After a crushing 2-1 defeat at Villareal and the last international break of the season, Atletico return to competition this Easter Sunday.
Atleti will host fierce rivals Deportivo La Coruña. Kickoff is set for 20:45 in the Metropolitano.
The first leg of a Europa League quarterfinal match against Sporting Lisbon looms on Thursday, but Atleti must focus on the league. Their most recent loss coupled with Barcelona’s 23rd win set Atleti 11 points adrift of first place in La Liga. Real Madrid also scored a victory and are now knocking on the door at four points out of second.
Since winning promotion to La Liga in 2014, Deportivo has been involved in a relegation battle every season, finishing no higher than 15th. Their situation is more dire this season, however, as they find themselves in 19th place. Deportivo have won just four matches this season and are seven points from safety. They will need to play close to perfect football in these next nine games to avoid dropping down.
Deportivo’s revolving door has already seen three managers this season. Their most recent hire, Clarence Seedorf, won his first match but has not secured a victory since. He has compiled five draws and nine losses and most recently coached a 1-1 draw against 18th place Las Palmas. Deportivo have scored just 26 goals this season while allowing 60, giving them the worst defensive record in La Liga.
Atletico has taken the lead in this fixture recently with 20 wins, 11 draws, and 11 losses in the last 42 fixtures. Atleti has not lost this match since 2009, well before Deportivo’s last promotion to La Liga.
The two clubs looked destined for a 0-0 draw on November 4 before Thomas Partey broke the stalemate in stoppage time for a 1-0 Atleti victory.
Filipe Luis remains out for the season with a fractured fibula and Juanfran (hamstring), José Giménez (malleolar) and Sime Vrsaljko (achilles) will join him on the bench. Vitolo will also miss the match as he serves a red card suspension.
Stefan Savic should return to the lineup after missing 11 matches with a hamstring injury. Kévin Gameiro (abductor tear) returned to the list of substitutes last week and should also be available for selection.
Deportivo has built up a lengthy injury list in this unfortunate season. Center midfielder Federico Valverde has missed six matches with a knee injury, and left back Luisinho (muscle) will join him on the bench. Center midfielder Michael Krohn-Deli (heel bone), right back Eneko Bóveda (muscle), right winger Federico Cartabala (hamstring) and center forward Florin Andone (muscle) will also miss time. Left back Fernando Navarro will serve a yellow card suspension.
Seedorf last chose a 4-1-2-1-2 with Rubén Martínez in goal. Navarro, Sidnei, Raúl Albentosa and Juanfran manned the backline with Sulley Muntari as the first defensive midfielder. Emre Colak and Guilherme played ahead of Muntari with Adrián López in the number 10 role. Lucás Pérez and Florin Andone were the forwards.
No fixture in La Liga is easy. However, this match against a relegation team should be a good chance for Atletico to recover from their recent loss and the international break.
Simeone did not downplay the competition, saying, “[Deportivo] need to win and that’s always dangerous. We’ll have to seize control of the match….We’re a bit in the same situation, after the result in Villareal, and we want to return to winning ways.” He also highlighted the strength of the academy and hinted at a possible youngster debut.
Cholo named right back Carlos Isaac, center back Antonio Montoro, attacking midfielder Keidi, center midfielder Toni Moya and midfielder Juan Cruz Aguero to the squad ahead of the match on Sunday.
With Barcelona away to Sevilla, both Madrid sides have easy match weeks as Real Madrid travel to 18th place Las Palmas. A victory will be important as Atleti continue to hold off their city rivals.