Atletico Madrid need to shift their focus towards La Liga and battle for Champions League places following the impressive Europa League victory over Valencia seeing that the clash with Espanyol will probably see one of the two sides drop out from the race for a top 4 finish.
Atletico on the verge of Europa League final
While some high-profile players have struggled to deal with the pressure of a hefty price tag, that seems to have had absolutely no effect on Radamel Falcao Garcia, who joined Atletico Madrid for a fee of €40 million in the summer. The Colombian quickly started paying off, with his La Liga and Europa League goals ensuring los Colchoneros stay in touch with their pre-season ambitions. The two goals he scored against Valencia saw Atletico create a big advantage before the second leg of their Europa League semi-final clash, although one shouldn’t disregard the impact Diego and Adrian Lopez had on the game. This trio of players is the main reason why Atletico have been scoring goals for fun of late, and needless to say we expect the trend to continue against Espanyol. Los Colchoneros need a win in order to keep their Champions League hopes alive and they will act accordingly.
Centre-back Joao Miranda misses out through suspension, while Silvio Azevedo and Antonio Lopez are out injured.
Espanyol back in business
Espanyol have been going strong from the very start to the league campaign and los Periquitos look determined to stay in the top 4 race, but the five-match winless run in March and April appeared to have ended their Champions League hopes. Nonetheless, Mauricio Pochettino’s side showed a massive improvement to record a 4-0 win over Valencia at Cornella El Prat, and they thus remained tied on points with their next opponents. Espanyol may be sitting in 10th place at the moment, but los Periquitos are six points behind fourth-placed Malaga and just one point short of Europa League places, meaning they will have a lot to play for at Vicente Calderon. The visitors are expected to adopt somewhat defensive approach, but they will jump at every opportunity to hit the hosts on the break, with the likes of Uche, Sergio Garcia, Coutinho and Verdu likely to cause Atletico all sorts of problems.
Philippe Coutinho and Juan Forlin return from suspension, while first choice keeper Cristian Alvarez returned into action against Valencia.
Boasting the likes of Falcao, Adrian and Diego, Atletico have every reason to hope they will continue the impressive scoring record against Espanyol, although los Colchoneros will have to be wary of their opponents’ attacking potential. Everything suggests we will see a very open game at Calderon, so backing both teams to score looks like the right thing to do.
Our prediction: Both teams to score
Odds: 1.83 (5/6)
Bookmaker: Stan James