Atletico can take control in battle for top-four spot
A late Lionel Messi goal broke Atletico Madrid hearts as they went down 2-1 at home to Barcelona on Sunday but Los Rojiblancos should gain some compensation when they journey to Galicia to face Deportivo La Coruna.
Weekend woe aside, Atletico have been in terrific form but Diego Simeone’s team are locked in a battle for fourth place with Real Sociedad and they must keep winning if they are to seal Champions League football once again.
Atleti had won four of their last five matches prior to the Barcelona fixture, including convincing away wins against Sporting Gijon in La Liga and Bayer Leverkusen in Europe.
They are 8-11 to beat Deportivo, who sacked manager Gaizka Garitano following a dreadful winless run dating back to December which culminated in a 4-0 defeat against fellow relegation rivals Leganes on Sunday.
The Riazor board have acted quickly and appointed Pepe Mel as a replacement and the former West Brom boss must act fast if he is to arrest Depor’s slide.
Getting anything against Atletico is a tough ask just two days after taking charge in Galicia, however, and it is hard to see Mel’s men arresting the slide immediately.
While Depor have been in better form at the Riazor than on the road, they are yet to face either Barcelona or Real Madrid at home and they were completely dominated by Seville in November. They look up against it facing a team of Atletico’s unquestionable quality.
Simeone can call on Antoine Griezmann and Kevin Gameiro – who netted a five-minute hat-trick against Gijon – as his first choice attack while Fernando Torres has rolled back the years with four goals in his last six appearances.
Depor could rediscover their form under Mel, but it is unlikely that the fightback will start against Atletico.
1pt 8-11 Hills