— Sports

No room for error: Atlético must beat Eibar to keep lead

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) – On the schedule, a home match against Eibar is easy to overlook. But Atlético Madrid‘s meeting with the league’s worst team has become a must-win match in its flagging title bid. Over the past two months, poor results have whittled Atlético’s once double-digit advantage down to the slimmest of margins. After two straight games without a victory, Real Madrid is now only one point behind, and Barcelona is two points behind with eight games left.

Atlético’s problem is in the attack. Last weekend, the team was held to a 1-1 draw at Real Betis in a game it started without Luis Suárez and Marcos Llorente, who was suspended. It also lost playmaker João Félix after he hurt his ankle during the match. Yannick Carrasco got Atlético’s goal early in the game, but forward Ángel Correa failed to convert two opportunities that would have snatched a late winner. Correa will likely lead the attack on Sunday against Eibar with Suárez, who was hurt in practice last week, and Félix unavailable.

Llorente, who can also play any midfield position and wing-back, will likely help Correa upfront after he completes his one-game suspension for accumulation of yellow cards.


Llorente has scored ten times in all competitions this season, second only to Suárez and his 19 goals.

Eibar looks like the ideal rival for Atlético to get a desperately needed victory.

Eibar has been a challenging, middling team for several seasons thanks to the pressure defense preached by coach José Mendilibar, who insists on recovering the ball in the opposing half to help generate easy goals. But the Basque Country club has struggled to score this season. Eibar’s tally of 22 goals is a competition low, tied with Getafe. Also promising for Atlético, Eibar may be without its best weapon in attack. Bryan Gil, a forward loan from Sevilla who recently debuted for Spain, is doubtful because of a muscle issue.

Eibar is four points from safety after going winless in 13 straight games.

“It will be the top team versus the team in last place, so, normally, Atlético is seen as the favorite, but it wouldn’t be the first time we take points or even a win from a game like this,” Eibar defender Paulo Oliveira said.

If Atlético slips again, Madrid can also move to the top of the standings with a win at Getafe on Sunday.

The defending champions are soaring after bettering Barcelona and Liverpool over the past week.

Madrid beat Barcelona 2-1 last weekend to overtake its rival in the league standings. On Wednesday, the team advanced to the Champions League semifinals, drawing 0-0 at Anfield following a 3-1 win at home.

Madrid has a favorable schedule in the league before it faces Chelsea for a spot in the Champions League final. After Getafe, it plays at Cádiz and hosts Betis.

Getafe, in 15th place, has only one win in its last 12 league games.


Barcelona will take a break from the league title fight this weekend to play Athletic Bilbao in the final of the Copa del Rey.

The match will be played on Saturday in Seville.

Two weeks ago, Bilbao lost to Real Sociedad 1-0 in the 2020 Copa del Rey final, which had been postponed for almost a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Bilbao defeated Barcelona 3-2 in the final of the Spanish Super Cup in January, after the Basque Country club had also ousted Madrid in the semifinals.

Barcelona will play its scheduled league match against Granada at a date to be determined later this month.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Molly Aronson

I'm an award-winning blogger who enjoys all things creative but is especially passionate about lifestyle design. I blog over at mehlogy.com I love that I get to share my passion for healthy living, fashion, fitness, and travel with readers from all over the world.

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