Sports Mole previews Sunday’s La Liga clash between Espanyol and Atletico Madrid, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Atletico Madrid will be looking to return to winning ways in La Liga when they continue their 2021-22 campaign away to Espanyol on Sunday afternoon.
Diego Simeone‘s side have collected seven points from their first three matches of the season to occupy fifth position in the table, while Espanyol sit 16th, having secured two points from their three games this term.
Espanyol were relegated from La Liga at the end of 2019-20, as they picked up just 25 points from 38 matches during a tough campaign, but the club secured an immediate return by winning last season’s Segunda Division.
The White and Blues started their 2021-22 La Liga campaign with back-to-back goalless draws against Osasuna and Villarreal before suffering a 1-0 loss at Mallorca before the international break.
As a result, the Catalan outfit are still waiting for their first goal of the season, and head coach Vicente Moreno will be wary of his team’s struggles ahead of difficult matches against Atletico, Sevilla and Real Madrid over the next few weeks; it is very early in the season, but they will want to secure a win as soon as possible.
Espanyol have only lost two of their last six league matches with Atletico and recorded a 2-1 victory when the two teams met during the 2018-19 La Liga season, while the last contest between the two sides ended in a 1-1 draw in March 2020.
Not since April 2017 have Atletico recorded an away league victory over Espanyol, who have been victorious in three of their last six contests with the reigning Spanish champions.
Atletico opened their 2021-22 La Liga campaign with a 2-1 success away to Celta Vigo on August 15 before running out 1-0 winners over Elche in their first home game of the season.
Simeone’s side were looking to make it three wins from three matches against Villarreal before the international break, but the champions were made to settle for a point in a 2-2 draw, with Aissa Mandi‘s 95th-minute own goal earning the home side a share of the spoils at Wanda Metropolitano.
Atletico, who re-signed Antoine Griezmann in the final stages of the summer window, are one of six teams currently on seven points in La Liga, and the capital giants will be determined to return to winning ways ahead of their Champions League group-stage opener against Porto next week.
Simeone’s team enjoyed an excellent 2020-21 season, picking up 86 points from their 38 La Liga matches to top the pile, two points clear of second-place Real Madrid and seven clear of Barcelona in third.
The Red and Whites will now be looking to make it back-to-back league titles and will hope that off-the-field issues for both Barcelona and Real Madrid will cause the two biggest clubs in Spanish football to struggle on the field during the 2021-22 campaign.
Espanyol La Liga form:
Atletico Madrid La Liga form:
Espanyol are unlikely to be able to call upon Yangel Herrera this weekend through injury, while Adria Pedrosa remains a doubt due to an issue with his hand.
The home side will also be without Sergi Gomez through suspension, as the centre-back received a late red card in the defeat to Mallorca before the international break.
Raul de Tomas is again expected to be joined in the final third of the field by Landry Dimata, while Gomez’s suspension will open the door for David Lopez to feature in the middle of the defence.
As for Atletico, Joao Felix remains a doubt despite returning to training following an ankle operation, while Luis Suarez could miss out due to a knee problem, with the Uruguay international potentially being saved for the team’s opening Champions League fixture.
Griezmann, as mentioned, has returned to the capital giants on loan from Barcelona, and it would not be a surprise to see the attacker handed a start alongside Angel Correa in the final third of the field.
Thomas Lemar could again join Koke and Marcos Llorente in the middle of the park, while Kieran Trippier and Yannick Carrasco are expected to play as the wing-backs in a 3-5-2 formation this weekend.
Espanyol possible starting lineup:
Diego Lopez; Gil, Cabrera, David Lopez, Pedrosa; Embarba, Morlanes, Darder, Puado; De Tomas, Dimata
Atletico Madrid possible starting lineup:
Oblak; Savic, Gimenez, Hermoso; Trippier, Lemar, Koke, Llorente, Carrasco; Correa, Griezmann
We say: Espanyol 1-2 Atletico Madrid
Espanyol are yet to find the back of the net this season, but we are tipping them to get their name on the scoresheet on Sunday afternoon. That said, Atletico will be desperate to return to winning ways and are likely to be too strong for the promoted outfit over the course of the 90 minutes.