on for a win in their inaugural match at the brand new Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.

The gauntlet of seven matches in 22 days during the month of September continues for Atletico as they will have another short week, facing parent club Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday. Kickoff is set for 20:00 CET in the San Mames Stadium. Atletico will debut their third kit, also known as the “camo kit” on Wednesday.

Atletico’s win places them tied for fourth position in the table with city rivals Real Madrid. The red and whites have eight points from four games and sit four points off the league leaders Barcelona, who allowed their first goal on Saturday. Atletico will once again want the win as they have the toughest test of the game week among Spain’s top three clubs. Barcelona will host Eibar while Real Madrid host Real Betis.

Atletico is still lacking in finishing power and attacking buildup, scoring only one goal on fifty shots over the last three matches. Antoine Griezmann was welcomed back from his suspension with a goal, and his partnership with Angel Correa up top could prove fruitful this season. Kevin Gameiro is also working his way back to match fitness and could make an appearance off the bench for this match. Simeone has favored the more defensive midfield of Saul Niguez, Thomas Partey, Gabi, and Koke over the last two matches, but he could give Yannick Ferriera Carrasco the start among other rotations in the short game week.

Athletic won their second and third matches of the season, but had trouble scoring in 0-0 draws at home against Getafe and away to Hertha Berlin in the Europa League. They also could not find the scoreboard last week in a 1-0 loss to Las Palmas. The team rested leading goal scorer Aritz Aduriz for the first 63 minutes of that game which could be part of the reason for the loss. The Basque team sit sixth in the table on seven points.

Atletico and Athletic have played each other 32 times in their history with Atletico leading the series 20-8 including 5 draws. Atleti drew 2-2 at San Mames on January 22, and won 3-1 in the final game at the Calderon on May 21.

Koke scored early in the third minute at San Mames to get Atletico off to a rolling start, but Inigo Lekue and Oscar de Marcos answered in the 42nd and 56th minutes to give Athletic a 2-1 lead. Simeone made the attacking subs of Fernando Torres, Angel Correa, and Nico Gaitan and Antoine Griezmann came through with the game tying goal in the 80th minute.

Fernando Torres was the early goal scorer at the Calderon, netting two goals in the 8th and 11th minutes to give Atletico a 2-0 lead. The red and whites did not look back despite allowing a 71st minute goal to Inaki Williams, and Angel Correa sealed the victory in the 89th minute.

Simeone is not expected to make many changes despite the lack of attack and the short game week. Sime Vrsaljko and Augusto Fernandez remain sidelined with injuries. Jose Gimenez returns to the squad list, but is probably not yet fit enough to see the field. As stated before, Kevin Gameiro could make his 2017-18 debut off the bench and Carrasco could join the starting lineup to add attacking flair.

Athletic Bilbao played a 4-2-3-1 last time out after rotating eight players from their Europa match at Hertha Berlin. A loss at Las Palmas and the short week could mean an entirely different squad. However, going off last week’s lineup, Kepa Arrizabalaga got the start in goal with Eneko Boveda, Unai Nunez, Aymeric Laporte, and Enric Saborit along the back line. Ander Iturraspe and Mikel Vesga were the deep lying midfielders with Markel Susaeata, former Atletico player Raul Garcia, and Sabin Merino in attacking roles. Inaki Williams was the lone striker.

Trips to Bilbao are always tough, but this could be one of the games that Atletico will need to challenge for the league this season. They will want to take advantage of Athletic’s poor run of offensive form and continue the attacking improvement with a win at San Mames.

Atletico squad list:
Goalkeepers: Oblak and Moyá.
Defenders: Godín, Filipe, Savic, Lucas, Juanfran and Giménez.
Midfielders: Koke, Saúl, Carrasco, Gabi, Thomas and Gaitán.
Forwards: Griezmann, Torres, Gameiro, Vietto and Correa.

 

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