Athletic Bilbao vs Atletico MadridLa Liga, KO: 12:00 Jun 14, 2020, San Mames
ATLETICO MADRID have been a big disappointment in La Liga this season and sit outside the Champions League places as they get back underway with a tricky trip to Bilbao.
With Barcelona and Real Madrid far from their best this term, the stage should have been set for Diego Simeone's men to mount a title challenge.
But they sat in sixth place when football went into lockdown, 14 points off the lead, and face a fight to secure their place at Europe's top table next season.
Atletico are still in the Champions League this term, though, and president Enrique Cerezo reckons they should be crowned kings if the tournament can't be completed, given they knocked out holders Liverpool just before the coronavirus shutdown.
Simeone's men have actually only lost four league games all season, one fewer than leaders Barca, but their downfall has been stalemates, with 12 draws all but ending their title hopes.
Atletico need to get some victories on the board but they won't have it easy against an Athletic Bilbao side gearing up for a Spanish Cup Final date with Basque rivals Real Sociedad.
Bilbao have also failed to turn draws into wins this season, with 10 stalemates responsible for keeping them in mid-table instead of challenging for a European slot.
But they have some top talents in their ranks and Gaizka Garitano's players will be determined to impress as they look to seal a starting jersey for the cup final.
How the bookies view it
In front of a packed San Mames, Bilbao would have been shorter odds than the 3-1 on offer at Paddy Power. But with the game being held behind closed doors it's easy to see why Atletico Madrid are favourites, at a best 39/29 with VBet.
Given both sides have drawn so many matches this season, the stalemate will appeal to plenty of punters at 39/19 with VBet. I'm staying clear of this market but if pushed I'd go for an Atletico win as they have the better players.
Recent head to head
Atletico Madrid have bossed this fixture in recent seasons, winning five of the last six meetings. But the sole Bilbao win in that period came when they last faced off at the San Mames, with the Basques claiming a deserved 2-0 win (below) last season.
It ended 2-0 to Atletico at the Wanda Metropolitano earlier in this campaign, thanks to goals from Saul Niguez and Alvaro Morata.
Players to watch
It's the end of an era in Bilbao, with evergreen striker Aritz Aduriz (below) announcing his retirement during lockdown at the age of 39. The veteran had mostly featured off the bench this term, with Inaki Williams now the main man up front.
The youngster has nine for the season and looks overpriced at 4/1 with Paddy Power for anytime scorer, given he should lead the line for Garitano's men.
Atletico have some injury problems up front, with wonderkid Joao Felix and Argentine Angel Correa both big doubts, and that could open the door for Marcos Llorente to start.
Llorente came off the bench to net twice at Anfield, justifying my faith in Atletico scoring, and most bookies have him at a whopping 10/1 for anytime scorer in Bilbao. Jump on him at that price before it starts to fall. Even if he does start on the bench there will be plenty of subs used as teams find their fitness.
Anything else catch the eye?
Atletico's success under Simeone has been based on a solid defence but I can see there being a few goals with this being the first game back and players struggling for fitness and concentration. Over 2.5 goals is 24/13 at SportNation and that looks good value.
Bilbao left-back Yuri likes to get stuck in and has collected six yellow cards this season. He's 5/2 with Bet365 for a card here and that's a decent price.
This La Liga match between Athletic Bilbao and Atletico Madrid will be played on Jun 14, 2020 and kick off at 12:00. Check below for our tipsters best Athletic Bilbao vs Atletico Madrid prediction.