Two years ago, Atletico Madrid had to delay their title celebrations after failing to win their final home game of the season against Malaga. On that occasion, a 1-1 draw wasn’t enough to crack open the champagne and it meant Diego Simeone's men had to avoid defeat against Barcelona in the Camp Nou on the final day to get the job finished.
It’s a relevant point of reference for two reasons: 1) because Diego Godin was absent through suspension, and 2) because the Boquerones are no pushovers when standing toe to toe with the top teams in the Primera. With both points in mind, take the 4/1 available on Javi Gracia’s men coming away from the Vicente Calderon with a draw, a result that would surely leave Atletí with a mountain to climb in this season’s title race.
The Colchoneros will be without Godin after he picked up a thigh strain in the 1-0 win over Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday. Simeone isn’t short of alternatives with 20-year-old Lucas Hernandez set to deputise alongside Stefan Savic once more, while Jose Maria Gimenez is also nearing a return. But capable though they all are, none of them possess the leadership qualities of arguably the most commanding centre back on the planet.
Atletico have coped reasonably well in the Uruguayan’s absence on four out of five occasions this term but they haven’t managed a clean sheet in any of those matches, compared with 30 clean sheets in his presence, and the 2-1 defeat at Sporting Gijon might have been an isolated setback but it’s the sort that sets alarm bells ringing. The Asturians hadn’t scored for three matches going into that clash.
Malaga, meanwhile, were 1-0 winners at the Camp Nou last season and held both Barcelona and Atletico to stalemates at La Rosaleda. This season, they have drawn both home and away with Real Madrid and beaten Diego Simeone’s men 1-0 in the reverse fixture on the Costa del Sol last December, so they clearly have it in their locker to withstand whatever comes their way.
The point has been made before that Atletico outperform their shot data better than most, purely as a result of their incredible capacity to take the first good opportunity that comes their way and then close games out, but Godin is a big part of that rationale. Either way, my ratings make the stalemate a 13/5 shot here and it’s notable that the Rojiblancos have only won three of their seven home matches against top-half opposition.
Click here for more information about Mike Holden’s shot-based ratings system