MADRID – The return of Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann and Valencia’s winger Gonçalo Guedes’ brilliant moment of play are set to be brought together during the upcoming La Liga clash pitting both sides at Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid.
Atletico is fighting to stay in second place in the table, while the visiting side, currently in fifth place, aspires to secure a top-four spot, which would qualify them for the UEFA Champions League.
Frenchman Griezmann, who served a one-match ban last Saturday, when his team edged a 1-0 away win over Eibar, will be the undisputed key element in his side’s offense.
He boasts two-digit goals and assists in La Liga for the third season in a row and guarantees a high level of play for his team when he is on the pitch.
For the opposing team, Portuguese winger Guedes will challenge Griezmann and Atletico’s goalkeeper Jan Oblak, who has become the safety valve for his team thanks to his great performance and brilliant saves.
Guedes, who scored Benfica’s 2-1 winner over host Atletico in the 2015-16 CL group-stage encounter when he was a player for the Portuguese squad, is the heart of the current Valencia team that is just two points behind the top four spots in the La Liga table.
He scored eight goals for Valencia in the last 10 matches and will pose a real threat to Atletico at Wanda stadium.
Playing Atletico at home is an enormous challenge because the side is almost invincible at its own pitch, losing only once to hometown rival Real Madrid (3-1), but winning a total of 18 games and drawing in three, across all competitions, keeping 16 clean sheets. This season it was the second-best team at home, behind leader Barcelona.
Since that 3-1 home defeat in the derby on Feb. 19, Atletico secured five wins at Wanda, with Oblak keeping a clean sheet in all of them.
The results were 2-0 over Italy’s Juventus, 2-0 over Villarreal, 1-0 over Leganes, 2-0 over Girona and 2-0 over Celta Vigo.
Everything is smoother with Oblak under the cross-bar and Griezmann in the attack.
The forward, who netted 20 goals and assisted in ten others, across all competitions, will return to Atletico’s starting lineup Wednesday.
Atletico will be keen to claim the victory over Valencia, as it is battling to strengthen its grip over the second spot, as third-placed Real Madrid, with a four-point deficit, and also working to keep the pressure on Barcelona (the Catalan leads with nine points).
Against Valencia, Atleti’s Argentine coach Diego Simeone will also have his center-back Stefan Savic who has recovered completely from a muscle injury and is ready to take the field.
Valencia will go to Wanda Metropolitano with a positive streak of six victories out of the last seven matches, including the team’s most recent 1-2 away win over Real Betis, but it yet has to enter the top four spots.
Coach Marcelino Garcia Toral’s side currently sits in fifth place in the table with 52 points, two behind fourth-placed Getafe. Getafe is set to square off against Real Madrid on Thursday.
Valencia ties in points with sixth-place Sevilla, who is to host 19th-placed Rayo Vallecano on Thursday as well.
Valencia’s win in Madrid would allow the side to keep putting pressure on its two rivals for the fourth spot.
The performance of the Valencian side during the recent matches has been driven by Guedes’s scoring streak that coincided with alternating his usual position on the pitch from the left winger to a second striker.
The injury which Russia Denis Cheryshev – Guedes’ substitute in the left-winger position – sustained during Betis’ clash will likely force him to play in his old position.
Other Valencia players who will miss the encounter include French midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia, sidelined until the end of the season with an injury, and forward Rodrigo Moreno, best known as Rodrigo, who is serving a one-match ban over a booking accumulation.
In addition, the 18-year-old midfielder Kang-In Lee has been called up to join the South Korea U-20 national team.
It is expected that coach Marcelino will get back the substitute keeper Jaume Domenech and right-back Cristiano Piccini, both of whom were sidelined over injuries during recent matches.
Valencia’s coach will be forced to introduce rotations into his starting line-ups, because of playing three La Liga matches within seven days, including the Betis’ duel, before its anticipated clash vs Arsenal in the first leg of EL semis tie on May 2.