Atletico Madrid continue to stutter and they head into the weekend in fifth place
Almeria are two points above the relegation zone as they look to stay in La Liga
Atletico Madrid need to bounce back this weekend - and we think they will do just that
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Diego Simeone’s side need to return to winning ways, and we fancy their chances of doing so in a low-scoring encounter.
Back Atletico Madrid to win and under 2.5 goals this weekend. (+280)
In the La Liga hierarchy of 2023, Atletico Madrid occupy a position of their own. They do not have the financial might to continually keep pace with Real Madrid and Barcelona, even if they were able to beat that pair to the La Liga title in 2014 and 2021.
But nor do they belong to the group of top-four hopefuls below them - Sevilla, Valencia, Real Sociedad, and Real Betis (even if some of those teams are not currently in contention for Champions League qualification). Over the last few years, Atletico have very clearly been the third-biggest side in Spain.
Yet that status could be under threat. It might only be 18 months since Atletico last finished on top of the pile in Spain, but it is hard to see that happening again any time soon. It certainly will not this season: going into this weekend’s round of fixtures, Diego Simeone’s side are 14 points adrift of first place.
Indeed, Atletico sit fifth as the midway point of the campaign approaches. They currently have fewer points than Real Betis and Real Sociedad. It is by no means a guarantee that the Colchoneros will be playing Champions League soccer next season. In this year’s edition of that competition, Atletico finished bottom of the group.
Is the Simeone era coming to an end? It is no longer rare to hear voices of dissent among the Atletico fan base, even though the club’s supporters recognize the phenomenal work the Argentine has done since 2011.
The future of the long-serving manager is a conversation for the summer. Right now, everyone connected to Atletico must be fully focused on the team’s attempts to finish in the top four. A 1-0 defeat by Barcelona last time out has left Simeone’s side with plenty of work to do.
Almeria won promotion from the Segunda Division last season, securing a return to the top tier of Spanish soccer after a seven-year absence. It was a close-run thing: Almeria were crowned champions but they finished level on points with second-place Real Valladolid, while Eibar in third were only a point behind.
Almeria began the 2022/23 campaign with only one objective: avoid relegation. That has not changed after 16 matches. They are currently 14th in the table but just two points separate them from the bottom three. Elche are cut adrift at the bottom and are surely doomed to demotion, but the other two spots are still up for grabs.
Rubi’s side have fared reasonably well so far, relative to expectations. They have not been particularly consistent, but that is common for teams fighting at the wrong end of the division.
Almeria have at least been able to pick up points every few weeks. No team in the bottom half of La Lia has won more games than their five, with victories over Sevilla, Rayo Vallecano, Girona, Celta Vigo, and Getafe.
Each of those triumphs came in front of their own fans, with Almeria having struggled on the road so far.
They must improve their record at opposition stadiums if they are to stay up. No team in La Liga has collected fewer points on their travels. For now, though, Almeria are in a decent position.
Unless they go on to win the Copa del Rey - the only trophy they can still realistically claim - this season is not one which will live long in the memories of Atletico supporters.
Simeone’s side have now won just one of their last five matches in La Liga, stretching back to before World Cup 2022.
The aforementioned 1-0 loss to Barcelona last weekend was Atletico’s latest disappointment, but when you look beyond the result it is not all doom and gloom.
The Colchoneros took 20 shots compared to Barcelona’s 10. They landed five on target, compared to two for the visitors to the Civitas Metropolitano. Atletico were arguably the better team; they just failed to make the most of their chances.
We could see Simeone’s men go back to basics on Sunday. Almeria will not be easy to beat at the Power House Stadium: after all, they have the sixth-best home record in La Liga this term.
However, if Atletico play to their potential, they should be able to win. Back a victory for the away team and under 2.5 goals in total.
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Teams: Almeria vs Atletico Madrid
Location: Power Horse Stadium, Almeria, Spain
Time: Sunday 15 January 2023, 10.15 AM EST
How to Watch: ESPN+
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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