Atletico must shake dismal away form to maintain title push
(Reuters) – When Atletico Madrid left their beloved Vicente Calderon in 2017, their biggest fear was whether they would be able to replicate the fierce atmosphere for which their fans are renowned at their new stadium, the Wanda Metropolitano.
They needn’t have worried, as they have earned the best home record in La Liga at their shiny new ground, but their title ambitions are being held back by their dismal away form.
In eight away visits this season, Diego Simeone’s side have only managed to win twice, a tally which, if they are to stay in touch with league leaders Barcelona, they need to improve when they travel to fellow title chasers Sevilla on Sunday.
Second-placed Atletico are three points behind Barca, while Sevilla are third, five points off the pace, making Sunday’s game equally important to the Andalusians if they want to maintain their own title tilt.
Barca meanwhile are in action away to Getafe, with Real Madrid hosting Real Sociedad.
Atletico’s memorable title triumph in 2013-14 was built from a galvanising 3-1 win at Sevilla on the opening day of the season, while they also enjoyed vital away victories at Real Madrid, Valencia and Athletic Bilbao.
However, this season Simeone’s side have dropped points at struggling teams such as Villarreal and Leganes and lost at Celta Vigo.
With Diego Costa constantly battling injury problems — the striker is currently recovering from knee surgery — Atletico have been lacking some aggression and steel in attack.
“We know that to stay in the fight for the title we need to win games away from home, we need to be strong at home and pick up points away,” said captain Diego Godin last month after snapping a three-month wait for an away win by beating Real Valladolid 3-2.
Hopes of a successive away victory on Sunday in Seville lie in Croatian forward Nikola Kalinic continuing to improve his form in front of goal, having scored twice in his last three appearances after a slow start to his first season in Spain.
World Cup winning striker Antoine Griezmann, meanwhile, should be feeling fresher after the winter break following a gruelling 2018 which he conceded had taken its toll on his performances.
Atletico will certainly need to summon all of their energy against an exciting Sevilla side who thrashed Real Madrid 3-0 earlier this season, as anything less than victory will make their New Year’s resolution of overhauling Barca even harder.
(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Christian Radnedge)