Old friends and new rivalries abound as Sevilla hosts Atletico Madrid in LaLiga on Saturday.
It's a crunch clash on Saturday between two evenly-matched giants of Spanish football.
Both teams come into the game at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan in excellent form and challenging towards the top of the LaLiga Santander table, having overcome some challenges on and off the pitch this term.
The Andalusians have already packed a lot into the first few months of the 2019/20 season. With a new coach in Julen Lopetegui and 11 summer signings on board, Sevilla was top of the table after taking 10 points from their first four games. They then hit a tricky spot, but soon bounced back with consecutive victories at home to Levante and Getafe.
Atletico has also had a busy time - winning their first three LaLiga fixtures, then going through a dip in form as coach Diego Simeone introduced new players and tweaked his tactics. However, Saturday’s 2-0 victory at home to Athletic Club means Los Colchoneros lost just one of their first 10 LaLiga games to remain right in the title race.
Saturday’s game at the Sanchez-Pizjuan will be extra special for Simeone, who scored 12 goals in 64 LaLiga appearances for Sevilla as a player. The super competitive Argentine has not shown any mercy to his former friends, falling to just one defeat in 15 LaLiga games against his old side since taking over as Atletico coach.
This is a new-look Atletico, especially in an all-new back four of England international Kieran Trippier, Brazilian left-back Renan Lodi and centre-backs Felipe and Mario Hermoso. Simeone’s hard work on the training ground has already paid off, with goalkeeper Jan Oblak on course for yet another ‘Zamora’ award for the least goals conceded all LaLiga season.
Sevilla boss Julen Lopetegui will also be very much looking forward to Saturday’s game, as a former player and coach of Atletico’s city rival Real Madrid. Lopetegui has done an excellent job so far of binding a new side together at the Sanchez-Pizjuan, with newcomers including former Eibar midfielder Joan Jordan and Argentina winger Lucas Ocampos blending very well with experienced club servants Jesus Navas and Ever Banega.
Another who will have marked this fixture in their calendar is Sevilla’s summer loan signing Oliver Torres, who won a LaLiga winners medal as a teenager in Simeone’s ranks in 2013/14. Atletico fans will also remember Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez, who scored the goal which knocked Simeone’s side out of the 2014/15 Champions League when at Real Madrid and hit his first LaLiga strike for his new team against Getafe last weekend.
Atletico had some big wins over Sevilla earlier in Simeone’s reign, but both last season’s meetings finished 1-1, with the game at the Sanchez-Pizjuan being a particularly hard-fought affair with 12 yellow cards shown.
Another evenly matched contest is very likely on Saturday, with big names on both sides keen to make a big impression. And the result sure to have important ramifications for this season’s LaLiga title race.
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