Atletico travel to Liga leaders Real in midst of crisis


  • Football
  • Thursday, 30 Jan 2020

MADRID (Reuters) - La Liga leaders Real Madrid host neighbours Atletico on Saturday, with the visitors on their worst run of results since Diego Simeone took charge in 2011.

The Argentinean coach has revolutionised Atletico's fortunes over the past nine years. But their form has nosedived this season, culminating in an embarrassing Copa del Rey elimination at the hands of third-tier side Cultural Leonesa last week.

Winless in their last four in all competitions, having drawn nine of their 21 La Liga games this season, they dropped out of the top four at the weekend.

Simeone acknowledges they need to make changes if they are to qualify for next season's Champions League.

"We need to work hard, looking for answers (to what is going on), and make decisions, especially me, in terms of improving the side," he said.

"We need to get back our calm, I've got a good squad, we'll get players back into the fold and have more competition for places and we'll go into Saturday's game determined to win it."

Atletico will be without injured club record signing Joao Felix for the trip to the Bernabeu as well as long-term absentee Diego Costa. But club captain Koke looks set to return following a hamstring issue.

Real, who are unbeaten in all competitions since October and moved three points clear at the top of La Liga last weekend, have no new injury concerns, with Eden Hazard and Marco Asensio both still out.

On Sunday, second-placed Barcelona will be hoping to take advantage of any Madrid slip-up when they host Levante at Camp Nou.

New coach Quique Setien has had some teething problems as his side look to adapt to his possession-based style, however the Spaniard insists the process will take time and that patience is the name of the game.

"We want to improve and ensure that everything we coach is seen out on the pitch," he said.

"We know the route we want to take and why we want to take it. There are things we'd like to see right now but we can't see them. But we've only had a few training sessions together and you need to be backed up by what you see in games, but it's still very early in the process for that."

Luis Suarez remains absent with a knee issue, while Ousmane Dembele will miss the game through a muscle problem.

Elsewhere, fourth from bottom Mallorca host fifth from bottom Valladolid on Saturday in what could be a crucial game in the race for survival, while third-placed Sevilla host Alaves on Sunday as they look to tighten their grip on a Champions League spot.

(Reporting by Joseph Cassinelli; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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