Last season, Deportivo Alaves were hailed for finally returning to the peak of Spanish football at just the right time. The former UEFA Cup finalists, though, come up against an Atletico Madrid side looking to reach the final themselves. Can Alaves find them with one-eye on next Thursday?
For the home side, the form of full-back Ruben Duarte and Manu Garcia has been essential to their promising campaign. In fact, it’s their defensive nature that makes them so easy to back in matches; with Victor Laguardia playing a key role at the back alongside Martin Aguirregabiria at full-back, they are reliant on their defensive solidity to keep the opposition out.
Up-top, it’s up to Swede John Guidetti and ex-Barca forward Munir El Haddadi to get the goals. Against an Atleti side who have conceded in 9 consecutive away games, they’ll feel confident.
We expect Diego Simeone to take a rather pragmatic approach to this game, with the return leg against Arsenal still to come. We expect to see them go wo with their usual 4-4-2, with Fernando Torres likely to start up-top for them. Antoine Griezmann might get a rest, depending on the fitness of Diego Costa. If not, we could see Kevin Gameiro come into the side.
Midfield will likely see Vitolo given another chance to impress despite a very poor start to his Atletico career. At the back, Lucas Hernandez is likely to fill-in at full-back again, with Stefan Savic and Diego Godin lining up alongside the suspended-for-Thursday Sime Vrsaljko.
Match-up to Watch
How the Alaves defence handle the movement of Torres and Griezmann will be important, if the duo play. We expect that Laguardia and co. would rather play against the ageing Torres, and how they handle his movement off-the-ball will be decisive.