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Atletico Madrid have plenty of work to do in the race for a top-four finish in La Liga
Getafe’s poor form leaves them worrying about relegation to the Segunda Division
Atletico Madrid should get the job done when they host Getafe this weekend
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Diego Simeone’s side have won their last two games and look well-positioned to extend that run this weekend.
Back Atletico Madrid / Atletico Madrid in the half-time / full-time market. (+105)
Atletico Madrid were dogged by inconsistency throughout the first half of the La Liga season. Before last month they had won consecutive matches on just one occasion, when Diego Simeone’s beat Sevilla, Girona, and Athletic Bilbao in succession in October.
That inability to string wins together is the main reason why Atletico are not involved in the La Liga title race, which is now a two-way battle between Barcelona and Real Madrid.
The Colchoneros lost their first match of 2023, going down 1-0 at home to Barcelona. Their performance, however, was pretty good. Atletico deserved at least a point on the balance of play, and they might even have won the match had they been less wasteful in front of the goal.
Atletico then drew 1-1 with Almeria away from home - a disappointing result but far from a disastrous one - before beating Real Valladolid and Osasuna without conceding a goal. Those victories have raised hopes that Simeone’s side have turned a corner.
Another triumph this weekend would certainly hand them a boost in the race for the top four, which looks set to be hotly contested between now and the end of the season. Atletico need to show they are still capable of going on long unbeaten runs.
The club from the capital did some interesting business in the January transfer window. As expected, Joao Felix departed for Chelsea on loan. But Atletico signed Matt Doherty from Tottenham Hotspur and, most intriguing of all, Memphis Depay from Barcelona.
The Netherlands international does not seem like a natural Simeone-type player, but there can be no doubting his quality and at 28 years old he is theoretically at the peak of his powers. If he plays to his potential and gets on with Simeone, the signing of Depay could prove to be a masterstroke.
Whereas things are starting to look up for Atletico Madrid, Getafe head into this weekend’s contest in poor form. The relegation strugglers are three points adrift of safety after losing each of their last three games, a run which has left them as one of the favorites to go down with the best online sportsbooks.
There was no shame in coming unstuck against Barcelona last weekend; in fact, Getafe did better than expected by only losing 1-0 at Camp Nou. But prior losses to Sevilla and Espanyol were disappointing as both teams are around them in the table. It is those games that Getafe need to start winning if they are to clamber out of trouble.
However, Getafe know from personal experience that they are far from doomed. After 17 matches last term, they were second-bottom of the standings - just as they are now after 19 rounds of fixtures. Yet Getafe ultimately finished 15th, despite winning only one of their last eight games.
It is not time to panic yet, then. But Quique Sanchez Flores, who led Getafe to safety last time out, knows he has a job on his hands.
His team’s principal problem has been a lack of goals. They have found the back of the net just 16 times so far, which is putting their defense under huge pressure to keep the score down.
Sanchez Flores, who is in his third spell as Getafe boss, retains the backing of the board and the fan base. That unity should help the situation, but the Spaniard will ultimately be judged like any other manager: by results on the pitch.
Given that Atletico are not competing for the title this term, it is not a huge problem if they lose all four league games against Barcelona and Real Madrid. Of course, suffering defeat in the biggest matches is a blow to a team that has gotten the better of the big two at times during Simeone’s tenure.
Yet finishing in the top four does not depend on how they fare in those games. Instead, Atletico need to at least avoid defeat by the teams around them in the table, chiefly Real Sociedad, Real Betis, and Villarreal, and routinely beat sides in the bottom half of the division.
Take Saturday’s meeting with Getafe. Sanchez Flores’ side are struggling in their battle against relegation. They have nowhere near as much quality in the ranks as Atletico. It would be a major concern for the home team if they were unable to come out on top.
After back-to-back wins heading into the weekend, we fancy Atletico to get the job done in a reasonably convincing fashion. Simeone’s side rarely thrash opponents, with many of their wins coming by a one-goal margin.
But on this occasion, we expect Atletico to triumph without too much difficulty. Back the home team to be leading at both half-time and full-time.
Teams: Atletico Madrid vs Getafe
Location: Estadio Civitas Metropolitano, Madrid, Spain
Time: Saturday 4 February 2023, 12:30 PM, 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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