Atletico Madrid v Athletic Bilbao – Vicente Calderon Stadium at 17:15 live on Sky Sports 4
The secrets to Atletico Madrid’s success under Diego Simeone are quite simply. It’s old-fashioned hard work, organisation, defensive solidity and a never-say-die character.
The Argentine has moulded the Mattress Makers into Spain’s third force and their midweek 2-1 success at Benfica helped the capital club clinch top spot in their Champions League group, another feather in their cap
Atleti will look to complete a fine week by beating Athletic Bilbao on Sunday and having now won seven on the spin in all competitions and bagged W10-D2-L0 from 12, it’s difficult to see Simeone’s juggernaut stalling anytime soon. The hosts have moved within two points of table-topping Barcelona and haven’t conceded a goal in their last four La Liga outings.
Atletico have faced the fewest shots-on-target in Spain (35), have leaked just six goals in 14 league fixtures (the lowest across Europe’s top five leagues) and have scored the opening goal most often (12) this term.
With those sorts of figures, you’re unlikely to raise an eyebrow when learning the hosts have led at half-time in 10 of their last 12 against top-half teams that aren’t Real Madrid or Barcelona and enjoyed W-W double results in 11 of their previous 18 at the Vicente Calderon as well as five of their most recent seven on domestic duty.
Atleti’s trend for opening the scoring and their rock-solid backline make them incredibly tough to beat. Four of their seven Vicente Calderon dates in La Liga action have ended in wins ‘to nil’ but they’ll need to score more goals if they’re to have a realistic shot at landing another league title.
The Mattress Makers have managed just 20 in 14, someway short of the standard of champions, and one goal might just be enough to see off an Athletic side that were involved in Europa League action on Thursday night – admittedly with a much-changed side.
The Basque club have not defeated the capital club in a La Liga game since Simeone took charge (W0-D1-L3) and have lost by two or more goals in six of their most recent eight trips to top-six clubs.
Mikel San Jose is sidelined after receiving a straight red card against Malaga last Sunday night but Aymeric Laporte should slot straight into the back four.
Nevertheless, Les Leones do their best business in the Basque Country and have returned rather unimpressive W2-D3-L3 figures on their La Liga travels this term despite not yet facing a top-four club.
All three losses saw Bilbao behind at the break and they’ve failed to even grab a goal in their last three visits to Atletico. They’ll match the physicality and intensity but I’d still expect the hosts to squeeze home.
Under 2 Goals has been chalked up at 2.38 and that looks a little on the large side when taking into account Atletico’s strengths. I’d be surprised if this fixture featured more than two goals.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Under 2 Goals at 2.38
Price correct at the time of writing.
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