Apr 2, 2016 at 3pm UK at ​Vicente Calderon Stadium
AtleticoAtletico Madrid
Real Betis
Torres (37'), Griezmann (42', 81'), Juanfran (65'), Partey (91')
Koke (38'), Torres (38')
FT(HT: 2-0)
Castro (79')
Pezzella (61'), Kadir (62'), Torres (74')

Preview: Atletico Madrid vs. Real Betis

Sports Mole previews Saturday's La Liga clash between Atletico Madrid and Real Betis at the Vicente Calderon.

Atletico Madrid would cut the gap at the top of La Liga table to just six points if they overcome Real Betis in Saturday afternoon's affair at the Vicente Calderon.

With El Clasico set for Saturday night, at least one of Atletico's main rivals will drop points this weekend, and they will fancy their chances of beating a Betis team that have lost their last two in Spain's top flight.


Diego Simeone bellows during the La Liga game between Atletico Madrid and Villarreal on February 20, 2016© AFP

It is Atletico and not Real Madrid that currently occupy second position in La Liga, but there is now just one point separating the two capital rivals with eight games of the season left to play. While Real Madrid have won their last four in the league, Atletico lost 2-1 at Sporting Gijon last time out in what was a big blow to their title hopes.

Indeed, victory against Sporting would have moved Atletico to within six points of the leaders Barcelona and with the chance to close the gap to three ahead of El Clasico. As it stands, Barcelona still have a nine-point lead at the summit, but Atletico will be desperate to take advantage of Barcelona versus Real Madrid this weekend.

Atletico might have lost last time out in the league, but they are currently on a 12-game unbeaten run on home soil - recording nine wins in the process. They have been victorious in 21 of their 30 league games this season, but have lost on five occasions, which is three more than Barcelona and one more than Real Madrid.

Incredibly, Diego Simeone's side have only netted 46 goals in their 30 matches, which is 41 fewer than the top scorers Real Madrid. Instead, their strong campaign has been built on a wonderful back four, which has conceded on just 14 occasions - the best-ever defensive record at this stage of a La Liga campaign.

Just six of those goals have been conceded at the Vicente Calderon, which is an indication of the task facing Betis this weekend. The capital side might well have one eye on the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final against Barcelona on Tuesday, but they cannot afford to underestimate their opponents in the league.

Atletico's final seven league matches will include home games against Granada, Malaga, Rayo Vallecano and Celta Vigo, in addition to trips to Espanyol, Athletic Bilbao and Levante. It is actually quite a healthy fixture list and victory this weekend would allow them to watch El Clasico unfold in relative comfort.

Recent form: DWWWWL
Recent form (all competitions): WWWWWL

Real Betis

Neymar takes a seat during the game between Barcelona and Real Betis on December 30, 2015© AFP

Betis will enter this match off the back of successive league defeats, but a positive run of form throughout February and at the start of March has moved the club into 13th position and now six points clear of the bottom three.

Between February 7 and March 6, Betis went unbeaten in the league, which is a run that stretched across six matches and included impressive victories against Valencia, Espanyol and Granada without conceding a single goal. They are actually now above Valencia in the table, but are not quite safe due to the proximity of the teams in the bottom half of the division.

Levante are currently four points adrift at the bottom, but just six points separate 13th-placed Betis from 19th-placed Sporting, who overcame Atletico before the international break. Betis have only lost one of their last six at home in Spain's top flight, but have won just one of their last eight on their travels in the league.

Betis's record from 30 league matches this season is won eight, drawn ten and lost 12. They have only conceded 40 times, which is far from the worst record in the league, but incredibly, they have only netted 27 times, which is the poorest offensive record in the division. Ruben Castro has 15 of Betis's 27 league goals this season, showing their over-reliance on the experienced forward.

Betis won the Segunda Division last season to return to the top flight and they are on course to avoid repeating their struggles from the 2013-14 campaign, when they finished bottom of La Liga. They have spent three of their last six full seasons in the second tier, but will be keen to re-establish themselves at the top having spent so much time competing at the highest level in Spain.

Levante (H), Celta (A), Las Palmas (H), Sevilla (A), Barcelona (H), Eibar (A) and Getafe (H) are what Betis have to come in the final weeks of the season. Now under the leadership of Juan Merino, the Andalusian club's hopes of remaining in the division will more than likely depend on their results on home soil.

Recent form: DDWWLL

Team News

Diego Godin for Atletico Madrid on October 22, 2014© Getty Images

Atletico are sweating on the fitness of key centre-back Diego Godin, who has been on the sidelines with a hamstring problem since the middle of March.

Fellow central defenders Jose Gimenez and Stefan Savic are also still struggling, leaving Simeone short of options at the back. Lucas Hernandez is also still suffering with a back problem, which could force Jesus Gamez into a central area and there is hope that Gimenez will also return.

Further forward, Saul Niguez is out with a sprained ankle, which should see Augusto Fernandez return in central midfield alongside Gabi, while Fernando Torres is also pushing for a return in the final third.

As for Betis, Cristiano Piccini is still out of action, but Martin Montoya is fit to feature at right-back. Leandro Damiao, who was once a transfer target for Atletico, is also expected to start in the final third.

Joaquin and Jorge Molina both came off the bench against Malaga before the international break and the pair are expected to remain in reserve as Merino opts for Dani Ceballos in a wide position.

Atletico possible starting lineup:
Oblak; Juanfran, Gamez, Gimenez, Luis; Koke, Gabi, Augusto; Carrasco, Torres, Griezmann

Real Betis possible starting lineup:
Adan; Montoya, Westermann, Pezzella, Vargas; Musonda, N'Diaye, Kadir; Ceballos, Castro, Damiao

Head To Head

Betis are currently on a five-game losing run against Atletico in the league, which includes a 1-0 defeat when the two sides met in the reverse match earlier this season.

Atletico also recorded a 5-0 victory the last time that the pair met at the Calderon in the league (October 2013). That said, since 2000, Betis have won three times against Atletico in Madrid (May 2005, April 2008 and December 2011).

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We say: Atletico 2-0 Real Betis

Betis might well prove a tough nut to crack this weekend and will be at an advantage fitness-wise due to the recent international break. They have shown signs of improvement over the last couple of months, but Atletico are so strong at home and despite some key injuries, we are backing the capital side to record a comfortable win.

Who will win Saturday's La Liga clash in Madrid?

Real Betis
Real Betis
Jose Gimenez for Atletico Madrid on January 7, 2015
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